Elixir of immortality: how scientists are trying to stop the «gray tsunami» of old age

© Photo : Buck Institute for Research on Adaption Kennedy, one of the leading experts in the study of agingElixir of immortality: how scientists are trying to stop the «gray tsunami» of old age© Photo : Buck Institute for Research on Ageing

Professor Brian Kennedy, one of the leading experts in the study of human aging, spoke about whether there is a limit of human life, and explain why anti-aging is now a major challenge for all countries in the world that are directly associated with their survival.

Professor Kennedy for almost three decades studying the various processes that make the body and human cells to grow old and trying to figure out how to stop this process, experimenting on animals and on volunteers.

Two years ago, his team managed to detect two hundreds of genes, presumably associated with aging by experimenting on yeast with partially human DNA. These experiments formed the basis for the first experimental therapies to slow aging, which will soon begin to undergo clinical tests on volunteers in a laboratory Kennedy at the National University of Singapore.

Last week, he delivered a public lecture at the conference of Firstejbhome organized by the MIPT, where he spoke about what has been achieved by his lab, as alcohol affects the speed of aging of the body, and why the government of Singapore and the United States puts the struggle with the aging of the population of the whole Earth, «gray tsunami», one of the first places among their national interests.

— These spores revived in recent years for the reason that recently, colleagues have conducted several studies on the lifespan of the oldest people on Earth. These studies have shown that the average length of life on the planet continued to grow in recent years, however, the maximum lifespan did not change.

I look at this problem from a slightly different angle, since I work mostly with the humans and with animals. Whatever body we did not work in all cases, we were able to increase maximum life span. There is no reason to believe that this cannot be done in humans.

On the other hand, the question, really, is a few other things – we don’t know for what reasons you know the maximum life span if it was some natural factors, or something that made the man himself. In the future, when we begin to apply the life-prolonging drugs, I’m sure they will act on the most long-lived people.

— Many of your colleagues in Russia believe that there is a genetic «program of aging» that causes animals to grow decrepit and to give way to a new generation. Do you feel that this is so?

— Actually, that raised two different issues. On the one hand, the data that we have available to date suggest that such programs do not exist, and that the enfeeblement of the body is in itself.

The reason for this is natural selection – the pressure on the work of our body and the bodies of these animals, decreases after the animal has left posterity and ceased to reproduce. From the point of view of evolution, human life ends in 30-40 years, and that was true for most of the history of mankind, as almost all our ancestors rarely lived to this point.

For this reason, those errors in the DNA that affect our life after this period were not corrected in the course of our evolution that began to interfere with mankind only in the last 200 years, after the appearance of the medicine and start soaring lifetimes. Had chronic disease, claiming the lives of an increasing number of people.

On the other hand, even if it’s not, you cannot say that the effect on single genes or group of genes may not affect the rate of aging. Despite the fact that the aging body is largely a random process, some of its features are common to humans and many other animals, and these can be used.

For example, calorie restriction prolongs the life of many animals, not because it directly slows down the aging and for the reason that lack of energy «turns on» the genes associated with stress and lack of food. These genes appeared in our DNA in the genomes of animals, not because they are associated with aging, and for the reason that they helped them to survive in difficult situations. The same defence against stress, as it turned out, helps to resist aging.

— Speaking of animals, today’s scientists are trying to find the key to aging by experimenting on various creatures ranging from yeast and ending with a bare corridor. Which one will most quickly bring us closer to solving this puzzle?

— Actually, the answer to this question is no because each animal makes its own contribution to the study of aging. For example, yeast and Drosophila are quite similar to humans, but their rapid life cycle allows us to study the work of certain genes in their DNA. As it turned out, many of these genes are associated with aging, have their analogues in the DNA of mice, and perhaps humans.

On the other hand really long-lived beings, such as naked mole rats, help us to examine other processes that are extremely difficult to catch or see in the experiments in yeast or flies. In General, we need to conduct research on all model organisms, taking advantage of the differences in their life.

— Have you managed to achieve new successes in the study of aging genes on the example of yeast with human genes?

— We have a lot of time studying the yeast, and now we can say that these fungi played a key role in the study of aging, as they helped us to find the genes SIRT2, and mTOR, the impact of which has helped us significantly extend the lives of mice and other animals.

Now we are trying to create a comprehensive picture of aging, how this process is influenced not one, but all 230 genes that we opened two years ago, and how they interact with each other. This is a very long process, but we hope that the yeast will help us for the first time to fully describe what is happening in the aging of the human body. Elixir of immortality: how scientists are trying to stop the «gray tsunami» of old age© Photo : Rainis VentaУченые opened 238 genes of longevity in yeast DNA

— If you manage to slow down the aging process, whether it will lead to the fact that the cells of the body, such «immortal» person will eventually lose the ability to share or becomes predisposed to the development of cancer?

— I think, such problem will not arise, as the rejuvenation of cells should allow for the fact that they will retain the normal ability to divide. While our experiments show that all the experimental techniques of life extension not only prolongs the life of animals, but allow them to stay healthy much longer than usual.

It is, in fact, is the main goal of all my work – I don’t care if I can make a man immortal, but endlessly patient. I would like that people remained healthy as long as possible, and if they will be able to live longer, it will be pleasant, but an added bonus.

— Recently your colleagues from California were able to rejuvenate mice temporarily turning in their cells genes related to the work of stem cells. It does not cause such «extreme» forms of struggle with old age protests from politicians and the public, and if they can be put into practice in the foreseeable future?

— I think, this approach, and many other rejuvenation methods necessary to check in the experiments on volunteers, but most of them are not yet ready to work with the person. In addition to the ethical reasons, there are a number of technical problems due to which the results of the tests on mice and other rodents is extremely difficult to move on people.

Now there are medications and different diets and lifestyles, which will greatly affect the rate of human aging. And if we can prove that these simple and relatively safe action indeed prolong life, then I think the public is ready for bolder steps.

Of course, someone may not like genetic manipulation and the work of cdell, but, in fact, differ in the treatment of cancer and anti-aging? From the point of view of medicine, age and aging are major risk factors for the development of malignant tumors and a number of chronic diseases, and why defeating aging will mean victory over them.Elixir of immortality: how scientists are trying to stop the «gray tsunami» of old age© Fotolia / Dan RaceГенетики plan to begin experiments on the deceleration of aging in humans

In fact, the cure for aging will work as a means to prevent cancer, heart disease and other health problems, which today claim the lives of most older people. It is unlikely that someone will, there are ethical claims to our address if they are to understand this relationship.

Moreover, anti-ageing will help us to solve or postpone the main problem of the future, «gray tsunami», a true economic «end of the world», generated by the fact that on the Earth today is becoming less young people and more elderly people who need to pay a pension and for which to care.