Sunday, July 6, 2014

Decelerating the Coming of Age

2:54 AM

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Judging is such a normal part of everyday life that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Before we even notice that our eyes are fixated on the wrinkles on a woman’s cheeks or the slight pot belly of a man’s stomach, we have already judged that the person before us is, say, forty years old or more. Before we even notice that our eyes are staring at a toddler’s soft, porcelain skin or a child’s lack of vertical height, we are already a hundred percent sure that the person before us is a kid.

This is why everyone is getting more and more obsessed about appearance. The aging woman wants to recreate her flawless skin from her twenties. The awkward pre-teen wants to enunciate the non-existent curves that will come soon enough in the future. We judge others and, for fear of being judged as well, we polish our appearances to match expectations.

Right now in the twenty-first century, fortunately, many measures are being taken to alter the process of aging. From the smaller steps to the more extreme theories, mankind might just be closer to eternal youth, thanks to researchers of the aging process, known as biomedical gerontologists.

Most of these researchers speculate that putting an end to or at least slowing down the aging process would help us reach a maximum life expectancy of 120 years and, if all goes well, even stretch it further all the way to the point of immortality.


LEVEL ONE (Easy)- Cosmetic surgery

Thanks to the many advertisements there are about cosmetic surgery, people have been thinking of it as a way to physical perfection. Many pickle themselves with ointments, medications, and peroxides, and willingly lie in hospital beds, their faces packed with gauze and their hands cushioning the brand new noses or breasts that they have asked for.

For others, cosmetic surgery is necessary to alter a disfigurement or conceal a tragic scar from an accident. However, in the coming years, there’s no doubt that it will be enhanced for longer shelf life and guaranteed success- depending, of course, on the legitimacy of the plastic surgeon you go to.

Last year, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) carried out 43,000 procedures- and that’s in the United Kingdom alone! Many are turning to cosmetic surgery to alter appearances that are caused by aging, and science will naturally improve all these processes and procedures. Why not? After all, if one has the money and the will, then looking younger and better is definitely a good choice.


LEVEL TWO (Medium)- Lifestyle change

Taking care of yourself is always the number one step to looking good. Whether you’re after the even-toned muscles or the burning of calories, pairing up a balanced diet and a regular amount of physical activity is the surefire way to go for the perfect lifestyle change. This applies not only to us humans, but even to all animals.

A scientific study by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) had a focus on the cells of overfed mice that were not given a running wheel. The mice’s cells underwent senescence, a process wherein cells lose the ability to divide, and began to secrete substances that damage the surrounding cells. To put it simply, the mice had a literal aging of the cells to the point of being unable to regenerate. All because they ate too much and didn’t have any exercise.

The results of the study apply to all mammals- so to those who plan on spending the rest of their lives sitting on the couch all day watching Game of Thrones and clutching a bucket of ice cream, then you’re out of luck — your cells are going to age faster.

Well, not that there’s anything wrong with Game of Thrones, but you should at least take up a sport like swimming or badminton for a few weeks. If you really feel an aversion to sports, however, you can just walk your dog every day. It’s good for the dog, and it’s good for you (What? You have no dog? POOR YOU).  There’s nothing wrong with eating a bucket of ice cream either – hell, everyone loves ice cream – but it’s wiser to balance it out with fruits, vegetables, and just enough meat to keep your body healthy.

Unfortunately, genetics and environmental factors still have an influence on how your body ages. Dying young due to disease may have been an unlucky trait passed down in your family history. The pollution and stress all around you may also be cause for aging appearance and health. One thing’s for sure, though: lifestyle change can help, at least extending your life a year or more if you’re fortunate.


LEVEL THREE (Hard)- Anti-aging pill

Fountain of youth? Eternal elixirs? Nah, what scientists have seen coming is more realistic- the anti-aging pill. After several years of cell research and hormone study, perhaps we’ll finally be living longer lives with this little solution. There are many ways it can come to existence, though, and it’s up to you to decide which one seems more feasible.

One popular suggestion that scientists have come to is that of protecting cells from themselves. You see, cells divide as they age, which causes the tip of the chromosome- the telomere- to shrink each time. When there is no telomere left, however, the rest of the cell becomes unprotected and eventually dies. The anti-aging pill could contain telomerase, which is an enzyme that could repair telomeres and, in turn, increase one’s lifespan.

Another easy way to slow down aging is to lessen the calories in your diet, specifically by thirty percent. This has been near impossible to do, however, so scientists have decided to look for a substance that mimics the effect of low calorie intake. Calorie restriction activates a gene, known as SRT1, which suppresses other malfunction-causing genes, and thus suppresses the chances of early death as well.

Finally, since we’re already on the topic of genes, a little genetic tinkering has been thought of too. Right now, actually, a small handful of the richest on the earth pay twenty thousand dollars a year to have the human growth hormone injected in them. Growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland to fuel childhood growth and help maintain tissues and organs throughout life. Beginning in middle age, however, the pituitary gland slowly reduces the amount of growth hormone it produces. It’s the natural slowdown that led some to believe that the hormone could keep the human body in a youthful state- but lately it’s shown that it doesn’t always work.

Hopefully, after several more years of hard research, scientists might be able to find a mixture for the anti-aging pill that will work for all of us. They may cost a lot, though, so watch out for that.

You never know - immortality could be the next step.


Sources:

Dvorsky, G. (September 2013). The first evidence that lifestyle changes can reverse aging. I09. Retrieved from http://io9.com/the-first-evidence-that-lifestyle-changes-can-reverse-a-1333609434

Boutin, P. (September 2007). Battling Time's Ravages.Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118919946556720937.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Britt, R. R. (July 2008). Live Longer: The One Anti-Aging Trick That Works. LiveScience. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/health/080708-fountain-of-youth.html


Pollack, A. (September 2003). Forget Botox. Anti-Aging Pills May Be Next. New York Times.
Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/21/business/forget-botox-anti-aging-pills-may-be-next.html?scp=1&sq=anti-aging&st=cse


Article by Bronte
Artwork by Marty
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Bronte is a seventeen-year old college freshman taking a major in Journalism. She holds a natural curiosity for things that science can explain- and an unnatural obsession for things that science can’t. Aside from watching sci-fi and fantasy TV shows and reading historical fiction novels, she loves to research on random topics that catch her attention.

Marty is a peculiar 14-year old who illustrates cartoons and seems to fail at keeping herself sane. Her interests range from dark and eccentric art styles to fluffy and pastel colored animals and objects. Besides the fact she's emotionally unstable, she satisfies herself by reading classics and post-modern books, eating excessive amounts of salty foods, and listens to EDM and indie songs to pass the time.



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