In 2013, Cell magazine published an article about a study done by a cohort of European biomedical researchers about molecular aging and age-related diseases. They defined age as the damage to the DNA throughout the course of one’s life span.
The article describes the most important molecular age indicators, the body’s response to these causes, and the resulting functional failures. The 4 primary causes of aging according to the research team are: genomic instability, the shortening of telomeres, epigenetic alterations, and loss of proteostasis. Genomic instability refers to defects that accumulate in the genes over time, by internal or external causes. Epigenetic alterations are results of exposure to the environment. The loss of proteostasis has to do with the inability to dispose of defective proteins which as a result are allowed to accumulate and can cause diseases associated with age. In Alzheimer´s for example, neurons die because plaque forms from a protein that should have been eliminated through proteostatis.
The next step then would be to try and learn how to control these causes. One therapeutic strategy already confirmed to have been successful in reversing the aging process of mice is telomere lengthening. “We cannot aspire to immortality, but to the possibility to make life a little better for everyone” concludes Dr. Lopez-Otin, one of the main collaborators of the study.