The Epidemic of Aging

by M-Gillies

"There is still no cure for the common birthday." John Glenn

“Why should we cure aging,” English author and theoretician in the field of gerontology, Aubrey de Grey asked. “Because it kills people.”

With this statement, de Grey proposes that physical deterioration that comes with age can be stopped, arguing that aging is a disease which, if approached as an engineering problem can be cured. To fight this epidemic of decrepitude, the SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Foundation was formed; an independent organization developed to promote and ensure widespread access to regenerative medicine solutions to the disabilities and diseases of aging.

Using the application of regenerative medicine, which includes the repair of living cells and extracellular material in position of aging, the SENS Foundation and de Grey propose seven types of aging damage which are:

1. Cancer-causing nuclear mutations/epimutations: This is caused by changes to the nuclear DNA (nDNA), which contains our genetic information and the proteins which bind to the nDNA.

2. Mitochondrial mutations: The mutations of mitochondria may accelerate many aspects of aging as these cells are important for the production of energy;

3. Intracellular aggregates: When cells are no longer useful to the body, they often breakdown, and if not properly digested, remain inside the body causing atherocelerosis, macular degeneration and various neurodegnerative diseases;

4. Extracellular aggregates: Like intracellular aggregates, this form of cellular accumulation occurs outside of the cells and is a contributor to amyloid senile plague seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients;

5. Cell loss: Cells in our bodies are often replaced with newer cells, and while there is no set-time frame of how long cells take to replace themselves, the decrease in cell number causes the heart to grow weaker with age;

6. Cell senescence: This phenomenon is when cells are unable to divide, but also do not die and often secrete harmful proteins into the body;

7. Extracellular cross-links: Because cells are linked by special proteins which hold them together, with time, the body creates too many cross-links between cells in a tissue, causing the tissue to loose its elasticity.

In their pursuit to end age-related deaths, SENS Foundation proposes the theoretical strategies of curing cancer, stem cell treatments, as well as the addition of new enzymes to the human body, and moving mitochondrial DNA to the cellular nucleus.

In general though, there are aspects of the SENS programme which have been highly criticized for its highly controversial proposals, arguing it as fanciful in its pursuits of life extension science, with some critics deeming it pseudo-scientific for its speculative techniques. However, medical research communities do support fields of SENS research, in particular in the study of stem cell research, anti-Alzheimers research and oncogenomics.

Read more:

SENS & SENS Research | SENS Foundation

Aubrey De Grey Says We Can Avoid Aging | TED.com

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