In 2020, roughly 1 billion people were older than 60. in 2030 this number will rise to 1.4 billion. Aging is accompanied by diseases such as heart disease, stroke or dementia. Aging seems inevitable.. or are there ways to slow down aging? Let’s see how scientists try to slow down Aging!
Aging research really started in the 20th century. It was observed that the lifespan of animals can be increased up to 50-300% by putting them on certain diets. This effect was demonstrated in yeast cells, flies, worms, mice and even monkeys, although the last is quite controversial. Scientists also genetically modified mice to live longer and slow down aging. When the hallmarks of aging were uncovered we really started to understand how aging works and how we possibly can reverse it.Throughout our lives, cells in our body become more and more damaged and their function is compromised. After a while, cells reach senescence meaning that they cannot make new cells anymore and lose their function. Senescent cells (or zombie cells) are a hallmark of aging and they promote inflammation which damages the overall tissue. One way to slow down aging would be to get rid off zombie cells.
Scientists have tried to remove zombie cells (or senescent cells) in mice. By using mouse models, they showed that removing senescent cells increase the lifespan of animals. At the same time, senolytics were developed. Senolytics are loosely defined as substances which destroy zombie cells. Senolytics have been used to increase the lifespan of mice and reduce age-related symptoms. In humans, senolytics have been used in a clinical trial to improve the symptoms of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Besides removing zombie cells, we could also slow down aging by converting them back into normal cells. We could do that by using transcription factors in order to switch on youthful genes. Based on this, scientists have restored the vision in old mice and made human cells 30 years younger in the petri dish (based on the activity of their genes).
But we can also slow down aging by our lifestyle choices. Both intermittent fasting and caloric restriction show promising effects on longevity. Both intermittent fasting and caloric restriction seem to promote autophagy (controlled self destruction) of zombie cells, thereby possibly slowing down aging. Let’s see where this goes!
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