STOP THE CLOCK

THEY SAY IT’S NO FUN GET­TING OLD ... BUT WHAT IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO?

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | BIG READ - WORDS:HE­LEN­HAWKES

If you’re a Baby Boomer or younger, this may be the best news you read to­day: in the not too dis­tant fu­ture, sci­en­tists may be able to halt ageing, or at least de­lay it.

Right now, in lab­o­ra­to­ries across the world, re­searchers are work­ing to dis­cover the magic treat­ments or drugs that will make us for­ever younger.

Even Google is get­ting in on the mar­ket, with its very own anti-ageing com­pany Cal­ico, and a team of sci­en­tists from medicine, drug de­vel­op­ment, molec­u­lar bi­ol­ogy and ge­net­ics tack­ling “one of life’s great­est mys­ter­ies”.

Their mis­sion: to un­der­stand the bi­ol­ogy that con­trols life­span and use that knowl­edge to help peo­ple live longer and health­ier lives.

It goes with­out say­ing that any com­pany that does dis­cover the se­cret of youth is look­ing at multi-bil­lion dol­lar prof­its.

No sur­prise then that there’s so many big play­ers, many in the United States, rac­ing to­wards the fin­ish line.

One area of study in­cludes “senes­cent cells” – dys­func­tional cells that build up as we age and can cause tis­sue dam­age. Elim­i­nat­ing these cells may help re­verse or pre­vent a wide range of dis­eases, in­clud­ing os­teoarthri­tis, ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis, eye dis­eases and kid­ney dis­eases, re­searchers say.

Stem cell brain im­plants could also slow ageing and ex­tend life, say sci­en­tists at Al­bert Ein­stein Col­lege of Medicine in New York.

They have been able to slow ageing in older mice, keep­ing them more phys­i­cally and men­tally fit and ex­tend­ing their lives by 10–15 per cent.

Nat­u­rally phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals are also a key hope for eter­nal youth.

Hu­man tri­als are planned of the diabetes drug met­formin to see whether it can mod­er­ate age-re­lated con­di­tions such as in­flam­ma­tion and ox­ida­tive dam­age. The

tri­als will be led by the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Ageing Re­search.

An­other promis­ing dis­cov­ery be­ing worked on are sir­tu­ins, pro­teins that con­trol func­tions such as the re­pair of DNA, cell cy­cle, or in­flam­ma­tory re­sponse, ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Brian Kennedy, di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Healthy Ageing at the Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore.

Sci­en­tists at Bos­ton’s Brigham and Women’s Hospi­tal have also started hu­man tri­als of a re­lated bi­o­log­i­cal sub­stance, NAD+, that could help keep our body’s DNA re­pair mech­a­nism in peak con­di­tion.

While you’re wait­ing for the an­swer to a long, long life, there are plenty of things you can do to ex­tend your life­span.

No, we’re not talk­ing Bo­tox, fillers, or any of the cos­metic pro­ce­dures de­signed to “turn back the clock”.

The most com­pre­hen­sive stud­ies of cen­te­nar­i­ans in the world, the New Eng­land Cen­te­nar­ian Study and the Long Life Fam­ily Study, have found ex­cep­tional longevity runs strongly in fam­i­lies. So, choos­ing your par­ents wisely is bet­ter than any facelift.

Cen­te­nar­i­ans are also no­table for their con­sci­en­tious­ness and op­ti­mism, says Pro­fes­sor Per­min­der Sachdev, co-di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Healthy Brain Ageing at UNSW in Syd­ney.

What bet­ter rea­son do you need to fin­ish tasks and work on a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude?

Other in­ter­na­tional stud­ies sug­gest a healthy ex­tended old age is re­lated to a strong so­cial net­work, reg­u­lar ex­er­cise, a Mediter­ranean or vegetarian diet and low stress.

Fi­nally, liv­ing longer may be a case of keep­ing your­self in the best con­di­tion pos­si­ble un­til sci­en­tists re­ally do dis­cover the magic ther­apy or pill.

He­len Hawkes is a well­ness edi­tor and coach with a spe­cial in­ter­est in anti-ageing health. www.he­len­hawkes.org

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