What if you could live into old age with youthful vigor?
Given the opportunity to live much longer lives, many of us might feel less than thrilled at the prospect.
After all, you might think, who would want to live an extra 20 years dealing with arthritis, dementia, or heart problems?
But what if those years could be filled with youthful vigor — or at least middle-aged comfort?
The ability to reverse, or slow down, the degenerative processes that come with increased age has been a long-held human aspiration.
Indeed, it has provided a consistent focus for decades of scientific research on aging.
But it is only in the last 10 years that the replacement of palliative treatments (which suppress the symptoms of age-related diseases) with genuine anti-degenerative medicines (which prevent and repair) has become more than a pipe dream.
This paradigm shift stems from recent research that shows that just a few biological root causes underpin almost all the diseases of old age.
Such a discovery is an opportunity to address a wide range of illnesses simultaneously with treatments that target single biological mechanisms. For the first time, aging has become “druggable.”
One leading cause of age-related changes, including illness, is known as “cell senescence.”
This is a consequence of evolution that only really comes into play when organisms outlive their normal reproductive age, or are subjected to a very damaging environment.
When cells become senescent, they can no longer divide and typically behave in a way that damages the tissue around them.
For many years, much of the gerontological community had considered cell senescence to be a symptom rather than a cause of age-related decline.
However, recent groundbreaking research showed that removing senescent cells from mice not only prevents normal aging, but actually reverses many of the symptoms.