We all want to stop aging. My practice is filled with people whose bodies are developing little to big problems that just didn’t dog them in their 20s and 30s but are now a constant pain in their 40s to 70s. So is it possible to slow or reverse the effects of Father Time? Scientists may have gotten a little closer this past week.
If there’s one thing every human on the planet has in common, it’s aging. There may be products and procedures that can make us look a little younger, but this is often nothing more than an illusion as stopping or slowing aging is hard; inside, our bodies are still getting older by the second.
So what defines aging at a cellular level? One key event is senescence. This means that some proportion of our cells no longer divide. In fact, it was a scientist by the name of Leonard Hayflick who determined that all of our cells have a limit to the number of times they can divide. This later became known as replicative senescence, or the “Hayflick limit.”
Although senescent cells are no longer able to divide, they remain metabolically active. In addition, they tend to take on a proinflammatory secretome (meaning they throw off chemicals that cause inflammation). This is considered to be one of the key problems in aging, excessive systemic inflammation, or “bad inflammation.” Hence, if we could reduce the number of senescent cells in the body, this would be a very big step to finding a “cure” for the disease known as aging.
However, as certain as aging progresses, so does science, and it seems science has moved a bit closer toward hitting the brakes on aging at the cellular level.
A new study sought to determine if it’s possible to fix senescent cells so they can divide again. The researchers found that when they delivered a molecule called hydrogen sulfide (H2S) to the mitochondria in scenescent human cells, this stimulated the old cells to begin actively dividing again. The researchers’ future vision isn’t to force old cells to start functioning appropriately again but to stop aging by eliminating these scenescent cells all together in actual living humans in an effort to tackle aging and disease.
Another study I shared a few years ago also looked at aging at the cellular level, but in this case at the possibility that in the future the mitochondria (the cell battery) of aging cells may be able to be recharged by a power-transfer process from the local stem cells. In addition, regenerating aging stem cells in the hypothalamus of the brain may also slow aging. To learn more about the mitochondria in our cells and stem cells, watch my video below:
So while science has not yet hit the brakes on aging, discovering a new way to affect aging at the cellular level logs another mile toward that elusive Fountain of Youth.
While we wait on science to stop aging at the cellular level, there are some things you can do now that might slow aging a bit and potentially increase your activity span. Let’s review a couple of ways we’ve covered in the past:
The upshot? The next 20 years will be amazing in that for the first time, we’re going to begin to see real clinical breakthroughs in slowing or stopping the aging process. Hence, I wouldn’t be surprised if by 2030–40 we have a drug or therapy on the market that reduces your senescent cell load. In fact, my kids could be the first generation for whom becoming old is an option!
About the Author
Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…