Scientific discoveries that can slow down or reverse aging

Aging is a complex and multifactorial process involving biological, psychological, and social changes over time. These changes can lead to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and others, which compromise people's health and functionality.

Therefore, many scientists consider aging as a disease in itself that can be treated or even cured. Researchers have been searching for ways to slow down aging and extend human life with health and quality.

One of the key theories about aging is the loss of information. According to this premise, aging occurs because cells gradually lose the ability to maintain the integrity of their genetic material (DNA) and their structures (proteins, lipids, etc.).

This loss of information leads to the accumulation of cellular damage, affecting the functioning of tissues and organs. Additionally, communication between cells also becomes less efficient, impairing the coordination of biological processes.

"When the body can no longer keep up with the pace of repair, aging begins," says Kaare Christensen, a physician and coordinator of the Danish Center on Aging Research.

To prevent or reverse this loss of information, scientists are studying a way to activate cellular repair mechanisms and stimulate signaling pathways that regulate metabolism, inflammation, oxidative stress, and cell death.

One of the most promising strategies is the manipulation of genes that control these mechanisms and pathways. These genes are called longevity genes or sirtuins.

Sirtuins are a family of enzymes that act as cellular sensors, modulating the expression of various other genes. They are activated by moderate stress situations such as caloric restriction, physical exercise, exposure to cold or heat, among others.

One of the leading experts on sirtuins is geneticist David Sinclair from Harvard University. He argues that it is possible to slow down or reverse aging with drugs that activate sirtuins or provide precursor molecules for these enzymes.

"Aging is a disease that can be cured by activating cellular repair mechanisms and stimulating signaling pathways that regulate metabolism, inflammation, oxidative stress, and cell death," he asserts.

One of these drugs is resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, which has been studied as a potential activator of sirtuins. Another is NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide), a precursor of NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), an essential molecule for sirtuin function.

Sinclair claims that he takes these two compounds daily, and they have improved his health and appearance. In this way, they contribute to maintaining cellular homeostasis and increasing resistance to aging.

However, there are still no conclusive evidence regarding the effectiveness and safety of these drugs in humans. Therefore, Sinclair recommends that people adopt simple habits that can also naturally activate sirtuins. These include:

1. Practicing intermittent fasting or reducing calorie intake by 15% to 25%, which can increase insulin sensitivity, reduce blood glucose and fat levels, and stimulate autophagy (cellular cleaning process).

2. Regularly engaging in physical exercise to improve the cardiorespiratory system, strengthen muscles and bones, prevent muscle loss (sarcopenia), and increase the production of beneficial hormones.

3. Exposing oneself to moderate cold or heat to activate cellular defense genes, increase blood flow and tissue oxygenation, and induce thermogenesis (calorie burning).

4. Getting adequate sleep to support memory consolidation, hormonal regulation, muscle recovery, and brain toxin elimination.

5. Maintaining a balanced diet rich in antioxidants to provide the necessary nutrients for cellular function, prevent the accumulation of free radicals and inflammation, and modulate the gut microbiome (a set of bacteria residing in the intestines that influence health).

6. Avoiding smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and other drugs, as these habits accelerate premature aging of the skin, lungs, liver, and brain, and increase the risk of cancer and other diseases.

7. Cultivating positive social relationships and staying mentally active to boost self-esteem, motivation, creativity, and resilience, as well as protect against depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline.

In addition to these recommendations, there are other ways to slow down aging under scientific investigation.

One of them is gene therapy, which involves introducing modified genes into cells to correct defects or confer new functions. For example, some scientists are attempting to reactivate genes that control the production of telomerase, an enzyme that lengthens telomeres (the ends of chromosomes that shorten over time and limit cell division).

"Science will be able to cure aging in the future, using everything from microorganisms to 3D-printed organs," says João Pedro de Magalhães, a biologist and professor at the University of Liverpool.

Another technique is cellular therapy: transplanting young or reprogrammed cells to replace or regenerate damaged or aging cells. One way to do this is through the use of stem cells (cells capable of differentiating into various cell types) to repair injured or degenerated tissues, such as the heart, liver, or brain.

Bioengineering involves creating artificial or bionic organs to replace or supplement faulty or insufficient organs. Scientists are attempting to use 3D printers to manufacture organs with living or synthetic tissues, such as kidneys, pancreases, or eyes.

Finally, nanotechnology, a method of manipulating materials on a nanoscale (dealing with very small things), is being explored to create devices or systems capable of interacting with cells and tissues. Researchers aim to use nanorobots that can enter the human body and perform functions such as diagnosing diseases, delivering medications, or repairing cellular damage.

These are some of the possibilities that science offers to slow down aging and live longer. However, there are still many ethical, social, and economic challenges that need to be addressed before these technologies become accessible and safe for everyone.

In the meantime, we can follow the simple recommendations we already know work: eat healthily, sleep well, exercise, and live with as little stress as possible. These are the best remedies for aging with health and happiness.

Image: Canva

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