Why are we aging?
Why are we aging?
A question which human being has been wondering as long as its existence.
Imagine 60 years later, you are sitting on a bench watching your grandchildren running around. Your heart says, ‘Run,’ but your body, especially your knees, say, ‘REST!’ What had happened to your strong body? Seems like you are going through an unavoidable process we call aging. How exactly did it happen?
Given the complexity of human being, the aging process could not be explained by a single reason. In this article, I will introduce three theories.
Free Radical Theory of Aging
Nasty Free Radical Image credit: MitoQ
While the body undergoes activities such as metabolism, free radicals are formed. These free radicals cause damage by ‘robbing’ electrons from DNA, proteins, and fats, subsequently, causing damage to the cell. After being robbed of an electron, the molecules become free radicals themselves, which triggered a zombie-liked chain reaction. This led Harman to propose Free Radical Theory of Aging: Over an extended period of time, the cumulative damages result in the damaged function, eventually death.
Although stopping these reactions is out of the question with current knowledge and technology, we can ask the question: how do we slow it down?
In most scenarios, the body uses antioxidants, vitamins C and E, to protect the against the deleterious effects of the free radicals. The antioxidant stops the reaction by sacrificing its electron to the free radical, ending the ‘robbing’ process.
So where do we find these helpful vitamins C and E?
Fruit groups generally have heaps of vitamin C and E. Additionally, one can easily find these supplements in the local mall.
DNA Damage Theory of Aging
DNA Damage. Image credit: AstraZeneca
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) acts as a blueprint of a cell. The tiny molecules in the cell act accordingly to the DNA, whether to synthesize new proteins or to destroy the old ones. Given the significance of DNA, it would not be tough to guess what would happen when it was damaged. Accumulation of DNA damages, such as UV and mutations, damage a cell’s survival. Severe diseases, such as cancer can arise through DNA damage.
What can we do about it?
Unfortunately, not much.
Nonetheless, over long evolutionary time, the human body has developed sophisticated repair mechanisms to counter these damages. However, until more advanced technology is developed, we can only rely on these mechanisms.
Programmed to die? Image credit: Stone river eLearning
While the two theories above state more about the biological and chemical harms to the body, the Programmed Theory suggests that aging is programmed, in another word, you are meant to AGE and DIE!
This is supported by the sequential switching on and off specific genes. The changes of expressions of genes are used to accommodate the growth and development of an organism. The increased vulnerability to disease can be explained programmed declination of the immune system. Furthermore, these theory is supported by Endocrine Theory, which suggests the body uses hormones as biological clocks to control the pace of aging.
Oh no, seems like there is no way to stop this one. Isn’t it?
Judging from the current technology, that is the case.
Given the current technology and knowledge, living forever seems like an impossible task. However, just as how landing on the moon was an impossible task 1000 years ago, I believe if humanity put more effort and time into this issue, one day we might be able to solve this mystery.