Can we stop ageing?

When life is going well who doesn’t cling to the desire to preserve this gift for as long as possible.  Earlier this year Scientific American, a journal that presents the latest in innovative research, shone its illuminating focus on the science that might enlighten all who seek this illusive treasure about the golden path that might transport them to this haven of presumptive immortality.

 One of the ways we can do this is to make our cells continue replicating.  To achieve this we would need to preserve genetic material at the edges of our cells called telomeres, but these become shortened and frayed like the metal caps at the end of our shoelaces and when this happens cells can no longer divide.  You might think this offers a simple solution.  Prevent telomeres from shrinking and cells can continue multiplying forever.   The problem is that we harbour a variety of cells, some are healthy, others are damaged and have the potential to morph into cancer cells.  What we don’t yet have is the knowhow to exclusively maintain the telomeres of healthy cells while avoiding harmful actors.  This remains a future quest.

 Another more attainable although hardly pleasurable activity is to consistently eat less, reducing the food on your plate around by 15%, or fasting intermittently say for 24 hours twice a week.  This slows down what is called your basal metabolic rate allowing you to age less if you can somehow embrace the transient deprivation.  

However, even this endeavour comes with a caveat.   We need to be careful that we aren’t constantly depriving our bodies of essential nutrients like protein and essential fatty acids found in avocado, olives, fish, nuts   When scientists tried this out on grey mouse lemurs, primates that look weird or cute depending on your perspective, they lived longer but lost grey matter in their brains, the home of brain cells responsible for memory, movement and emotions.  Despite this it didn’t appear to compromise their cognitive processes, but this might be a concern for those of us embarking on this programme.

 The short answer to the above question is maybe not yet but this isn’t going to preclude many of us from trying.

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