25 October 2019

The Mysteries of Aging

Who prevents us from living forever?

Yanina Khuzhina, "Scientific Russia"

Aging is a big biological mystery. This term still does not have a clear scientific definition, and there are 300 or more causes of aging. The State Darwin Museum (Moscow) decided to find out whether it is necessary for us to grow old and whether it is possible to avoid it. Yesterday, the museum hosted a lecture "Who prevents us from living forever?" from the cycle "Life Hacks for citizens". Biologist of the Department of Embryology of the Faculty of Biology of Lomonosov Moscow State University, scientific journalist and lecturer of the Evolution Foundation Polina Loseva told about what it takes to invent the elixir of eternal youth.


According to the speaker, there is no one reason preventing us from living forever, just as there is no magic button to turn off aging. This process is due to hundreds of reasons, but among them there are four most significant:

1. The program of destruction that is embedded in our body. Scientists are still arguing about whether life expectancy is embedded in our genes or not. Gene therapy should cope with this problem in the future.

"Such experiments are already being conducted on mice. So far, our gene rewriting technologies are very imperfect," says Polina Loseva.

2. Various breakdowns in the body or aging as an inevitable consequence of life. The human body wears out because cells experience oxidative stress, and the most important factor of this stress is oxygen: when its molecules are split into atoms with unpaired electrons, they become unstable free radicals, seeking to bind other molecules or atoms. If such a process is prolonged, then the same oxidative stress occurs. Accumulating radicals literally raise a riot inside every cell.

"There is a small revolution going on in every cell of our body all the time!" notes Polina Loseva.

3. Aging as the body's defense against cancer.

"Cancer and old age always go side by side. We cannot defeat one in isolation from the other. Perhaps if the cells in our body did not age, cancer would occur much more often and appear at an earlier age. There is one idea how to solve this issue: we can not forbid our cells to age, but simply clean out these old cells later," the lecturer commented.

The solution may be senolytics – drugs that selectively destroy old cells. According to Polina Loseva, they are already being tested in clinical trials, but they look like a cure for certain diseases. The speaker is sure that the search for the immortality pill has been in full swing for a long time, but in disguise: under the guise of testing medicines for certain ailments.

"Perhaps in the coming decades, with the help of senolytics, diseases will be successfully treated and along the way we will be able to see whether they will help us live longer or not," says Polina Loseva.

4. Excess youth programs in the body. Some gene processes that are beneficial to the body in youth continue in old age and give side effects. For example, our body reacts very nervously to food and launches unnecessary programs. It is expected that rapamycin, a substance that, figuratively speaking, closes the eyes of the cell and blocks the mTOR protein, will help to cope with this.

"Rapamycin analogues are already being included in clinical trials. For example, metformin, which is used to treat type 2 diabetes," the speaker noted.

So is immortality possible?

Polina Loseva believes that the question of immortality remains open, but the extension of a person's life for a very significant period is a completely solvable task. Talk about the elixir of eternal youth is by no means groundless. The biologist even talked about what, according to modern ideas of scientists, such a "pill for old age" will consist of. Such a drug will most likely not be able to completely cancel aging, but it can postpone aging for a long time.

The conditional "pill for old age" will include: an mTOR protein blocker, elements of gene therapy, senolytics, reprogramming elements (rollback of adult cells back to stem cells), activation of telomerase (an "extension enzyme") and DNA completion, gormetins (cell hardening substances), as well as substances that break down different products exchange.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru

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