The New Frontier of Anti-Aging
Long the subject of countless science fiction stories, the idea of halting aging has been a key topic of interest among researchers. The pursuit of developing a drug or protocol that would not only halt our aging, but also keep us healthy as we age is something of a holy grail in science.
As we age, our bodies are placed at a greater risk of developing a multitude of common diseases. This includes cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzhemier’s, and dementia. However, if we were able to treat the aging process itself, many researchers believe we would be limiting our risk of experiencing these types of serious health issues.
The process of aging is incredibly complex, as the biology involved comprises multiple systems throughout the body while being influenced by outside factors. This, however, hasn’t stopped scientists from identifying key characteristics of the process known as “hallmarks of aging.” These include the breakdown of our cells, the lack of stem cells in tissues, and DNA becoming unstable due to mutation. Identifying these have allowed researchers to propose several potentially effective treatments at slowing or even halting the aging process altogether.
Removal of zombie cells
When cells reach the stage of not being able to reproduce any longer, they become senescent, or aptly referred to as a zombie cell. During youth, senescent cells are very common, but are quickly removed by the body. As we age, senescent cells will continue to form within the body, but they are not removed as quickly. A high concentration of such cells can lead to the development of harmful diseases, as well as the process of aging. By developing therapies to remove zombie cells, we can potentially limit the aging process.
Utilizing cell therapy
All cells in our bodies are pre-programmed to die after a certain period of time. Every day, millions of our cells die off only to be replaced by new ones in a continuous cycle. But as we age, our cells lose the ability to reproduce efficiently, which in turn accelerates the aging process in our tissues. With cell therapy, some researchers are working on developing a way to rejuvenate old cells, allowing them to proliferate and regenerate lost tissue much like the way our cells are when we are young.
Serving as the powerhouse of the cell, mitochondria play a vital role in helping cells function normally. These cell structures are unique in that they actually contain their own DNA, but over time, this DNA can become faulty due to mutations, which in turn can lead to aging. However, some researchers are focusing on developing a drug that will help repair the damage to the mitochondrial genome, ensuring that only the healthy mitochondria survive mutation. In addition to halting aging, this drug could potentially reduce the risk of developing rare mitochondrial disorders that can lead to dementia and muscle diseases.
Despite promising research in anti-aging, the topic is still very much a new frontier of science. Significant investment is being made by major companies to work towards developing a clinically viable anti-aging treatment, but it is estimated we are still several decades away from a viable breakthrough. Perhaps most encouraging is this: many biotech experts believe that already, a child has been born that will live to be past 150 years old. Until then, the best way of staying healthy is the same as always – healthy eating and plenty of exercise.