“I’m not the man I was!” cried Scrooge, upon waking upon Christmas day.
He was more right than he knew. According to experts on aging, you are, in essence, working with a different body. The genetics remain, but the aging body functions differently in almost every aspect. The combination of those functions can, if not dealt with in a new way, impact aging negatively. The genetic-environment debate continues, depending on one’s scientific background, as to which contributes more to aging. The message I’m hearing this morning is that it all applies. What you do all along the pathway can impact the outcome. Still, as Dr. Nir Barzilai from Albert Einstein College of Medicine explains, genetics can make a dramatic difference. He is trying to find the mechanisms of aging from a genetic basis, trying to find why certain people survive to the upper range of the scale, 80s to 112, while others don’t reach their 80s. What goes into maintaining “a healthy homeostasis?” Why did Aunt Sophie live to 102 and her brother outlive her at 104?
Dr. Barzilai was the kickoff speaker this morning at The Next Step in Aging Research: From Bench to Bedside, sponsored by Mayo’s Kogod Center on Aging. He talks of identifying SNP –single nucleotide polymorphisms – and trying to figure out what they many mean in the aging context. Others on the agenda will talk about what happens within the cell to cause senescence and still others will share what trends and insights they are observing in the clinic. There will be no conclusive answers coming out of this gathering, but the key is that people are sharing their findings as well as notes, ideas, conversation…with one goal: to understand the aspects of aging, aside from a specific disease. More later from Red Wing, Minnesota.