A pill for old age: what are the prospects of immortality for humans
The network is spreading reports that scientists have found another "pill" for aging, which will allow us to live for a very long time, and maybe even become almost immortal. And numerous clinics will willingly sell such "pills" to anyone who is willing to pay well for them and very expensive tests that need to be done in advance. Writes about it Hromadske.
The journalists talked about the imaginary and real achievements of science in the fight against aging with a pathophysiologist, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Head of the Department of General and Molecular Pathophysiology of the Institute of Physiology named after A. O. Bogomolets of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Viktor Dosenko.
Aging is a disease
There are two main points of view on the nature of aging. According to the first, aging is a pathological process, that is, a disease. And according to the second, this is a normal physiological process. Viktor Dosenko considers the second position to be more justified and is its supporter.
“Evolution has supported a mechanism for removing individuals from a population that have lived for a certain number of years,” he explains.
From the point of view of an individual, death is partly a tragedy and a sad prospect. This is a blessing for the population, otherwise evolution would not support such a mechanism.
Naked mole rat
This animal - the only one among mammals - has a characteristic "elusive aging". This means that with age, these pets are not more likely to die from a particular disease. But with people the opposite is true: people do not die “from old age” - no matter how many years they have lived and how they felt on the eve of death.
However, you should not envy naked mole rats. Their uniqueness most likely indicates that they went a special way, but it certainly does not lead them to the conditional summit of evolution.
“Excavators settled narrowly in Central Africa. If scientists were not interested in them and began to breed in captivity, then it is possible that this species would soon disappear from the face of the Earth. Diggers are very different from mortal rats and mice, which occupy any ecological niche, ”says Viktor Dosenko.
From the point of view of science, these animals are certainly interesting, so scientists have been studying their organisms for a long time. But so far, these studies do not give people the opportunity to apply their experience for their own immortality.
More achievable from the point of view of modern science is the continuation of the aging process, or, one might say, its "management". Moreover, the specific recipes are almost exactly known. But you may not like them.
Such unattainable aging
Aging and diseases associated with it, which ultimately lead to death, were of little interest to practical medicine and science until the end of the century before last. People of different social strata many times risked dying young or early in life: wars, hunger, massive infectious diseases, and the like.
But scientific and technological progress at the end of the 19th century led to the fact that mankind began to more often bypass dangers during youth and live to old age. Then they thought: why not live even longer than nature foresaw?
It was then that scientists drew attention to diseases associated with aging: strokes, heart attacks, emphysema of the lungs, etc. In order not to treat them separately, they decided to tackle their cause - aging. However, it was necessary to recognize this process as pathological, that is, abnormal.
Mechnikov and the inner world of man
Our compatriot Ilya Mechnikov was one of the first to study the mechanisms of aging. He argued that macrophages are the cause of aging. These are normal immune cells that "eat" the debris of other dead cells, or pathogenic microbes that have entered the body. But over time, as Metchnikov believed, they become more active and begin to attack the cells of the human body, which leads to aging. To slow down the process, you need to curb the macrophages.
According to Mechnikov, this can be done by acting on the intestinal microflora. It is for this purpose that he popularized Bulgarian yoghurt, which contains certain beneficial bacteria.
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.
“Knowledge of the gut microbiome and its role at that time was incomparable with modern knowledge, but despite this, Mechnikov's idea turned out to be surprisingly successful and was ahead of its time. Modern research suggests that in the process of aging, the intestinal microflora really changes in such a way that the body increases inflammatory processes. And here macrophages are really involved, ”says Viktor Dosenko.
Eating fermented milk products is a good practice, but they will not help you noticeably prolong life.
Praying mantis and its serum
The next important step in the study of aging processes was made by another of our compatriots - Alexander Bogomolets. He was one of the first to study the work of connective tissue and came to the conclusion that it plays an important role in aging processes - before, they were not seriously interested in connective tissue, because they considered its role in the body to be secondary. After a series of studies, the modern Institute of Physiology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine was created, named after Oleksandr Bogomolets.
Thanks to his work, in the 1930s, the world's first drug from antibodies was also created - Bogomolets serum, or antireticular cytotoxic serum (ACS).
