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Can We Ever Reverse Aging?

What if it were possible to reverse aging rather than simply slowing it down? Would there be ways of turning back the clock rather than simply slowing it?

Shinya Yamanaka made headlines worldwide when he discovered genes which transform mature cells into embryonic stem cells – this achievement earned him the Nobel Prize.

What is aging?

Aging is the natural progression of natural processes that gradually lead to decreased function and an increase in disease and death risks. It’s characterized by various cellular and molecular changes which vary among individuals – for instance, losing teeth is one common symptom of normal aging but this can be avoided through regular dental care and eating less sugar.

Human bodies begin the aging process early adulthood and continue throughout life. While some people may see external signs of aging such as gray hair or limited mobility, most changes occur within individual cells themselves and cause functional decline, susceptibility to disease, and increased risks of death.

Over time, proteins in our bodies deteriorate and cease performing their intended tasks due to genetic damage and other environmental stresses, like inflammation. Over time, this damage accumulates until entropy prevails over synthesis; ultimately leading to irreparable tissue degradation (Lopez-Otin et al. 2013).

Different cells begin to break down at different rates, and this damage manifests itself physically in appearance and performance changes over time. Aging effects often become more visible than their underlying causes due to factors like genetics, environment, lifestyle choices and health status.

Cellular changes related to aging contribute to organ and system decline, leading to diminished functioning. As a result, age-related diseases like cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal diseases/arthritis/arthritis/nerve degenerative disorders/cancer are on the rise (Lubloy 2020). Age-related diseases represent one of the primary sources of disability while placing undue burdens on families and societies alike (Lubloy 2020).

Although aging cannot be stopped or reversed, researchers are striving to increase healthy longevity or “healthspan.” Healthy longevity measures the amount of time someone remains free from age-related diseases and is measured in years. Scientists at Potocsnak Longevity Institute hope to extend healthspan by slowing the aging process and delaying disease onset.

What causes aging?

As we age, our cells and tissues change dramatically. Some changes may be genetic; others can result from events throughout your life such as your environment, diet and behaviors that impact health and how quickly we age. These factors all play a part.

Environmental and lifestyle factors may alter your DNA coding process over time, either slowing it down, speeding it up or altering it completely. These changes are known as epigenetics; while they don’t change your genetic material directly, they may cause its genes to act differently which often leads to disease or signs and symptoms associated with aging.

Cells form the core of all tissues and organs in your body, but as we age they become smaller and less capable of reproducing or dividing. They also become less flexible, making oxygen delivery harder, nutrients absorption more challenging, wastes amassing in tissues (lipofuscin pigment and other fatty substances build-up), organs stiffening up, heart and lungs becoming less effective as we breathe less oxygenated air and can no longer function efficiently.

Your mitochondria, the power plants for your cells, stop functioning correctly as well. Mitochondria convert food and oxygen into energy that your cells use to work and grow; when they don’t function normally, your cells produce an altered form of oxygen which damages proteins and DNA and decreases your ability to repair cells and regenerate tissues. As a result, repair processes become impaired, decreasing your ability to repair tissue repairs.

Scientists have successfully used various strategies to reverse aging in lab animals. One successful experiment saw researchers reprogram mature cells back into embryonic states using four genes known as Yamanaka factors; however, this approach has yet to be confirmed in humans.

One scientist is working towards this end for humans. He and his team are currently researching NANOG, which plays an essential role in reprogramming mature cells into younger ones. Their aim is to eventually create a drug which could slow or reverse aging through this mechanism by reprogramming people’s cells into acting like younger ones.

What can we do about aging?

At present, there is no cure for aging; however, we can slow the aging process with healthy habits such as eating well and exercise, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption and seeing our doctor regularly for checkups.

The recent economic crisis has increased awareness of the need to address population aging issues, especially among low and middle income nations. Aging populations place undue strain on government budgets by increasing needs for social protection, health services and long-term care; additionally, increased longevity may cause unsustainable public debt accumulation as governments divert funds away from areas like education and infrastructure investment to support an aging citizenry.

Researchers are exploring methods to extend telomere lifespans and thus delay aging by lengthening cell division cycles and avoiding damaged or senescent cells from entering. Their work remains preliminary but if successful it could prove a viable treatment for age-related diseases.

Some researchers are working towards reversing the aging process through increasing cell repair mechanisms and more efficiently eliminating senescent cells, but face significant challenges due to needing to distinguish between healthy cells and those containing senescent ones.

Reprogramming stem cells into functional cells that do not become damaged from oxidation could provide another potential avenue. Reprogramming is a time-consuming and complex process.

Productive Aging (PA), which involves creating work environments and organizations that foster worker and organizational success while lowering healthcare, maintenance and turnover costs. This can be accomplished by improving safety and health measures, increasing older age employment rates, offering flexible work arrangements and encouraging learning opportunities.

Will we ever reverse aging?

Since long before Ponce de Leon sought the Fountain of Youth, humans have been seeking ways to remain young. Anti-Ageing research is now a multibillion-dollar industry with scientists dedicating their careers to finding solutions for delaying or even reversing aging processes.

Although many claims exist to help reverse aging, it remains unlikely we’ll ever fully reverse its process. Aside from exceptional cases in which no person ages at all, everyone will eventually experience health issues and physical decline with age; our bodies can only bear so much stress before reaching their limit; over time we lose the ability to replace lost cells or repair damage, leaving organs that control essential functions to begin failing and leading us into experiencing signs of aging symptoms.

Scientists have long attempted to slow the aging process, yet most efforts have focused on treating specific diseases rather than targeting its source. A new mouse study suggests we might be closer than ever before to reversed aging: its findings revealed that miscoordination between entire networks of genes was what causes it.

Harvard researchers previously demonstrated it is possible to reverse cellular aging in mice using virally introduced Yamanaka factors. This technique converts adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). By treating iPSCs with drugs that target proteins causing aging and rejuvenating body by replacing old or damaged cells.