Can we turn back time?


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Steps forward in turning age backwards.

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Can we turn back time?

  1. 1. wellness Can We Turn Back Time? plastic surgery wellness STEPS FORWARD IN TURNING AGING BACKWARDS atnt By Jeffrey H. Spiegel, M.D. Contributing Editor & Advisor Speaking about aging, Mark Twain noted that, “It is does our appearance change, but so do our sad to go to pieces like this, but we all have to do abilities. Youthful vigor is replaced by slower it.” That is, aging is inevitable. As far as we know, movement with less strength and energy. time moves in only one direction; and as the years The great question is “why?” Why should pass, our bodies show the wear. our bodies, with their incredible ability to heal, My practice focuses on cosmetic facial eventually stop maintaining themselves and begin to surgery. With time, skin loses its elasticity, areas of deteriorate? Perhaps “why” is a philosophical fullness become hollow, and gravity takes its toll on question that we can never answer, but “how” is a less resilient face, resulting in signs of aging. I now closer to our reach. THE TIMER OF AGINGAt the end of each chromosome within At the end of each chromosome within ourour cells is a structure called telomere. cells is a structure called a telomere. These telomeres are segments of DNA that areThe telomere segment acts as a timer incompletely replicated each time the cell divides.for aging. After around 50 replications, the telomeres at the end of the chromosomes become so short that cell division ceases. This creates a phenomenon known fight these changes with injectable fillers that restore as “senescence.” In other words, the telomere volume, muscle relaxing chemicals that reduce the segment acts as a timer for aging. A longer stress on less elastic skin, lotions that attempt to telomere would allow for more cell divisions before restore moisture to drying skin, and surgical senescence, and ideally we would like to be able to procedures that attempt to move sagging tissues to lengthen the telomere as we age to continue in a their original youthful position. Of course, not only youthful state. The discovery of telomerase is | january ● february 2011 1
  2. 2. important enough that in 2009 the enzyme, their telomeres do not shrinking brains, and infertility.wellness Nobel Prize in medicine was shorten which may be an The investigators then awarded to three scientists for important reason why they reintroduced telomerase to the their description of how continually grow and divide. Of cells of the prematurely aged chromosomes are protected by course, telomerase is not the only mice, through the administration telomeres and the enzyme reason why a cancer cell is of a series of medications that telomerase. dangerous; and telomerase is reactivated the enzyme. What What evidence is there likely not the only thing we need happened? The mice got that longer telomeres are a sign of to prevent aging. younger. The signs of aging went youth? Well, population studies However, it may be an away, vigor improved, and the have shown that older people important part. Recently, animals regained the tend to have shorter telomeres. scientists in Boston conducted an characteristics of youth. Children with progeria, a terrible interesting experiment. Mice Importantly, none of the animals were reported to develop cancer. So what would happen if we activated telomerase CHROMOSOMAL in all human cells? Nobody knows. Ideally, cells LENGTHENING So, is this the secret? Do would resume division, and the body would correct we all need chromosomal all the deterioration of aging. lengthening by adding on to our telomeres? It is possible that this is an important part. However, disease which causes rapid were genetically modified to lack not everything that is effective in premature aging, have cells with telomerase. Typically, mice make mice works the same way in very short telomeres on their this enzyme throughout their humans. For one thing, mice chromosomes. Also, cancer cells, lives. Now, mice do get older and produce telomerase their entire which do not stop growing, have show signs of aging despite this! lives, while humans do not. This the ability to continually lengthen Nonetheless, without the already implies that cellular their telomeres. They do this telomerase the mice aged rapidly physiology between our two with an enzyme called telomerase. and began to show typical signs of species may be significantly When cancer cells produce this aging including weakened organs, different. Additionally, not everbody has shorter telomers with aging. A Swedish population study discovered that some people actually had lengthening telomeres! Nonetheless, it is a promising discovery. All cells in the human body could produce telomerase, but only some do. Those include cells that need to replicate more than 50 times during a person’s lifetime, such as sperm cells and cells of the immune system. And, as mentioned, cancer cells have the ability to produce telomerase. So what would happen if we activated telomerase in all human cells? Nobody knows. Ideally, cells would 2 january ● february 2011 |
  3. 3. resume division, and the body many products tout their and are the cause of aging. And, wellnesswould correct all the deterioration antioxidant abilities. Compounds yet another stresses that it isof aging. Hopefully, cells with a such as grape-seed extract and changes in hormone levels thatprediliction towards becoming pomegranate juice have been cause aging.malignant would not then marketed as effective antioxidants One last interestingtransform into life-shortening that keep you young by clearing finding relates to the effect ofcarcinomas. Unfortunately, the free-radicals. calorie restriction on aging. It hasanswer is unknown, and the risksof the experiment are high. It has been shown that animals that are fed aTELOMERASE THEORY The telomerase theory of low calorie diet (lower than would beaging is part of the planned comfortable) live longer than those that areobsolescence concept of aging,which states that cells have a overfed. It is theorized that the overfed cellspreprogrammed life span. divide faster and thus reach their 50 divisionCertainly the telomere “timer” limit more rapidly.would support this theory.According to this theory ouractivities during our lifetime (e.g.smoking, poor diet) can influence Other theories suggest that been shown that animals thathow quickly the telomere is proteins and DNA within our are fed a low calorie diet (lowershortened and affect aging. cells become cross linked by than would be comfortable) live However, several other glucose molecules, thus gumming longer than those that aretheories of aging have been up the works and causing aging. overfed. It is theorized that theproposed. Another relates to a Another suggested that overfed cells divide faster andcell’s ability to remove toxins. As mitochondria within cells lose thus reach their 50 divisionwe age, the cellular membrane some of their function over time limit more rapidly.changes and becomes less able toclear materials from the cell. Achemical called Lipofuscin thenaccumulates within the cell, andthis material is seen in higher thannormal quantities in the braincells of patients with Alzheimer’sdisease. Perhaps it is this thatcontributes to aging? Free radicals are anotherpopular culprit. Antiaging creamsthat target free-radicals are widelypopularized as being effective.Free radicals are negativelycharged molecules that areharmful to cells. They damagethe cell membrane and impede itsability to function correctly inclearing toxins. Antioxidants bindthe free-radicals and render themless dangerous. This explains why | january ● february 2011 3
  4. 4. The careful reader willwellness note that many of these theories overlap. Further, some limitation in the effectiveness of cellular replication is a final common pathway. The recent discovery that restoration of telomerase can restore signs of youth in an aged complex animal, such as a mouse, is remarkable regardless of whether telomeres are the primary cause of aging. Clearly, they do have an important role. Skin care, surgical interventions, and periodic volume enhancement are still the best available treatments for looking youthful. WHAT’S NEXT? So, what should one do next? Unfortunately, nothing has changed for us yet. Scientists have a long way to go before a true youth-giving elixir is available; and the risks of such a treatment will be high. At About the Author the current time, the best we Jeffrey H. Spiegel, M.D., is Chief of the can do is to eat right, stay fit, Division of Facial Plastic and hope we have long telomeres, Reconstructive Surgery at the Boston and fight the signs of aging. Medical Center and holds academic Skin care, surgical appointments in the Departments of interventions, and periodic Otolaryngology and Head and Neck volume enhancement are still Surgery and Plastic Surgery at the Boston the best available treatments University School of Medicine. For more for looking youthful. information, visit Dr. Spiegel’s website and blog: 4 january ● february 2011 |