Friday, November 25, 2011


To look pretty or handsome is a weakness as old as mankind and people can go to any extent to improve their appearance. To aspire to live long, preferably eternally, is another human weakness. Both areas are well served by the multi-billion dollar Cosmetic industry and food supplement industry offering a wide range of products. Medical intervention in the form of plastic surgery, botox treatment, liposuction surgery, Bariatric surgery etc is also popular with some people. Unfortunately none of the known techniques work effectively with every one and the scientific evidence is not so strong to believe them blindly. It is in this context one has to appreciate a recent break-through finding that brings out the biological mechanism at the cellular level that expedites aging. The hope is that a drug therapy will eventually emerge with which people can be treated for slowing down the aging process. Here is a take on this new development.

"The findings raise the prospect that any therapy that rids the body of senescent cells would protect it from the ravages of aging. But many more tests will be needed before scientists know if drugs can be developed to help people live longer. Senescent cells accumulate in aging tissues, like arthritic knees, cataracts and the plaque that may line elderly arteries. The cells secrete agents that stimulate the immune system and cause low-level inflammation. Until now, there has been no way to tell if the presence of the cells is good, bad or indifferent. The answer turns out to be that the cells hasten aging in the tissues in which they accumulate. In a delicate feat of genetic engineering, a research team led by Darren J. Baker and Jan M. van Deursen at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., has generated a strain of mouse in which all the senescent cells can be purged by giving the mice a drug that forces the cells to self-destruct. Rid of the senescent cells, the Mayo Clinic researchers reported online Wednesday in the journal Nature, the mice's tissues showed a major improvement in the usual burden of age-related disorders. They did not develop cataracts, avoided the usual wasting of muscle with age, and could exercise much longer on a mouse treadmill. They retained the fat layers in the skin that usually thin out with age and, in people, cause wrinkling".

Though these findings may create excitement all around, it may still take years of further developmental work before effective drugs are made available in the market. There are several issues still to be sorted out which include whether there will be side effects that can neutralize the advantage of slowing down of aging. While introduction of drug therapy has to be at an early stage to get the full benefit, will such a pill-dependent life reduce the quality of life. It is rare that healthy individuals are introduced to any drug regime except health sustaining nutrient pills. A healthy person does not even need such supplements if right type of foods are consumed.


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