Scientists Could Be Closer Than Ever to Reversing the Aging Process
Understanding the Aging Process: What Makes Us Age In the First Place?
Like most things biological and scientific, no matter how many times you read complex literature on such topics as why the human body ages, for those who do not live every second of our lives studying such things, we might only grasp 20 percent of what it is they are trying to explain to us. With that said, I will do my best to explain the matter.
Lifestyle and Environment Are Key
Firstly, it must be understood that our cells and genes are not entirely to blame for our wrinkling skin and greying hair. How fast we age has a lot to do with our personal lifestyle choices as well as the type of environment we are subjected to.
For example, I was born and raised in the United States. A little under six years ago, I moved to Southeast Asia. I have travelled throughout, from big cities to the smallest villages. A lot of places, especially rural areas, in Southeast Asia, are not exposed to Western influences such as drug abuse, alcoholism, nightlife or large amounts of debt or other major stress factors that we deal with in Western countries.
Young women, especially, are sequestered for the most part in those rural areas. The men work out on the farms or in fields while the women predominately stay at home. I was amazed at how well these women aged. They always seemed to be 10 or even 15 years younger than their age. The 22 to 25-year-old female would have been thought to be 15 or 16 back home.
On the flip side of the coin, when I visited the bigger cities (some of them with populations of seven to 12 million), life was noticeably harder for everyone who didn't fall into the middle to upper classes. Additionally, the poverty gap in these countries is unfortunately very wide. middle to upper-middle-class households might bring a combined income of $2,000 to $3,000 a month, whereas the lower class families are living on $70 to $100 a month.
Women in these families usually are forced to work, even though it goes against their culture. The jobs they work are stressful, with long hours, no days off and very low wages. Many of the pretty women turn to prostitution or some other exploitative work in order to make ends meet.
This is where you can see clearly how lifestyle and environment play key roles in the ageing process. There is a stark contrast between those women living in the rural villages and those living in the inner city.
Cells and Genetics
Now, this is where the process becomes much more complex to explain in simple terms, but we'll try anyway.
Cells actually divide themselves. They can only do this a certain number of times before they begin to suffer changes in shape, their cloning process slowing more and more until they simply stop dividing altogether. Scientists call this phenomenon cellular senescence.
According to biologists, cells have a timer (or counter, however you want to look at it) called telomeres, and its job is to record and track how many "lives" a cell has divided. Biologists have yet to figure out how this cellular "timer" signals the cells end.
So, to sum it all up, your cells have a certain number of times to divide or clone themselves before they are no more. This is because as the cells duplicate themselves and replace themselves with slightly weaker clones, the weaker version is unable to fight off the things that cause ageing, like certain diseases and illnesses. This is coupled with the cell having difficulty restoring a "healthy" chromatin pattern once the division is complete.
Great video on aging.
Humans Have Been Fighting Aging Since the Dawn Of Time
Since the dawn of time, people have been fixated on reversing the ageing process, or at the very least, looking as if they are. There have been individuals who even went to the most extreme measures to reverse or halt the ageing process.
Take Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed who was a very wealthy Hungarian noblewoman. She has gone down as one of the histories most diabolical serial killers, who is said to have killed hundreds of young women, mostly coming from the pooer class. Bathory's choice of targeting the poor was a major reason behind why she got away with her savage deeds for so long.
It wasn't until more well to do young women came up missing that people began to suspect Bathory was the one behind their disappearances. Yet, maybe it was simply that, for the nobility of that time, the poor didn't matter enough to bother. Either way, she was caught. The reason behind her ghastly crimes was she believed that by killing young girls and drinking their blood, she too would stay young.
Bathory was subsequently sentenced to solitary confinement in her very castle, where she was literally bricked in with only slits for windows to look out of. She would die four years later.
Mostly, though, anti-ageing products have been limited to creams and other concoctions that, in reality, once you understand the cellular science behind it, can do nothing for you. It seems the search for some magic anti-ageing ingredient or some ancient mixture of herbs will never stop, nor will dermatologists stop making money from each new product that enters the market.
So what's next?
The Key To the Ageing Process May Lie Inside Our Brains
There could be a revolutionary breakthrough in the fight against weakening cells that cause our ultimate demise - and it could be in our brains. In an article posted by Australian based Cosmos Clinic, Dongsheng Cai, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, conducted a series of studies on mice.
Professor Cai found that the hypothalamus has tiny neurons located at the base of the brain. These neurons, according to Cai, could have a direct and significant effect on our ageing process. In actuality, it wouldn't be surprising if this were true since the hypothalamus controls a number of the body's functions such as blood pressure, appetite, libido, sleeping patterns and even our temperature.
The hypothalamus is a host to stem cells that mature in order to produce new neurons in our brain. Nevertheless, the thing with stem cells is they diminish over time, and that diminishment is irreversible.
Professor Cai stated, “Our research shows that the number of hypothalamic neural stem cells naturally declines over the life of the animal, and this decline accelerates ageing."
“But we also found that the effects of this loss are not irreversible," Cai added.
What Stem Cell Therapy Means For Our Future
Injecting Stem Cells Into the Hypothalamus Has Proven To Stop or Totally Reverse Ageing
In his research, he allowed one set of mice to age naturally, while the other mice stem cells were destroyed altogether. After injecting both sets of mice in their hypothalamus, researchers measured many different types of data, including social behaviour, mental ability, coordination, muscle endurance and tissue analysis and concluded that either ageing slowed or totally reversed in the mice.
Professor Cai explains that hypothalamus stem cells called microRNAs (miRNAs) are responsible for these ageing effects. Apparently, these tiny pieces of genetic material pair with the body's messenger RNA molecules, having a huge part in controlling and switching off certain kinds of genes - genes that are directly responsible for the ageing process.
Professor Cai and other researchers hope that this could be the answer to the age-old question as to why we grow old and the older question as to whether or not we can do anything about it.