Thursday, February 18, 2010

Scientists discover the secret of aging

The UK’s Financial Times reports that scientists have solved the question as to how and why living cells age. Though they have no plans to create a Fountain of Youth, this information may be the harbinger of better drugs for age-related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, not to mention skin wrinkling, fading eyesight and diminished hearing, all associated with aging.

An international team of scientists in Newcastle, UK worked in conjunction with the University of Ulm in Germany. Through a comprehensive systems biology approach utilizing computer modeling, cell culture experiments and genetically modified mice, they set out to discover why cells age.

What they learned from their research, published in Molecular Systems Biology Journal, is that when a cell detects damage to its DNA (due either to wear and tear or a disease state), it sends a signal that instructs the cell to self-destruct or simply stop dividing. This signal is actually delivered by free radical molecules created by the cell’s energy storehouse, the mitochondria. If this signal is not delivered, aging cells that continue to replicate can result in weaker systems, such as failing hearts, and more fragile bones and skin, and their free radical molecules can cause the cells to become cancerous.

One of the team’s scientists, Thomas von Zglinicki, cautioned about the research’s next stage, which is to explore ways to prevent cellular aging. “It is absolutely essential to tread carefully in trying to alter processes that cause cells to age, because the last thing we want is to help age-damaged cells [sic] to break out to become malignant,” said Mr. von Zglinicki.

We, in the Functional Medicine Department at Sanctuary Medical, will be watching this closely for more updates on the research!