Benjamin Franklin famously said, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Our economy relies heavily on taxes (a subject for another time), so since death is inevitable, why do we concern ourselves with fighting aging?
Philosophical queries abound regarding our fascination with anti-aging. Most suggest that it’s not necessarily about beating the clock but, instead, extending the time that we have. Meanwhile, medical research has focused more on longevity and living the best quality of life. This is where anti-aging – now becoming better known as “regenerative Medicine” treatments come into the mix.
A few key biological theories are surrounding how we age. And they show that regeneration treatments and anti-aging research are just reaching the cusp of what is possible to reverse the signs of aging. Let me explain a few of the most influential aging scientific theories and what they mean for the future of combating aging through medical means.
One of these theories is the free radical theory. It’s the view that free radicals – often naturally occurring molecules that have lost one or more electrons – travel to various places in the different cells in the body and disrupt their function. As a result, the affected cells do not operate efficiently or effectively as they are supposed to, and not only do these cells (called “senesced” cells) no longer perform properly, but they can affect the performance of other cells as well.
Until recently, this has been the preeminent theory for physicians as they investigate aging and regenerative therapies. But most medical researchers are calling into question whether it’s the whole story, and instead believe that there are multiple and interacting causes for aging.
At each end of our chromosomes, there is what’s called a telomere that serves as a sort of cap. The caps reduce in size every time a chromosome replicates. That’s not so great because then the DNA itself can unravel. When that happens, the cell is no longer able to divide to reproduce, and it does not function as it should. The cell can die or it can continue to function as a senesced cell, doing damage as it malfunctions from within as well as effectuating damage to and dysfunction of other cells. And again, we age. Some theorists believe those pesky free radicals also contribute to telomere shortening.
So far, these theories only look at cell regeneration. But there are other elements in the mix as well.
What About Proteins?
Some researchers believe that part of the issue has to do with proteins. When proteins are made by a dysfunctional (senesced) cell, or are otherwise damaged or degrade over time, the cell can’t function properly. Now, this could be thanks to free radicals again or perhaps even telomere shortening. The problem is, when proteins are in less than stellar shape, our bodies try to fix them, and, if unsuccessful, try to reject them. If we are lucky, the defective cell dies, and is replaced by a new (stem) cell, but, when that doesn’t work, these senesced cells act as mentioned above by damaging other parts of the body, leading to disease and aging.
On the flip side, there can be too much of a good thing. Take, for example, mTOR, which is a kind of protein that just doesn’t know when to quit. It can speed up cell replication. This is great news if we need it unless the cells being replicated are damaged. Too many bad cells are associated with cancer or excessive insulin production, and cells also need time for repair (autophagy) – not just growth. Obviously, that’s not what we want.
All these theories surrounding the science of aging revolve around imperfect or dysfunctional cells in one way or another. So, what can the medical community do about it?
From Theory to Practice
Clinicians are developing new treatments to help in the fight against aging, such as through stem cell replacement therapy. And trials are also being conducted to develop new drug protocols. One example of the most promising prospects is called Metformin, which is a prescribed medication that is traditionally used to treat Type 2 Diabetes. But the medication may, in fact, help to slow aging.
Researchers have been looking at the potential of Metformin for about 15 years. But it’s really only gained momentum in the last five years in terms of aging as human trials get underway. From a personal perspective, when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I took Metformin along with green tea extract, and it helped me to eliminate any trace of cancer in a short time frame. Ultimately, Metformin is an inexpensive and FDA-approved drug that has application outside of treating diabetes and could be one piece of the puzzle in slowing aging.
The important thing is to make sure that we’re doing our due diligence and looking at all possible options. After all, while the goal may be stopping aging altogether, in the meantime, we simply want to live our best life. And if that means fighting diseases or reducing aches and pains, the path forward remains the same.
Research into regenerating new cells, such as with adult stem cell replacement therapy and clinical trials of new drug protocols, are invaluable. Despite what you may have heard, it’s not fringe science. It’s the next step on our journey as human beings that crave more time with our friends and loved ones. More time to change the world. More time to enjoy the little things life has to offer.
The saying isn’t that aging and taxes are inevitable. So, why not extend the time we do have?
Philosophical queries abound regarding our fascination with anti-aging. Most suggest that it’s not necessarily about beating the clock but, instead, extending the time that we have. Meanwhile, medical research has focused more on longevity and living the best quality of life. This is where anti-aging treatments come into the mix.
There are a few key biological theories surrounding how we age. And they show that regeneration treatments and anti-aging research are just reaching the cusp of what is possible to reverse the signs of aging. Adult stem cell replacement therapy and clinical trials of new drug protocols are invaluable. Despite what you may have heard, it’s not fringe science. It’s the next step on our journey as human beings that crave more time with our friends and loved ones. More time to change the world. More time to enjoy the little things life has to offer.Dr. Rand McClain