A Great Deal of Data on Aging

Modern biotechnology can churn out much more raw information than the scientific community is presently equipped to analyze - the processing of terabytes of data on human biochemistry obtained and archived over the next decade will still be yielding important advances in the 2030s, I'll wager.

One of the important baseline projects - split across many independent research groups and initiatives - is obtaining data on the way in which gene expression and the resulting protein synthesis changes with age in various tissues in the body. These are maps of one very fundamental view of the way in which aging changes us for the worse, right down at the basement level of function in the cell.

Proteomic profiling reveals a severely perturbed protein expression pattern in aged skeletal muscle:

Extended longevity is often accompanied by frailty and increased susceptibility to a variety of crippling disorders. One of the most striking features of human aging is sarcopenia, which is defined as the age-related decline in skeletal muscle mass and strength. Although various metabolic and functional defects in aging muscle fibres have been described over the last decade, it is not known whether a pathophysiological hierarchy exists within degenerative pathways leading to muscle wasting. Hence, in order to identify novel biomarkers of age-dependent skeletal muscle degeneration, we have here applied mass spectrometry-based proteomics for studying global muscle protein expression patterns.

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These findings demonstrate a severely perturbed protein expression pattern in aged skeletal muscle, which reflects the underlying molecular alterations causing a drastic decline of muscle strength in the senescent organism. In the long-term, the systematic deduction of abnormal protein expression in aged muscle by proteomic profiling approaches may lead to the cataloguing of a cohort of novel therapeutic targets to treat muscular weakness in the aging population.

What more can be done with this knowledge? A good question, and here is an open question in return: what can you do with a map? Those choices, goals and initiatives are, as always, up to us. At the moment, little effort goes into using present knowledge to influence aging and human longevity - that will continue to be the case, even as knowledge grows tremendously, unless we choose to do something about it. New technologies don't invent themselves.

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