Tag Archives: aging process

National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

At A4M/MMI, our mission is to spread awareness surrounding the need for research, funding, and further education in order to prevent age-related diseases. This will not be the last you hear from us concerning Alzheimer’s disease, as it is a topic that both deserves and requires a significant amount of attention.

The month of November has been officially designated as Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, a disease that currently affects more than five million Americans: a number that could potentially skyrocket to 16 million in the next three decades. Not only is Alzheimer’s the sixth-leading cause of death in the country, but the disease also leads to tremendous financial and emotional instabilities, in addition to extensive family strain and stress.

The cognitive losses that accompany Alzheimer’s disease are, at first blush, signs of normal aging: forgetfulness, disorientation, and impairments in functioning that lead to one’s inability to perform basic, rudimentary tasks. Yet these symptoms are merely the tip of the iceberg: depression, anxiety, aggression, and a detachment from reality are some of the emotional and behavioral difficulties caused by Alzheimer’s.

While pharmaceutical medications can alleviate some of the more crippling symptoms of Alzheimer’s, controllable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease remain unknown; thus, it is not yet possible to reduce chances of developing the disease. While the past two decades have seen significant advances in our understanding of the disease, there is still no cure, nor any way to slow the disease’s progression, or reverse the deterioration.

Current mainstream medical therapy aims to preserve diminishing brain function, yet several drugs are currently being studied through clinical trials, with the hopes of improving memory or slowing the disease’s progression. Continued and increased funding in research is critical, as most scientists and clinicians believe that early detection is the primary way in which to stop the disease’s progression—or even ultimately cure it.

To become further involved with research, funding, or learn more about ways to prevent aging-related diseases, take a look at what being an A4M member means.  Enhancing health is always our top priority, and we believe if you are reading this, it is yours too.

New Evidence Shows Potential Reversal in Aging Process

Groundbreaking new evidence demonstrates that the clock of aging may be reversible, based on recent studies conducted at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, and published in the Thursday issue of the journal Cell.

The first attempt to reverse aging has been discovered by reprogramming the genome of mice: lengthening the animals’ life spans by 30%, and rejuvenating their organs. While the technique requires genetic engineering and cannot currently be applied to people, the discovery reveals an enhanced understanding of the human aging process—and the possibility of revitalizing human tissues through other practices and protocols.

Experts who study the aging process and its biology at MIT and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York call the results “exciting” and “novel,” with the potential to slow down, if not reverse, aging. These findings are based upon the idea that the aging process is clocklike, and can—at least in principle—be ‘wound back’ to a more youthful, earlier state.

A decade ago, a Japanese biologist named Shinya Yamanaka identified the four necessary genes in order to reset the clock of the fertilized egg. The power of the four genes indicated that they could reprogram and reset the genomes of intestinal cells and skin back to the embryonic state, and Yamanaka’s method is now regularly used to alter adult tissue cells into cells similar to the embryonic stem cells generated during the first divisions of a fertilized egg.

At the Salk Institute, doctors and researchers considered a slightly different approach, initially conceived in the idea of regenerating lost tails and limbs. When animals lose certain apendages, the cells near the lost body part revert to a stage halfway in between an embryonic cell and an adult cell—before rebuilding. Because of this, scientists thought it possible that reprogramming with a small dose of Yamanaka factors might rejuvenate cells without the complete reprogramming that ultimately converts cells to their embryonic states.

Delivering a nonlethal dose of Yamanaka factors to mice by genetically engineering the animals with extra copies of the four genes, in addition to activating the genes when the mice received a certain drug in their water, resulted in improved organ health and overall beneficial effects.

These results were conclusively obtained by resetting the clock of the aging process, which is created by the epigenome: the system of proteins that covers cell’s DNA, and controls which genes are active. As eggs develop into entire animals, the epigenome allows cells to activate genes inherent and specific to respective roles—like the heart—but suppresses all genes used by other cell types. Through this process, an embryo’s cell is able to differentiate into the multiple cell types required by the body. Throughout life, the epigenome is additionally responsible for cell maintenance, ‘switching them on and off’ as required.

It is only recently that biologists have understood the critical importance of the epigenome in causing aging: if it is damaged, the cell’s efficiency is subsequently degraded. The Yamanaka genes in mice are eradicating these negative alternations, and thus reverting cells to more youthful states.

Because of the Yamanak genes’ ability to reactivate genes responsible for health and vitality of embryonic cells, they rejuvenate tissues and cause changes in the epigenome. Lead scientists are currently testing various drugs and pharmaceuticals to see if they can achieve the same transformation as with the Yamanaka factors, stating that the use of chemicals “will be more translatable to human therapies and clinical applications.”