DNA can be altered to extend life

Live healthy : You can manage healthy aging

Mr. Birkenfeld, we all have an idea of ​​age: Wrinkles dig into the skin, climbing stairs becomes a challenge and our memory no longer works as it should. But these are only the visible signs of age. What actually happens in our body when we get old?

After all my years in research, I am still fascinated by the marvel of the human body. To understand its aging process, we need to look at metabolism. The mitochondria - these are the power plants of the cells, so to speak - produce the molecule adenosine triphosphate, or ATP for short, in order to supply the organism with energy. ATP is the most important energy carrier in our body. In the mitochondria, however, waste products, so-called free radicals, are also created during energy generation, these are aggressive molecules that can damage the genetic material and other important structures of the cells through chemical reactions (suggestion). A young body can still repair such damage to the DNA well. Over time, however, the repair mechanisms are also attacked by the free radicals. In addition, there is another mechanism that causes cells to age: the progressive shortening of the telomeres - these are the ends of the chromosomes that, for example, prevent the DNA spiral from unraveling. With every cell division, the telomeres shorten until the cell can no longer divide - and dies. The more cells are affected, the more cell division and thus the regenerative ability of humans is impaired. Damaging free radicals, shortening telomeres and certainly also other processes lead to the cells, vessels and organs in our body doing their job worse and worse. And we can perceive this very directly as aging: The complexion deteriorates, we are less productive or we even get seriously ill.

However, evolution seems to have produced very different lifespans - a fruit fly only experiences the next day, while other living beings almost reach biblical time spans ...

We try to learn from such differences with comparative biology. For example, mice are only three years old, rhesus monkeys up to 30 years old, long-lived jaws around 5000 years and some sponges even 10,000 years old. The lifespan seems to depend primarily on the intensity of the metabolism. The heart of a mouse beats 500 to 600 times per minute - its metabolism must be accordingly fast in order to supply the body with energy. However, the higher the energy expenditure, the more free radicals are created in the mitochondria and damage cells and genetic material.

So if we could slow our metabolism down, would we prolong life?

At least in animal experiments, we were able to demonstrate a life-prolonging effect. Calorie intake is closely related to metabolic activity. In almost all living things - from yeast bacteria to roundworms, mice and monkeys - a caloric restriction, i.e. a reduced calorie intake, shows positive effects on life expectancy and health. If you put yeast on a diet, for example, they live three times longer. The lifespan of mice that “fast” regularly increases by 30 to 50 percent. A reduced calorie intake protects monkeys from diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, researchers also suspect a life-prolonging effect.

And what about humans?

In humans, of course, such effects are much more difficult to prove, since we cannot simply starve people and the living conditions, for example the professional or social situation, have a significant influence on their health. A recently published study seems to prove positive effects of caloric restriction in humans as well. The researchers of the "Calorie Study Group" divided 188 subjects into two groups. 117 patients were given a diet that contained a quarter fewer calories than they normally would have consumed. The control group with 71 subjects, however, could eat without restrictions. After two years, there was not only a significant weight loss averaging eight kilos in the diet group. The indicators for a metabolic syndrome, such as cholesterol levels and insulin resistance, also improved compared to the control group. Similar results were found in people who only ate 1000 Kcal five days a month. After three months, a large number of biomarkers that provide information about health improved.

You can find the full interview in the magazine for medicine and health in Berlin: "Tagesspiegel Gesund - Fit and calmly grow older".

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Further topics of the edition: What biology says.An aging researcher explains why and how the body changes over the course of life. Fountain of youth.Which foods keep you fit for a long time. Fit for the grandchildren.Sport in a club is fun and strengthens family life. Sex in old age.Even at the age of 70 or 80, people don't want to do without lust. The power of plants.Do gingko, green tea or ginseng help against age-related complaints? Purchase advice. Which vision aids and hearing aids are really worthwhile and when. Dial the emergency call. Safely at home despite her infirmity. Helpers yes, carers no! How useful can robots be. Medicine for Aging. Geriatrists - the specialists for seniors. Always stay smart.Effective training for the brain. Cataract. How the cloudy lens becomes clear again. Weak bones. Osteoporosis is treatable. Diabetes. What works against the sugar. Dangerous cocktail.Too many drugs are harmful. Out of the dark.How to Escape Depression. Also: A comparison of clinics and medical practices. "Tagesspiegel Gesund" - Now in our shop

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