Abolishing Ageing -- How to Live Forever

Immortality! Human beings want to live forever. Who wouldn't? Despite all the miseries, tribulations and griefs one may accumulate throughout one's turbulent or sedentary life, wish for living more years in this vibrant planet among the loved ones is unstoppable. However, human beings' wishes always get its end with bodily demise. Death is the certainty. Mortality is the absolute. We born. We die. Nature revolves around this simple binary solution for its cycle of renewal and regeneration. Is there any way beating nature prolonging human lifespan?

Recent studies show promising developments. An independent researcher at Cambridge, England, Dr. de Gray, who has a background in engineering, compartmentalized ageing into seven components. These are the following:
    • Cell loss
    • Apoptosis-resistance (the tendency of cells to refuse to die when they are supposed to)
    • Gene mutations in the cell nucleus
    • Gene mutations in the mitochondria (the cell's power-packs)
    • The accumulation of junk inside cells,
    • The accumulation of junk outside cells
    • The accumulation of inappropriate chemical links in the material that supports cells.
According to Dr. de Gray, dealing with all the above seven components will stop the ageing process. Two approaches are suggested tackling these ageing components:
  • Managing the degradation, the wearing and tear to slow ageing down.
  • "accept its inevitability and bring the body in for servicing at regular intervals to replace the worn-out parts."
Experiments on mice showed intaking vitamins, especially, B vitamins, and others, could help the damage from oxidation in cellular level. Here is an excerpt from The Economist article that describes how oxidation plays a role in ageing:
"Mitochondria are the places where sugar is broken down and reacted with oxygen to release the energy needed to power a cell. In a warm-blooded creature such as man, a lot of oxygen is involved in this process, and some of it goes absent without leave. Instead of reacting with carbon from the sugar to form carbon dioxide, it forms highly reactive molecules called free radicals. These go around oxidising—and thus damaging—other molecules, such as DNA and proteins, which causes all sorts of trouble. Clear up free radicals and their kin, and you will slow down the process of ageing. And the chemicals you use to do that are antioxidants."
No conclusive human trials been made that show "high doses of vitamins" can reverse enzyme damage in various diseases. Experiments on mice has shown promising developments, but a long way still to go translating these successes to biped human level.

Other visionaries in anti-ageing field envisions routinely replacing our ageing body parts with stem cell grown and engineered tissues and organs. These visionaries are called partial immortalizers. Even though there is very high likelihood that body parts replacements through stem cell engineering prolonging human life is only lurking near the corner of future, huge obstacles still remain in replacing ageing human brains. The reason behind this seemingly unsolvable problem is that "any replacement would have to replicate the pattern of its nerve cells precisely in order to preserve an individual's memory and personality". Partial immortalization in the case of brain perhaps will be solved far in future, but there are indeed positive progresses, including "stem-cell therapists talk openly of treating brain diseases such as Parkinson's with specially grown nerve cells".

One other approach for living longer which is considered to be more in tune with nature is adopting caloric restriction, eating less amount of food. David Sinclair of Harvard University promotes that "The reason for believing that prolonged life is an evolutionary response to starvation rather than just a weird accident is that when an animal is starving the evolutionary calculus changes. An individual that has starved to death is not one that can reproduce. Even if it does not die, the chance of it giving birth to healthy offspring is low. In this case, prolongation of life should trump reproduction. And that is what happens, even among people. Women who are starving stop ovulating. The billion-dollar trick would be to persuade the body it is starving when it is not. That way people could live longer while eating normally. They might even, if the mechanism can truly be understood, be able to reproduce, as well."

How does almost starvation may prolong life? Caloric restriction "evolves around genes for proteins called sirtuins. Certainly, these genes are involved in life extension in simple species such as threadworms and yeast. Add extra copies of them to these organisms' chromosomes, or force the existing copies to produce more protein than normal, and life is prolonged. This seems to be because sirtuins control the abundance of a regulatory molecule called nicotinamide adenine diphosphate which, in turn, controls the release of energy in the mitochondria."

Developments in anti-ageing fields are exciting. No one knows whether human beings will eventually achieve that elixir of dreams, living forever, not like deprecated selves, but in a rejuvenated bodies and mind. But the journey and exploration in scientific world unraveling various mysteries of our biological self is itself worthy like immortality.

Like to The Economist article on which my above commentary is based can be accessed from the following link: