Ageing or the process of becoming older results in a decline of a person's health as the body organs slowly lose their function over time and the process encompasses several physical, psychological and social changes. Chronic conditions like cardiovascular diseases, Osteoporosis, dementia, cancer, etc seems to affect the older population than the younger ones.
Even the novel Coronavirus seems to have a fatal impact mostly on older people. About 150,000 deaths happen every day on Earth and over 100,000 of them are caused by ageing.
Andrew Steele, a brilliant young scientist in his book The New Science Of Getting Older Without Getting Old pinpoint at top ten breakthrough ideas in the field of science that enable us to grow old healthy and fit.
1. Dietary Restriction
Though humans have long believed that the process of ageing is unstoppable, a rat experiment conducted by Scientist Clive Mc Cay in the 1930s proved that rats whose daily food ration was cut short lived longer than those who ate sufficiently well every day. Their life was prolonged not because of any change in their genes but because they managed to stay young and thereby avoid the disease and frailty of age.
This experiment was a breakthrough as it showed ageing can be slowed down if our daily is controlled and balanced.
2. Negligible Senescence
Even if the fact of aging seems like a fact at first glance, there is no biological law mandating it. Some animals like tortoises, salamanders, fish and few other animals have a risk of death that does not depend on how old they are, which means they do not age.
With the proper incentives, evolution might equip the living organisms to repair, get rid of and replace the broken and unfixable cells and molecules in their body.
3. The Hallmarks of ageing
Though the first two breakthrough ideas suggest ageing can be slowed down or stopped in theory, it was in 2013 the framework of setting up a list that included the biological symptoms of ageing from wrinkles to cancer which sought out to search for a practical effort. If these hallmarks can be slowed, stopped or reversed, it means the same is applicable for the overall process of ageing as well.
The telomere, which is a protective portion at the end of each chromosome present in a person tends to get shorter with age and a short telomere suggests an increased risk of diseases of old age. There was a discussion among scientists regarding the use of enzyme telomerase to elongate the telomere and thereby prevent or delay the ageing but in an experiment on rats, the animals started to develop cancer with increased intake of the enzyme.
In the last few years, scientists have come up with treatments in which the enzyme can be temporarily turned on without an increased risk of cancer and rats that underwent such treatment were found to have higher bone density, control over their blood sugar level and live longer.
5. Thymus Rejuvenation
Multiple ideas have been discovered to reverse the decline of the organ thymus which is responsible for the production of immune cells. The decline of the thymus was a reason associated with infection with age, death from flu and coronavirus. Revitalizing this small organ will have an impact on our whole biological clock.
6. Induced pluripotent stem cells
Induced pluripotent stem cells have particular potential in the field of ageing biology as they enable normal body cells when combined with a cocktail of four different genes to turn into any kind of cells to replace those lost due to ageing, accident or injury. Hence the iPSCs have immense potential in the field of ageing biology.
7. The Amish Gene
People with one copy of a mutated gene called SERPINE1, which is essential in blood clotting, had better heart health, less diabetes, and lived a full 10 years longer than those without. This suggests that targeting single genes could be the method to a long and healthy life for people.
8. Epigenetic clocks
Epigenetics is a collective name for a set of flags on our DNA and observing the changes in epigenetics can give us a precise idea of how old we are. If the 'epigenetic age' is higher than a person's chronological age, he or she can expect to get ill and die sooner and vice versa. Epigenetic provide a high potential of doing experiments on anti-ageing treatments which can speed up the progress against the ageing process.
9. Intermittent Programming
One important side-effect of iPSC research is that the same four genes that allow a cell to turn into any other kind of cell could also turn back its epigenetic clock. Cellular reprogramming is a process that seems to make cells biologically younger. So doing a little reprogramming, enough to shave years off of cells' biological clocks, but without turning them back to being stem cells one might be able to rejuvenate the body as a whole.
10. Senolytic Drugs
This is one of the most significant breakthroughs as these drugs help in killing the ageing cells in our body. Senescent or ageing cells are accumulated in the human body over time and secrete molecules that accelerate the ageing process. They also degenerate as the person acquires age.
The Senolytic drugs help in getting rid of these cells from the body and the human trials for the approval of these drugs are beginning in a short period.