A Popular Science Article on the Comparative Study of Aging in Short-Lived and Long-Lived Species

Looking for longevity-assurance mechanisms in long-lived animals is a growth concern these days, though it is still largely an aspect of the slow road in longevity science. It is possible that researchers will make discoveries that will help the development of means to repair specific forms of cellular and molecular damage that cause aging in humans, but the focus is usually on determining ways to alter the operation of human metabolism so as to gently slow down aging. Look at the community who investigate the biochemistry of calorie restriction so as to develop drugs to mimic its beneficial effects on health and longevity, for example.

Slowing aging safely by creating a new operating state for our cellular biology is a very challenging and expensive endeavor, and one which will yield little benefit for people who are already old. In comparison keeping the metabolism we have while working to periodically remove the damage that degrades its operation sounds like a much better plan, and one that will help the old by actually rejuvenating them.

Here is a popular science piece that looks at the work of one of the researchers involved in comparative studies of the genetics of aging in varied animal species:

Accumulating damage in cells is commonly thought to result in aging, but Gladyshev doesn't think even that assumption has been carefully tested. He pointed to the trash can in his fourth-floor office and noted that it could fill up with garbage, but that would not mean that his ability to do work would change.

So Gladyshev came up with a new way to probe aging. Instead of looking for clues by studying longer- and shorter-lived individuals of a particular species, why not look at the diversity of an entire class of organisms? Evolution, he notes, has been better at tweaking the life spans of organisms than any laboratory researchers have been: among mammals, there can be a gigantic variation in life span between different species. What, he wonders, are the genetic differences that mean an elephant can live for 70 years, a squirrel can reach its 20th birthday, but a shrew may expire after just one?

Gladyshev will collect samples from 50 mammals whose natural lives vary, from the longest- to the shortest-lived. Recently, for example, he enlisted a team of Russian scientists to gather samples from the Brandt's bat, a five-gram mammal that has been documented to live 41 years. Gladyshev and the Russian researchers described the bat's genome, and compared it with other mammals. They identified genetic alterations in genes that may be involved in lifespan, and Gladyshev hopes to examine those genes in greater detail to see whether they play a role in the tiny creature's remarkable longevity.

By eventually comparing gene activity in many mammals, he hopes to identify genes and control mechanisms that might control aging - and provide potent targets for researchers hoping to develop therapies that could extend life or combat diseases of aging.

Link: http://www.boston.com/news/science/blogs/science-in-mind/2013/10/31/long-lived-mammals-may-hold-clues-about-how-reverse-aging/AJnmPc9lrsDtlysnAHtIjJ/blog.html


Gladyshev sounds like a complete idiot. Of course it wouldn't interfere with his ability to do work at first... but after a few weeks the accumulated garbage would be overflowing his trash can and spreading all over the floor. At that point it would start to interfere with his work. Months after that it would start to interfere with his work even more strongly. And it would start to prevent other office-cleanup tasks from happening effectively. He wouldn't be able to vacuum the floor anymore, for example. The damage would start to spiral out of control, and the office would have to be permanently closed down.

What he should be doing is looking at what other longer lived offices are doing to see if there is some process, such as regularly emptying their trash cans, that his short lived office could start doing. Or even better, if they have some method for cleaning up rubbish that has already spilled over the floor.

Posted by: Carl at November 5th, 2013 12:07 AM

While he is probably on the wrong track, there is still value in investigating alternative hypotheses. Science is after all that which cannot be dis-proven.

The big problem with SENS is that so many of the underlying assumptions have yet to be tested in any through manner. There has been that one experiment in progeria model mice where removing senescent cells resulted in better health but not longer lifespans.

Posted by: Jim at November 5th, 2013 6:57 AM

Longer lifespans can only happen if you fix all or most categories of aging damage. No single SENS treatment is intended to increase lifespan by itself.

When 7 different things are all trying to kill you at about the same time, it's not enough to just stop one of them.

And I disagree with your definition of science and your slow careful approach. Develop the SENS therapies first, then we'll know whether they work. Endless testing is slowing medicine to a crawl.

Posted by: Carl at November 6th, 2013 12:56 AM

My experience in speaking with people about life extension leads me to believe that many have a propensity towards negativism when it comes to new things in general. They react with skepticism and while most of us still try to get them to remain open minded, for all practical purposes, they drift away confident in their old beliefs without giving proper consideration or inquiry to the new possibilities science is able to suggest. They cannot seem to muster adequate understanding because the bottom line for them is, they simply do not have enough enthusiasm for life. Like most extraordinary things that come our way it takes a little work (research) to obtain answers that lead us to faith (in science and longevity). Jim E. Mel

Posted by: Jim E. Mel at November 12th, 2013 1:44 PM
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