Fighting the aging process at a cellular level It was about 400 BC when Hippocrates astutely observed that gluttony and early death seemed to go hand in hand. Too much food appeared to 'extinguish' life in much the same way as putting too much wood on a fire smothers its flames. If obesity led to disease and death, he thought, then perhaps restraint was the secret to a longer life? It would be a couple of millennia before science confirmed, in 1935, a link between reducing calorie intake and living longer. This discovery was just the beginning. In the 21st century, further advances have led to an extraordinary leap in life expectancy; a child born in Australia today can expect to live at least 25 years longer than a child born a century ago. Yet longer life has also unleashed a cocktail of diseases and chronic conditions, attacking us in tandem, to blight our final years.
…Australian and international researchers are focusing on two key processes. One promising approach is to target naturally occurring 'senescent' cells, the label given to any type of cell as it acquires age-related damage or loss of function. Our immune systems should clear out these cells, but as we age this housekeeping function becomes less and less effective. This means senescent cells accumulate rather than divide, and in turn, they secrete inflammatory agents that can damage adjacent cells, causing the kind of chronic inflammation associated with age-related diseases. Dr Darren Baker, of the US Mayo Clinic, who was in Australia for the Biology of Ageing conference, and colleagues, recently published their breakthrough results in Nature. Their study demonstrated the elimination of senescent cells in mice not only extended their lives but improved their general health, curiosity and energy levels, with no apparent ill effects.