By: Eileen Marable
The fountain of youth. The idea of retaining or returning to one’s healthy youthful state indefinitely is a concept that has been studied in one form or another since the dawn of humankind. The ‘fountain of youth’ idea is based on the idea there is some product – a cream or a pill that will somehow turn the effects of aging around. Billions of dollars are spent each year on products that claim to in some way mask or slow the effects of aging, but what if we’re looking in the wrong place? What if the fountain of youth has really been inside us the whole time and we just need the technology to find it?
By asking whether technology can reverse aging we have to split the current research into two groups. The first is the group of researchers like Randal Koene who want to preserve life by turning our intellect and emotions into digital copies. This could mean purely a digital experience, and not just reversing aging but creating a limitless one.
Other scientists are tackling aging at the cellular level. The generally accepted idea with this theory is aging is caused by breakdowns or gradual mutation of the mitochondria in our cells. Mitochondrial DNA control cellular respiration and energy – key to keeping our cells young. Gradual breakdown of the mitochondria sequences over time lead to the signs we associate with aging and eventual shutting down of the cells.
Teams of scientists in Japan, Australia, and the U.S. have recently made the discovery that it may not be as simple as the sequencing of our DNA breaking down. The Japanese team studied the cells from a range of fetal to 12-year old young people and 80 to 97 year-olds. It turns out the actual sequences, or capacity of the DNA between the two groups was largely the same.
What they theorized is the breakdown or misfiring at the cellular level is really caused by turning on or off of genes, which can be done by adding the proteins or chemical structures like amino acids that enable them. If you can control delivery of chemicals and proteins you can reprogram genes to reverse the breakdowns.
The Japanese team proved they could successfully turn the genes off that affect cellular respiration. Then they turned them back on by adding the amino acid glycine. The combined team from Australia and the U.S. restored the functionality or ‘communication’ between mitochondria and the nuclei of cells by injecting mice with a natural compound called NMN. It accelerates the levels of molecule NAD that repairs the functionality. In the study, the results of the injection had some of the same effects as those mice that were fed the equivalent of a low calorie diet. The younger the mice were, the more dramatic the effect; so could it be possible that if we start taking or injecting ourselves early enough we could stall aging altogether?
With these new breakthroughs in understanding how we might treat our cells we could be looking at prolonged and healthier future. But where does the technology come in?
It’s a given that to accomplish this research scientists are working with advanced medical equipment to create, deliver, and document gene therapy. We are talking about microsurgery at an advanced level as scientists look to bind healthy, treated cells to other cells and replace them in the body to grow and help regenerate damaged cells.
But beyond microsurgery, there are already technologies hitting the market in the near future that could help us prevent and treat malfunctions in the body earlier. As the team from Discovery News documents in their video there are wearable wristbands that already track our fitness and diet; in addition to be preventative health care to slow down aging, these devices could one day also alert us to more serious medical problems.
The Discovery News team also highlights magnetic pills we could ingest to directly target the source of cellular breakdown with the appropriate amino acid. Imagine 3-D printers are creating these pills or vaccines on a mass scale.
The fountain of youth is an ephemeral concept. Will we live forever as intellect inside a computer, or will we use computers and advanced technology to tap and fix what is already inside us? The race is on.
Which avenue of anti-aging would you pursue?