Racing with death: an immigrant from Russia can revolutionize the understanding and prevention of aging - ForumDaily
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Racing with death: an immigrant from Russia can revolutionize the understanding and prevention of aging

The career of the Russian scientist Peter Lidsky is rather unusual. He worked the first part of it at the Moscow Institute of Poliomyelitis and Viral Encephalitis named after M.P. Chumakov, and then went to Switzerland, where he changed his specialization somewhat, starting to study genetic processes in Drosophila flies. A few years later, Peter moved to University of California in San Francisco, considered one of the best medical research centers in the United States. There, Peter managed to find a laboratory that conducts research in both areas of interest to him: both virology and genetics.

Photo from the personal archive of Peter Lidsky

It was here that Peter developed an interest in the nature of aging, and he, according to him, may be close to a serious discovery in this area. About what causes old age, is it possible to understand its mechanism and prevent its development, as well as the risk of new pandemics, the scientist spoke in an interview with ForumDaily.

What is the nature of aging

«In fact, no one understands why we age. If you ask experts about what old age is, they will most likely list a number of signs of aging, but will not explain why evolution allowed this. One of the first, the evolutionary theory of aging, was formulated in the 1940s. According to her, old age as such is practically not found in wildlife, since animals in the natural environment do not live up to it, dying earlier from hunger, cold, predators or diseases. As a result, it was concluded that aging is a kind of neutral phenomenon that occurs when the body is already “outliving” the time allotted to it by nature, and does not affect anything.“- says Peter.

However, as the scientist notes, this theory has not stood the test of reality. As it turned out, old animals do occur in nature, and aging increases the risk of their death.

«For example, an animal starts to run worse due to the onset of arthritis, and a predator eats it, that is, old age is an indirect cause of its death. Statistics show that a fourteen-year-old lion is much more likely to die than a four-year-old lion, and lions in the wild survive until the age of fourteen", explains the scientist.

In 1957 an American biologist George Williams formulated the hypothesis of antagonistic pleiotropy, according to which there are special pleiotropic genes in the body that are very useful to living beings at a young age, but harmful at a later age. However, Peter Lidsky notes that this theory does not explain why, even if a link between useful and useless gene function exists, it cannot be broken by evolution.

«For example, when it comes to the gene responsible for rapid bone growth at an early age and enhanced arteriosclerosis, as proposed by Williams, we see the opposite phenomena in nature. For example, birds grow faster than some mammals and live much longer. If the average life expectancy of a mouse is two years, then a sparrow is 20 years, although they are the same size", the researcher notes.

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The third hypothesis, put forward in 1977, states that aging helps to save energy on maintaining the body, investing it in reproduction. However, practice shows that excess energy does not slow down aging. On the contrary, starvation, and not at all an abundance of food, somewhat lengthens life. Thus, according to Peter Lidsky, at the moment there are no uniquely working hypotheses that describe the essence of aging.

«There is a version that aging is some kind of altruistic program embedded in cells. However, in biology there can be no "pure" altruism - it occurs only if it contributes to the spread of one's own genes. And how can suicide contribute to the spread of genes? We did not have an answer to this question. Moreover, if aging is a program, then there must be an “aging gene”, and therefore there must be mutants, but we cannot find them. Therefore, no one believes that aging can be a program laid down in us by evolution.”, explains the Californian researcher.

Suicide "for prevention"

Peter Lidsky proposed his theory aging.

«If there are epidemics of chronic diseases in the population, then the pattern is true: the older the animal, the more likely it is to be infected. If the disease is severe, the animal is likely to no longer be able to reproduce, but may infect its relatives. Therefore, the aging mechanism was created as a way to remove individuals infected with infectious diseases from the population.", the scientist suggests.

Peter notes that the mechanism of programmed death exists in bacteria and yeast - once infected, they instantly die.

«Bacteria, unlike more complex organisms, are unlikely to be able to recover from an infection, so suicide in order not to pass it on further is a good way out in their case. But man, like other multicellular organisms, is able to recover from the disease. However, our immune system, seeing an infection, is not always able to recognize the degree of its danger, relatively speaking, it is not able to distinguish AIDS from the flu itself.", - explains the biologist.

