The subjects of aging and longevity have always been of particular interest to members of the scientific community. After many decades of anti-aging research, scientists have developed several separate theories designed to explain the aging process and increase the human lifespan. Some of the most prominent aging theories are detailed below.
The SENS Approach – Regenerative Medicine
According to the SENS Research Foundation, aging occurs primarily because of the degeneration of the body’s living cells and extracellular material. To increase longevity, the SENS Research Foundations suggests that scientists should focus on intervening in the processes that cause this degeneration, as opposed to treating specific diseases or conditions.
SENS has discovered seven different metabolic processes that lead to aging. These processes include:
- Cell loss and tissue atrophy - cells become damaged and die, causing tissues to shrink over time.
- Nuclear mutations and cancerous cells - certain mutations cause cells to divide uncontrollably, eventually causing damage to surrounding tissues.
- Extracellular junk – malformed proteins combine to form a sticky substance between cells, which impairs cell function.
- Mitochondrial mutations - mitochondrial DNA mutations cause a disproportionate amount of cell waste, which leads to aging and disability.
- Death-resistant cells - certain types of cells, such as fat cells and certain immune cells, don’t die when they should, thus leading to functional problems.
- Extracellular crosslinks – links between cells lose their elasticity, which leads to age-related problems like poor vision and heart disease.
- Intracellular aggregates - waste accumulates in cells, leading to cell death.
To slow aging and extend human life, the SENS Research Foundation believes that these specific processes must be fought. For example, to slow the aging caused by extracellular junk, the Foundation searches for ways to remove the waste that accumulates between cells.
Methuselah Foundation – Increasing Longevity Overall
Unlike the SENS Foundation, which focuses on specific microscopic processes that lead to aging, the Methuselah Foundation works to extend the human lifespan by searching for comprehensive strategies that result in a longer, healthier life. For example, the foundation currently offers an award known as the MPrize to any individual or research team that is able to keep an individual mouse alive long enough to break the previous winner’s record. Research teams can use any method they choose to extend the mouse’s life. The current record holder won by disabling his mouse’s growth hormone receptors. The Foundation also offers an MPrize to research teams and individuals that are able to increase the average lifespan of groups of laboratory mice.
Other theories on the process by which humans age include:
This theory states that the human immune system naturally declines over time, which leads to illness and eventual disease. Researchers who subscribe to this theory believe that the aging process can be slowed by finding new ways to boost the immune system and fight diseases as people age.
The Endocrine Theory of aging states that aging occurs because of changes in the hormones the human body naturally produces. To combat aging under this theory, researchers look for ways to reverse these hormonal changes, supplement the body’s natural hormones or deal with the effects of hormonal changes that occur over time.
Researchers who believe in the theory of Programmed Longevity assert that human aging occurs when different genes in the human body become active or inactive. To extend the human lifespan, researchers subscribing to this theory seek out ways to alter this process by reactivating or deactivating genes as needed.
How to Help with Longevity Research
At this time, it isn’t clear which of the many theories of longevity is accurate, and it’s possible that all of these theories come into play. However, in order to continue their quest for knowledge and find methods that successfully extend the human lifespan, researchers require support from the general public. In fact, many of the researchers who study aging and longevity rely primarily on charitable donations to fund their research.
In the past, wealth donors, such as PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Internet entrepreneur Jason Hope of Arizona, have shown their support for anti-aging research through significant monetary donations made to one or more research foundations. If you would like to get involved in longevity research, simply contact the foundation or researcher of your choice and ask about ways to donate.
Amy Taylor is a technology and health writer. Amy began her career as a nurse in Arizona. She has taken that knowledge and experience and brought that to her unique writing capabilities. She really enjoys new health related issues that are tied directly to technology.