DailyDirt: Aging Gracefully

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

The topic of aging is a widely-studied one — presumably because everyone ages and it’s one of the leading causes of death. There’s no cure for aging just yet, but scientists are collecting more information on the process of aging. Once the process is understood more thoroughly, there might be ways to treat it and extend human lifespans. Here are just a few more links on the subject of aging and possible ways to prevent it.

If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Aging Gracefully”

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Beta (profile) says:

the power of a bad headline

I read the article on Syndrome X. It’s interesting, but the headline is misleading. The Syndrome involves a disruption of development, with different systems evolving at different rates (e.g. rapid deterioration of the telomeres, but retarded mental development). These girls don’t remain bouncy little children for 90 years, they grow in a disordered way and die young.

This syndrome may tell us a lot about development and gene regulation, but the people who refer to it as “the key to halting the aging process” seem to be indulging in pure wishful thinking.

Groaker (profile) says:

Aging may being studied, but it is one of the least understood processes. The (lack) of understanding of the role that cholesterol plays is quite demonstrative of the field as a whole.

Cholesterol is the basis of the synthesis of steroid hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, etc — all necessary for sexuality and reproduction. That is just to get your attention, as cholesterol also forms the basis for a great many other processes. It is totally necessary for animal life as we know it.

The journey to understand the atherosclerotic process has been an interesting one over my lifespan. First total cholesterol was seen as the villain, and margarine in stick form was seen as the saviour. But after decades of adhering to the replacement of butter by stick margarine, it was discovered that the trans-fats present in solid margarines were often more dangerous that the cholesterol in butter.

Cholesterol, an insoluble waxy notched crystal, itself has been discovered to be present in a number of forms so that it can be carried in the bloodstream. It came to be known that cholesterol was carried as chylomicrons, VLDL, IDL, LDL and HDL. Over the years the cholesterol transported by the lighter lipoproteins (LDL in particular) came to be known as “bad cholesterol,” and HDL is known as “good cholesterol.”

More recent work has studied the fractionation of what was known as “good cholesterol” or HDL. Not all the fractions are protective as has been recently thought. There is dysfunctional HDL that is not “good.” HDL fractionation is new enough, and still so poorly understood, that it is not available for most clinical purposes.

What all this means is that atherosclerosis as a result of cholesterol levels is a heck of a lot more complicated than anyone thought 30 years ago. I suspect that 30 years from now, today’s understanding will be deemed as trivial.

Is this a license to eat bacon by the sow belly? Unfortunately no. Half of all deaths from heart attacks are the result of excess cholesterol levels that can be easily controlled. But we are no where near a true understanding of the role that cholesterol alone plays in cardiac disease, and there are many other factors involved in the development of atherosclerosis.

I have discussed just one slice of one form of aging. It is an incredibly complex process that has no simple answers. A mystery that will yield its secrets only with great research, patience and time.

Groaker (profile) says:

And just what is the problem with centenarians dating, or for that matter having sex. My father celebrated his 94th bday with two hookers. We “children” only found out by accident. Some people are scandalized by this. I am happy that he was still able to enjoy himself. That he had an interest in life rather than sitting around until he died.

I also hope that I got the better side of his genes.

While the average lifespan has increased markedly, the average age at death if someone has already lived past 40 hasn’t changed all that much. Prior to the industrial revolution two out of three children died prior to the age of five. After the industrial revolution and the initiation of public health that changed to 1 in three. In 2012 in the US it was 7 out of a thousand. Big impact on the averages.

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