According to him, in this case, it is not clear whether the body should resort to "therapeutic suicide" following the example of bacteria.

«Perhaps that is why nature has endowed multicellular animals, including humans, with the ability to "preventive suicide" - aging. It comes at an age when, statistically, animals should already be infected with something harmful and incurable. Yes, life expectancy is evolving, and there is a connection between longevity and animal intelligence. For example, a person now has an absolutely fantastic life expectancy for an animal of his size.", explains the researcher.

Photo from the personal archive of Peter Lidsky

Immortal rodents

Peter Lidsky argues that if animals are placed in a sterile environment, without pathogens, after millions of years their life expectancy can increase very seriously.

«There is such an animal - a naked mole rat. This is a blind underground rodent the size of a mouse, but, unlike it, lives for more than 30 years. Moreover, they do not have an increase in mortality over the years, that is, a two-year-old digger has the same probability of dying as a 25-year-old rodent. According to our theory, the mouse is able to go through the same evolutionary path"he explains.

According to Peter Lidsky, so far only his theory can offer an explanation of what caused the colossal difference in life expectancy between the two types of rodents.

«Naked mole rats have the same social structure that bees and ants have when the "workers" protect the queen. Therefore, they, like bacteria, are likely to have “adaptive suicide” in response to infection, that is, the ability to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the queen. If so, they can easily get rid of pathogens, which means they do not need to age. Therefore, from a biological point of view, they are immortal, and die only from fights with each other, infections and predators. In at least 40 years of observation, no increase in mortality with age was found.", says Peter.

According to the scientist, understanding the evolutionary foundations of the process will help to establish what kind of aging program is arranged, and, consequently, how to “treat” it. Until it's invented, the tips for extending life remain the same: physical activity, avoiding overeating. Recent evidence shows that moderate drinking also prolongs life, and red wine seems to be the best.

Is there a risk of a new pandemic?

Lidsky is also an immunologist, so we couldn’t help but ask him about the coronavirus. The scientist fully admits that the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic could be an unintentional leak from the Wuhan laboratory, where the effects of such viruses on human cells were studied.

«We have indeed been lucky with the omicron in terms of its lower lethality, but it cannot be ruled out that a more pathogenic form of the virus may also undergo natural selection. Although, of course, less lethal viruses are more likely to spread. The good news is that new RNA vaccines are more versatile, and vaccines can be developed based on this technology for both new variants of the coronavirus and new viruses. In addition, there is hope that in the event of a new pandemic, we will take it much more seriously at the very beginning, and will not delay with quarantine measures.”, the biologist hopes.

According to him, scientists have long noticed that bat viruses can be transferred to humans. Bats are carriers of a mass of infections, but practically do not get sick with them themselves.

«They have a lot of coronaviruses, and some of the bats also carry rabies. It was from this, by the way, that the folklore image of a vampire appeared.', adds Peter.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants, and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.

According to recent study Johns Hopkins University, quarantine reduced coronavirus deaths in the US and Europe by only 0,2%. Petr Lidsky, in turn, believes that such data may be due to the fact that lockdowns were introduced at the wrong time when their introduction was really necessary.

«Quarantine, in theory, is introduced when the number of hospitalizations threatens to fill all the beds in hospitals. As a result, doctors are physically unable to help those who could be saved. The lockdown slows down the spread of the disease and thereby relieves hospitals. In Israel, for example, this technique has shown its effectiveness. However, in America, with its more chaotic lockdown policies, the lockdown may just not come at the right moment. For example, when the peak incidence has already been reached and passed, and the lockdown is introduced during the recession, there is no longer any effect from it.", - explains Peter Lidsky.

Read also on ForumDaily:

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Harvard nutritionist and brain expert names 5 foods that prolong life

How to live to be 120: advice from centenarians from around the world

death aging Our people immigrants to the USA pandemic coronavirus immortal life
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