Possible Agents of Aging
Free radicals are often labeled the bad guys that lead to rapid aging. They are a necessary by-product of the body’s energy producing mechanism; however, they seem to do a great deal of damage to cells. And although anti-oxidants which detoxify these radicals do seem to extend life, it does not necessarily follow that free radicals cause aging. More investigation into this probable aging agent must be performed before conclusive evidence can be reached.
Telomeres are sequences of repetitive DNA that cap and protect the ends of chromosomes. With each cell division telomeres shorten, and when they reach a critical length the cell is signaled to not divide any more. In human tissue cultures when telomerase, the enzyme which lengthens telomeres, is added cells become immortal. However, this has yet to be done successfully in a living human specimen.
Our bodies are ruled by various inner timing mechanisms. The humans natural instinct to awake with light and sleep in the dark all relates to hormonal signals which are programmed within the body. We also have timing mechanisms which record how long certain events take, so that in the future our body references this information and can anticipate action. These complex monitors could also affect how many times cells are told to divide before death, a mitotic clock so to speak. Regulating this internal timer is far from a reality, but continued research will help us become that much closer to an answer.
After the reproductive years of an organism cease, the affects of aging seem to increase rapidly. More research is needed to understand and examine exactly what triggers this chain of events.
Further Advantages of Research for the Aging Population
Through biomedical research exciting breakthroughs are emerging in various areas, which affect an aging person. For example, new evidence challenges the standard dogma of the cause of cancers. If we can isolate the root of the problem, perhaps we can treat cancer before it even begins.
Likewise, incredibly advances have been made in diagnosis and treating osteoporosis, an affliction that affects 70% of elderly women. With earlier detection and more specific treatments, scientists are rapidly taking the sting out of osteoporosis, which is exciting news for the millions of woman it affects each year.
Also, emerging evidence concerning atherosclerosis and its causes is sparking revolutionary changes in the way patients are diagnosed as being “at risk.” Exciting information in all of these fields is only possible through biomedical research, which is why we need your support in continuing to elucidate these complicated health issues.