To prepare it, you need a human spleen. This organ is removed by surgeons in case of injury - a person normally continues to live without it. A preparation containing connective tissue proteins is prepared from it, and it is injected into the horse's body several times. In response, the animal's body produces antibodies against human connective tissue. It is necessary to take some blood from the horse and isolate from it a fraction containing many of these antibodies. This is the serum of the Bogomolets.
“The creation of this drug was an event at the level of the first flight into space,” says Viktor Dosenko.
In small doses, serum causes slight damage to the connective tissue and thus stimulates its work. The drug began to treat various complex diseases, including cardiovascular, oncological and various immunodeficiency states. Numerous then studies of the drug on laboratory animals, which were carried out at the Institute of Physiology, showed that it increases their lifespan.
“There are publications and scientific reports signed by prominent physicians of the time, indicating that the serum worked,” says Viktor Dosenko. But by modern standards, the effectiveness of the drug has not been investigated.
Until the 90s of the last century, the drug was produced in Kiev for the needs of the Soviet Union. It was also produced under license in France - this was actually an unprecedented case in the history of the Soviet pharmaceutical industry.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bogomolets' serum was discontinued. This, in particular, was facilitated by the AIDS epidemic: after all, human tissues were used for the production of the drug, and this had a potential risk of contracting an then incurable disease.
Why "anti-aging pills" can't be tested in humans
Prayer Serum does extend the life of animals - but what about humans? To do this, you first need to conduct clinical research and make sure that this is possible. After all, drugs that have been effective in animals may not work.
On the subject: Aging and genetics: why some people live much longer than others
Since people live much longer than laboratory animals, it is almost impossible to carry out such studies according to all the rules in order to obtain statistically reliable results. Such an experiment should last for tens of years and thousands of participants should be involved in it. In addition, the researcher - very likely - may die earlier than the participants in such a study.
“Science has never come up with a method for testing anti-aging drugs in humans,” says Viktor Dosenko.
In addition to Bogomolets serum, there are other substances that definitely prolong life - this has been proven in experiments on animals. But they were not tested in public for the same reasons.
SMS from zombie cells
One of the most promising methods of fighting aging at present, according to Viktor Dosenko, is associated with the control of senescent cells. They learned about them at the beginning of this century. They can be found in any part of the human body, they are immortal, they do not divide - but they cause other cells to age.
To do this, they send them an SMS (senescence-messaging secretome) - a molecular "message" that you need to age. And the cells really age after such "SMS". These cells are also called zombie cells, or aging cells. In the human body, they are available at any age, but over the years they become more and more.
An idea arises: if the number of such cells is somehow reduced, then aging should slow down. Indeed, today there is a class of drugs called senolyticams - they kill zombie cells. In experiments on mice, they extend the life of animals by more than 30%.
“Among them there are those that have proven their effectiveness in humans. One of the drugs, in particular, in eight months allowed not only to slow down the aging of human skin, but also to rejuvenate it, ”says Viktor Dosenko.
Rejuvenation is not for everyone
And here again, everything is not easy. Senescent cells are not only involved in one of the aging mechanisms, but also perform other important physiological functions. In particular, they provide tissue homeostasis (the so-called state of equilibrium of the environment, which is important for life processes). If there are no senescent cells in the body, or less than necessary, it will not work correctly.
Viktor Dosenko claims that senolytics can be used for the same skin rejuvenation, but not everyone can resort to this method. First, using special research methods, it is necessary to determine how many of these cells are contained in the skin of a particular patient. If there is a lot, it can be shortened. If the amount is normal, then rejuvenating young skin will be not only unnecessary, but also harmful.
Among senolytics, there are drugs that are approved for treating certain diseases, and none of them are considered anti-aging drugs yet. Even if they are really capable of it, it is extremely difficult to obtain confirmation from evidence-based medicine.
There is another method to prolong life, the effectiveness of which has been well proven in animals, in particular in monkeys. It does not require special drugs or technologies - it is said about reducing the number of calories that a person consumes.
It will likely work as well on humans as it does on other animals. However, for many (and even more so for hedonists who prefer to eat anything), it will not work.
However, anyone can try this method at their own discretion. However, you never know for sure whether he really added a few years to his life. And do not forget about quality: if wine and tasty and hearty food are important for a person, will she want to live until she is 120 years old, but without such dear pleasures for her?
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