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article imageOp-Ed: Delaying aging by remote control with gene activation

By Paul Wallis     Sep 9, 2014 in Science
Sydney - A new study has discovered that it is possible to delay ageing by a comparatively simple process of simply activating a gene called AMPK. This gene slows ageing and increases lifespan by triggering a response to low energy levels.
Science Daily:
UCLA biologists have identified a gene that can slow the aging process throughout the entire body when activated remotely in key organ systems.
Working with fruit flies, the life scientists activated a gene called AMPK that is a key energy sensor in cells; it gets activated when cellular energy levels are low.
Increasing the amount of AMPK in fruit flies' intestines increased their lifespans by about 30 percent -- to roughly eight weeks from the typical six -- and the flies stayed healthier longer as well.
This is a very new approach, but it also relates well to other studies which have shown that mitochondrial “rebooting” has a similar effect. Energy levels have been proven to be closely related to the aging process, providing a sort of Karmic vision of the “weariness of old age” as a symptom, rather than a natural result of aging.
In practice, the mechanics of aging show some very straightforward practical issues. Aging could be seen as a form of inefficiency, as demonstrated by this new study. The use of the AMPK gene also promotes a process called autophagy, whereby dysfunctional cellular components are removed before they start causing problems.
This dysfunctional situation is actually very well-known. In keeping with the overall view that aging is a series of systemic breakdowns rather than a chronological process, dysfunctional cellular processes had been chained to be the causes of serious conditions.
Like a machine, if these processes aren’t carried out correctly, a cumulative cascade of dysfunctions occurs. Until recently, this process was understood but not correctable. Recently, new discoveries have been reinforcing the overall view that aging is a manageable process, perhaps easily manageable, if the fundamental mechanisms of aging are addressed.
Very significant in relation to the new findings is the fact that slowing the aging process in the brain and vital organs is technically difficult. Invasive processes could be counter-productive, and it appears that a whole-of-body strategy is required to effectively control aging.
In theory, if this study is correct, the recharging of the energy levels of the body should carry through to these vital organs without the need for direct intervention. This could be particularly important in cases of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other age-related diseases in which symptoms are clearly identified but extremely difficult to manage. In the case of these two diseases, a buildup of cellular “garbage”, like protein deposits, directly relates to autophagy.
The new idea – Prevent old age and prevent diseases
One of the proposed uses of this approach is to simply prevent the onset of age-related diseases by effectively stopping the aging process. Many diseases are clearly age-related, caused by increasing vulnerability and weakness as the body ages. This methodology may achieve effective prevention of a vast number of serious medical conditions.
This is a whole new dimension in the fight against aging. 20 years ago, it wasn’t even suspected that there would be any sort of systemic method of dealing with aging, other than a purely theoretical concept. Now, it’s looking much more likely that systemic management of aging is quite practical.
The UCLA study indicated that increasing AMPK levels in the nervous system increased autophagy in the brain, indicating that systemic connections of energy levels, again similar to a machine, were effective. Adding the gene in various different locations invariably affected surrounding systems.
There’s a level of consistency in this research and related findings which indicates that this kickstarting approach is a dependable option for managing age-related conditions. Mitochondrial recharges, the SIRT3 “longevity” gene and AMPK are having very much the same effects.
It’s just possible that one of this world’s greatest insults to humanity, aging, may finally be beaten.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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