The publishing house “Alpina non-fiction”, a book entitled the scientist and science popularizer Michio Kaku “the Future of humanity”. “Pravmir” publishes an excerpt of how scientists solve the problem of aging and whether the immortality of man in the near future.
Photo: Simon Powell / Flickr
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The fact that genes strongly influence aging, is obvious. Butterfly after leaving the cocoon and live for only a few days or weeks. Mouse, studied in labs, usually only live about two years. Dogs age about seven times faster than humans and live a little more than ten years.
Studying the animal Kingdom, we find creatures that live so long that their life expectancy is difficult to measure. In 2016, the author of the article in the journal Science reported that bowhead shark lives in the middle of the year and 272 exceeds the lifespan of the bowhead whale (200 years average). This makes the Greenland shark the longest-lived vertebrates. Their age, scientists have calculated by analyzing the layers of tissue in the eye of the shark, which grows in layers, like an onion. Moreover, they found one shark, which was 392 years, and another one, which may have been as many as 512.
Thus, different species with different genetic apparatus differ greatly in life expectancy. Studies show that even among men, although the genes we all almost identical, twins and all close relatives have a similar life expectancy and that people, chosen at random differ on this basis is much stronger.
But, if aging is at least partly controlled by genes, it is very important to identify those genes that govern them. You can use several approaches.
One of the promising approaches is to analyze the genes of young people, and then compare them with the genes of old people. Comparing the two sets of genes with a computer, you can quickly identify the places where there is the most genetic damage caused by aging.
For example, the aging of the vehicle is primarily in the engine, where the strongest effect of corrosion and mechanical wear. In living cells the role of “engine” mitochondria play. That is in which sugars are oxidized, releasing energy. A detailed analysis of the DNA inside the mitochondria indicates that the error and truth are concentrated here.
The hope is that someday scientists will be able to use its own repair mechanisms of the cell to reverse the process of accumulation of errors in mitochondria and thereby extend the useful life of the cell.
Thomas Perls from Boston University, based on the assumption that some people are genetically predisposed to longer life, analyzed the genes of centenarians and described a marker for genes that are, apparently, slow down the aging process and somehow make centenarians are less prone to diseases.
Gradually the mechanism of aging is becoming clear to us, and many scientists are cautiously optimistic that in the coming decades, it may become manageable. Studies show that aging, apparently, is simply the accumulation of errors in DNA and cells, and someday we may learn how to stop or even reverse this process. Moreover, some Harvard researchers are set up so optimistic that the already established commercial companies hoping to capitalize on the research results of the aging process.
The fact that genes play an important role in determining the length of our life, can not be questioned. The problem is to determine which genes are involved in the process, separating their action from the action environment, and change the desired genes.
Conflicting theories of aging
One of the oldest myths associated with aging, says that it is possible to retain eternal youth if you drink blood or absorb the soul of the young that the youth can be transmitted from person to person, as the legends about vampires. Succubus — a beautiful mythical creature, which remains eternally young, because the kiss sucks the youth out of your body.
Modern research shows that this idea perhaps contains a grain of truth. In 1956, Clive McKay of Cornell University, joined and sewed the blood vessels two rats — old ruins, and young and energetic individuals. He was astonished to find that after the operation the old rat began to look younger, and the young, on the contrary, older.
Several decades later Amy Wagers at Harvard University re-checked the results of this experiment. To her surprise, she discovered mice have the same rejuvenating effect. She then identified a protein, called GDF, which, apparently, was the basis of this process. Results Wagers was so great that journal Science has named them among the top ten breakthroughs of the year. However, in subsequent years other groups of researchers trying to verify her startling statement, and to repeat the experiment received mixed results. It is still unclear whether the GDF an important weapon in our campaign against aging.
Another contradictory result is associated with the human growth hormone (HGH), some time causes almost the craze. Unfortunately, information about the effectiveness of HGH in anti-aging based on a very small number of reliable studies. A larger study at the University of Haifa (Israel) pointed rather to the opposite result — in fact, HGH can reduce life expectancy. Moreover, the results of another study show that a genetic mutation causing a reduced level of this hormone may prolong a person’s life. So, intake of HGH may cause adverse effects.
The results of these studies is a useful lesson for all of us. Wild allegations made about the reasons for and nature of aging, often Merk upon closer examination and careful analysis. Today, researchers require that all, without exception, the results are verifiable, replicable and refutable, which is a symptom of the real science.
Almost before our eyes is born biogerontology — science, which should reveal the secrets of the aging process.
The growth of scientific activity in this area can be called an explosive, is now studied by many promising genes, proteins, processes, and chemicals, including the FOXO gene, the process of DNA methylation, mTOR complex protein, insulin growth factor, the genetic modification of Ras, acarbose, Metformin, alpha-estradiol, etc. Each of these lines of research sparked great interest of scientists, but so far we have only preliminary results. Time will tell which of these approaches promises the best results.
The search for the fountain of youth — something that in earlier times were engaged in mystics, charlatans and madmen, is run by the best scientists of the world. Although the cure for aging are still not there, scientists are considering a variety of approaches to the problem, and some of them are very promising. They can extend the life of some animals, but it is unclear whether it would be possible to transfer these techniques on humans.
Research is moving at an incredible pace, but the mystery of aging we are still very far away. Over time, we might be able to find a way to slow or stop the aging process, combining few of the developed approaches. Perhaps breakthroughs in this area will make the next generation of scientists. Gerald Sussman, once lamented: “I do Not think that the time has come, but it is close. I’m afraid that I, unfortunately, belong to the last generation who will die.”