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Anti-Aging: The Growing Popularity Of Radical Life Extension – Article by Kimberly Forsythe

Anti-Aging: The Growing Popularity Of Radical Life Extension – Article by Kimberly Forsythe

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Kimberly Forsythe


There are numerous anti-aging therapies, which are used to slow the aging process in humans. Each of these therapies has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, there are anti-aging processes such as anti-oxidants, anti-aging nutrients, anti-aging exercise programs, anti-aging diets, and anti-aging supplements that are said to extend a person’s lifespan. Aging is said to be a natural process that cannot be slowed or reversed once humans undergo it, and which accelerates greatly after puberty and early adulthood; however, some experts do not agree with this. There are several theories on the subject of aging that have varying outlooks on the actual causes of aging.

What Causes Aging in Humans?

There are various theories that explain the causes of aging, but they do not all agree. While we are making new discoveries all the time, we still do not have definitive answers on what causes aging. Some researchers believe that oxidative damage is what causes aging, and others believe genetics are involved in causing aging.

The evidence for the oxidative damage by sunlight, poor diet, and poor exercising habits is strong. For example, if your parents or grandparents had a shorter lifespan than the average person, it’s possible that part of the reason was that they didn’t have a good diet, they didn’t exercise, or they didn’t avoid the common environmental hazards we encounter today. That certainly makes some sense.

You might think that they all contribute equally, which is certainly plausible. Consider how much impact the food we eat has on our health. If the foods we eat are generally unhealthy, then the oxidative damage done to our cells will be greater, and our lifespan will be shortened. If the foods we eat are rich in antioxidants and are beneficial to health, then we will be healthier, and the oxidative damage we do to our cells will be lessened.

So, one could say that oxidative damage is what causes aging, and the antioxidants are what counteract it. But that’s too simple. Actually, free radicals do more damage to our cells than oxidative damage, so it stands to reason that free radicals add to the damage. In other words, instead of wearing away at the cells in a chemical process, free radicals cause cell death.

However, the evidence for genetics is also strong. When the telomeres within the protective shell of the cell are damaged, they become shorter. As a result, the “RNA” within the telomere becomes too short. The second factor which causes aging is cell senescence, or aging at the cellular level.

There are many different forms of cell senescence, but the main ones are in peripheral tissues such as skin, muscles, and blood vessels. If this continues, then the total number of cells may start to decline. The decline in cell numbers is partly what causes aging in general.

Another factor is called DNA damage, and this is caused by exposure to radiation and to chemicals used during manufacturing. This is a big problem, because DNA is responsible for the repair of cellular damage, and if it gets damaged, it can stop replicating to produce new cells altogether. This would mean that the aging process could not be stopped, and the body will just keep getting older without any real control.

What is Radical Life Extension?

Radical life extension is the process of using anti-aging technology to reverse age-related processes that are already underway. Anti-aging techniques rely on a combination of knowledge and understanding of the aging process, as well as on modern-day scientific breakthroughs. Scientists are only just now beginning to unlock many of the mysteries surrounding the mechanisms of aging.

In theory, we could live forever if we found a way to completely rejuvenate ourselves after we passed the age of sixty. Some people are under the impression that curing or reversing aging is impossible. But at the very least, we might be able to make ourselves better, or at least age gracefully. It is not known how far the search has come, but some of the results so far have been very promising.

When Will Aging be Cured or Reversed?

To cure or reverse aging, it will be necessary to find some way to increase the lifespan of humans. Many questions surround which scientific approach to anti-aging will be the most beneficial to humans. Perhaps we will lengthen lifespans by curing all of the diseases that we are prone to, or perhaps by using genetic engineering to insert new genes into the human genome. For some transhumanists, the ultimate aim would be to live forever. Others, however, wish only to increase the number of healthy years.

There is a great deal of interest in the subject of radical life extension, and there is considerable money involved. Investors are piling in to fund research to unlock more theories about aging and the mysteries that scientists are trying to unravel. There are, unfortunately, many unfounded claims and charlatans out there misleading the public about how we may be able to cure or reverse aging.

Some people have made the mistake of thinking that radical life extension is magic, or of taking a magical pill that will turn you into an immortal. While there is promising research for medications that can reduce biological age, the notion that it will be an immediate and instant cure is likely a distortion of the truth. We need to understand that aging is just one of the processes that occur within us, but there are many ways we can counter these processes. It is possible to extend your life significantly, but this requires an understanding of the aging process as a whole.

Overall, the more resources we put into studying the aging process and search for effective ways of curing or reversing aging, the faster we will find answers to questions that humans have sought after for ages. The “Fountain of Youth” may arrive sooner than we think. It is important that we collectively understand the implications of reversing aging and take steps to address these issues as soon as possible.

Related reading:

Healthier, longer lifespans will be a reality sooner than you think, Juvenescence promises as it closes $100M round

Hallmarks of Aging: Genomic Instability – Article by Steve Hill

Hallmarks of Aging: Genomic Instability – Article by Steve Hill

Steve Hill


Editor’s Note: In this article, Mr. Steve Hill discusses one of the hallmarks of aging – in this case, Genomic Instability. This article was originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF).

~ Kenneth Alum, Director of Publication, U.S. Transhumanist Party, October 17, 2017

What is genomic instability?

The cells of your body produce a constant flow of proteins and other materials; these are built according to the blueprints contained in our DNA and are vital to cell function and survival. A large amount of information contained in the DNA is ignored during this process, and this is thought to be junk DNA, remnants of our evolutionary past that are no longer used.

However, if a part of the DNA important to cell function mutates or is damaged, the cell can experience a loss of proteostasis, in which the cell produces misfolded proteins. These misfolded proteins can be very harmful, such as when neurons in the brain produce masses of the toxic amyloid beta protein, as seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

Now, the odd dysfunctional cell is not really a huge problem; however, as we get older, an increasing number of cells succumb to this damage and begin to accumulate in tissue over time. Eventually, the number of these damaged cells reaches a point where tissue or organ function is compromised. Normally, the body removes these problem cells via a self-destruct sequence known as apoptosis, a sort of kill switch that senses the damage and destroys the cell in conjunction with the immune system.

Unfortunately, some cells evade apoptosis, taking up space in the tissue and pumping out inflammatory signals that damage the local tissue. These cells are known as senescent cells, and we will be covering them in a later Hallmarks article.

Another possible outcome of damaged DNA is cells that mutate and do not become senescent cells or destroy themselves via apoptosis. These cells continue to replicate, becoming more mutated each time they divide, and if a mutation damages the systems that regulate cell division or switches off the safety mechanisms against tumor formation, this can lead to cancer. The unchecked and rampant cell growth of cancer is probably the most well-known result of genomic instability.

How DNA damage accumulates

There are many ways for DNA to become damaged. UV rays, radiation, chemicals, and tobacco are all examples of environmental stressors that can damage the genome. Even chemotherapy agents designed to kill cancer can also potentially cause DNA damage and senescent cells, leading to later relapse [2].

Finally, even if we avoided all the external threats to our DNA, the body still damages itself. Reactive oxygen and nitrogen species produced during the operation of normal metabolism can damage both DNA and mitochondrial DNA.

Thankfully, we have evolved a robust network of repair systems and mechanisms that can repair most of this damage. We have enzymes that can detect and repair broken strands of DNA or reverse alterations made to base pairs. This repair process is not perfect, and sometimes the DNA is not repaired. This can lead to the cell replication machinery misreading the information contained in the DNA, causing a mutation.

As mutations are passed to daughter cells, the cell tries to prevent this from happening by checking DNA integrity before and after replication. Unfortunately, some cells do manage to slip through the net.

The consequences of DNA damage

A large number of age-related diseases are linked to damaged DNA or faulty DNA repair systems. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), and cancer are all the result of genomic instability.

Another example are the progeric diseases. Progerias are congenital disorders that result in rapid aging-like symptoms and a dramatically shortened lifespan, with Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS) probably being the most well known. The disease is caused by a defect in Lamin A, a major component of a protein scaffold on the inner edge of the nucleus called the nuclear lamina. The lamina helps organize nuclear processes, such as RNA and DNA synthesis, and lamins are responsible for supporting key proteins in the DNA repair process.

This defect leads to HGPS sufferers only living until their early 20s and developing atherosclerosis, stiff joints, hair loss and wrinkles, and other accelerated aging-like characteristics.

Conclusion

Despite the various repair systems we have evolved, our body is constantly being assaulted from exposure to environmental stressors and even damaged through its own metabolic processes. Coupled with this, our repair systems also decline in effectiveness over time, meaning that DNA damage and mutations are inevitable.

There is some evidence to suggest that caloric restriction may help combat this, but as of now, no drugs or therapies are available yet that can prevent or repair DNA damage. The good news is human trials for DNA repair are launching this year at Harvard, and Dr. David Sinclair and other researchers are also working on their own solutions.

For the time being, the best we can do is to avoid risks, such as excessive sun exposure, industrial chemicals, smoking, and, of course, staying away from radioactive waste; there are no comic-book superpowers from these mutations!

Literature

[1] López-Otín, C., Blasco, M. A., Partridge, L., Serrano, M., & Kroemer, G. (2013). The hallmarks of aging. Cell, 153(6), 1194-1217.

[2] Demaria, M., O’Leary, M. N., Chang, J., Shao, L., Liu, S., Alimirah, F., … & Alston, S. (2017). Cellular senescence promotes adverse effects of chemotherapy and cancer relapse. Cancer discovery, 7(2), 165-176.

About Steve Hill

As a scientific writer and a devoted advocate of healthy longevity technologies, Steve has provided the community with multiple educational articles, interviews, and podcasts, helping the general public to better understand aging and the means to modify its dynamics. His materials can be found at H+ Magazine, Longevity Reporter, Psychology Today, and Singularity Weblog. He is a co-author of the book Aging Prevention for All – a guide for the general public exploring evidence-based means to extend healthy life (in press).

About LIFE EXTENSION ADVOCACY FOUNDATION (LEAF)

In 2014, the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting increased healthy human lifespan through fiscally sponsoring longevity research projects and raising awareness regarding the societal benefits of life extension. In 2015 they launched Lifespan.io, the first nonprofit crowdfunding platform focused on the biomedical research of aging.

They believe that this will enable the general public to influence the pace of research directly. To date they have successfully supported four research projects aimed at investigating different processes of aging and developing therapies to treat age-related diseases.

The LEAF team organizes educational events, takes part in different public and scientific conferences, and actively engages with the public on social media in order to help disseminate this crucial information. They initiate public dialogue aimed at regulatory improvement in the fields related to rejuvenation biotechnology.