The average life of a man depends on the conditions of this very life, and in the course of history, this figure has constantly changed – from war to war, from discovery to discovery. A modern inhabitant of a developed country lives much longer than his ancestors. In the Middle Ages, it was difficult to meet a person over 30-35 years old, and not so long ago, at the end of the 19th century, the average life expectancy was only 40 years. Now the average person lives for about 67 years, this is due to a change in social structures, the development of medicine, a general rise in the standard of living.
Our life expectancy has increased, but this is not enough for us: scientists around the world are looking for ways to prolong youth. This is not about external manifestations, but about health: new ways to fight diseases associated with aging and ensure healthy longevity are emerging – from transplanting retina grown in a laboratory to changing the structure of DNA with the help of gene therapy. There is little rationale in the fear of old age: growing up is a natural, quite interesting, and cognitive process. But who of us, if we had the opportunity, would not have taken “extra time” to learn, see and do a little more?
Extending a healthy life and getting rid of the so-called diseases of old age is an important direction in gerontology. As you know, in addition to the general withering of the body with age, there are a number of diseases, in the high-risk group of which, in particular, the elderly: hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia in various forms, diabetes, joint diseases. Of course, in addition to age, there are many other factors for the development of diseases, however, prevention, namely a healthy lifestyle, will reduce their risk. We have talked about the benefits of different sports – from yoga to running – more than once, but many doctors say that giving up bad habits like smoking and a passion for fatty foods can help prolong a healthy life. At the same time, among the centenarians, there are many heavy smokers and baking lovers, and not all favor sports. Despite this, their bodies are able to protect themselves from rapid aging. The mechanisms of natural longevity are still to be learned by scientists.
Another class of drugs that can slow down the aging process is the so-called senolytics. These drugs work against cells that have stopped dividing. In their behavior, these cells resemble cancer cells, which means, according to scientists, anticancer drugs can be used in working with them. A team of scientists from different scientific institutions took dasatinib, an anticancer drug (sold under the name Sprycel), and quercetin, a natural compound found in many fruits, vegetables, leaves, and grains and sold as a dietary supplement with antihistamines and anti-inflammatory properties (although, not confirmed by clinical trials).
Experiments on cell cultures carried out by a group of scientists from different scientific institutions have shown that senolytics selectively cause the death of old cells without affecting young and healthy ones.
According to scientists, the combination of dasatinib and quercetin produces a powerful anti-aging effect, and tests in laboratory mice have shown that even a single dose of them improves cardiovascular function, increases endurance, and strengthens bone tissue. Scientists note that many factors need to be taken into account before testing senolytics on humans, but in general they are full of optimism: the drugs will need to be taken infrequently, and even a partial reduction in the symptoms of aging will significantly improve the quality of life of older people.
Perhaps, in the foreseeable future, we will be able to “renew” a person piece by piece by growing organs from induced stem cells. However, this will not solve the fundamental problem of cell death as a result of the natural mechanism of aging. To slow it down, global scientific methods are needed. There are several biological processes that lead to aging and diseases associated with it. Among these factors is the cessation of cell division, accumulation of damage in mitochondrial DNA, shortening of telomeres (the ends of chromosomes that perform a protective function), deposition of amyloid in tissues (different types of amyloidosis are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes). In studies aimed at increasing life expectancy, the main forces are thrown just at the intervention in these processes.
In Winter 2015, scientists in the United States began large-scale research on what they say is the most promising anti-aging drug that is hypothesized to end Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Metformin, which is designed to increase the amount of oxygen entering cells, is originally intended for people with type 2 diabetes and is inexpensive: for example, it costs about 10 pence a day for British patients.