3 Ways Genetics Can Stop Aging Within Our Lifetime

Monday, 06 November 2017 - 10:04AM
Technology
Medical Tech
Genetic Engineering
Yes
Monday, 06 November 2017 - 10:04AM
3 Ways Genetics Can Stop Aging Within Our Lifetime
Image credit: YouTube/Kurzgesagt
In science fiction, life extension usually takes one of two paths: sticking a brain in a computer or jar (the Fallout method) or cloning (the Old Man's War method).

Both of these have their downsides: brains uploaded into computers turn into the next generation of GLaDoS, and jars are easily smashed. Meanwhile, clones have an annoying tendency to usurp the original.

However, with overall life expectancy on the rise thanks to advances in medical science, attention has turned toward attacking the aging process directly—this cool animated video from Kurzgesagt explains how:



For the quick run-down:

Destroy senescent or "zombie" cells


As the video explains, cells wear themselves down by dividing until they stop reproducing (and functioning) altogether. At that point, they become senescent: the DNA in these cells becomes corrupted, and the cells start to pollute the area around them. Older people have a much higher concentration of senescent cells, which accounts for part of their health problems.

The science comes in when you learn that most cells contain a protein that programs them to commit suicide upon becoming damaged. Senescent cells "under-produce" this protein, meaning that one potential solution is to inject patients with said protein in order to selectively destroy the zombie cells and keep the healthy cells.

Introduce more NAD+ into the body


NAD+ is a substance produced by cells that helps them maintain themselves. As time goes on, however, the cellular machinery used to produce it (as well as a lot of other things) begins to break down, leading to a decay in the cell's effectiveness. Injecting substances that can be transformed into NAD+ is one way of creating more of it in older patients, potentially leading to a decrease in Alzheimer's, heart disease, and more.

Use stem cells to create new cells


Ah, stem cells—the Pandora's Box of genetic controversy. Kurzgesagt points out that stem cells, as observed in the past, can be taken from younger generations (or embryos) and injected in an area like the brain or heart to create more healthy versions of the surrounding cells. These healthy cells can make up for damaged or decayed ones, and could potentially reverse the effects of aging by making up for the older cells.

Nobody wants to grow old and sick, but then again, no one wants a planet full of Cronenbergs.

We'll wait for human trials to begin before we start planning our immortal empires.
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How Genetics Can Stop Aging Within Our Lifetime
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