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For centuries, men and women from all corners of the world have searched for the ultimate anti-aging formula, the one that would be both effective and long-lasting in nature. However, finding the proverbial fountain of youth has been fruitless so far. But is this quest really meaningless? Are we really programmed to age and die? Maybe something can be done to change this genetic program, if it exists?
Increasing burden of aging
With aging, functional decline becomes evident in cognitive, locomotor, social, psychological and physical domains.
Learning becomes an increasingly difficult task, we have less control over our movements and behavioral changes become more frequent. Together, these features of decline are also related to the development of neurodegenerative disorders, such as mild cognitive impairment , Alzheimer’s disease , or AD-related dementia. The compromised functionality reduces the quality of life and causes great concerns in the geriatric community.
Thanks to the progress of medicine, we now live longer. However, longer life does not necessarily mean a quality life in terms of physical health. And as the world’s aging population is increasing, so are the above-mentioned concerns. Researching and testing new methods of increasing cognitive ability, while at the same time reducing the natural effects of aging is of the utmost public interest.
Our aging seems to be genetically programmed indeed
The biological and cellular pathways underlying the normal aging processes are diverse. Researchers have, for a long time, tried to take advantage of the mechanisms behind those processes to devise a strategy to control the rate of cognitive and physical decline in otherwise healthy elders.
Aging does seem to be programmed in our genes. Certain genes turn on or off at certain age directing the process of age-related changes. So far our ability to control this process was extremely limited. We really need to understand the molecular details of aging regulation to be able to interfere.
Anecdotal evidences suggest that programmed aging is not something completely universal in nature.
Some species, like Greenland whale, don’t show any signs of age-related physical deterioration even at very advanced age of 100 years and above. Ones we know what exactly is behind these phenomena, we might be able to modify our own genes and prevent aging of human body. At the moment this still seems to be a remote prospective, but other interesting recent discoveries offer the clue on other ways of fighting the age-related decline.