Guide Getting Old Is to Die for

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Maybe you shake yourself and get the bike upright, and it's workable, so you ride home in . Theoretically can a healthy person die just because of getting old?.
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This law matches human life curves quite well. In the language of test tubes, the law includes both a constant and an exponentially increasing risk of breakage.


This exponential increase has been observed in humans, for whom the risk of death doubles every seven years after age What is the origin of this exponential increase? Thermal motion is not the only source of damage in our cells.

The dying process tease

Some regular processes, especially metabolism in our mitochondria, are not perfect and tend to produce radicals —highly reactive atoms that can damage DNA. Together, thermal noise and free radical production constitute a background risk of cell damage. The damage is usually repaired, or, if a cell is deemed beyond repair , the cell is induced to commit suicide—a process called apoptosis.

Usually, a stem cell replaces it. Eventually, though, the damage accumulates. DNA can only be repaired when there is an intact replica to copy. Damaged proteins unfold and start sticking to each other, forming aggregates.

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Stem cells are not activated, or become depleted. Mitochondria become damaged, reducing energy supply in cells, which is needed to power the molecular machines repairing DNA. Mathematically, this positive feedback loop leads to an exponential increase in risk, which can explain the shape of human life curves. The scientific literature is full of explanations for aging: Protein aggregation, DNA damage, inflammation, telomeres.

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  • But these are the biological responses to an underlying cause, which is accumulating damage through thermal and chemical degradation. To prove that thermal damage effects really do cause aging, we would need to observe humans living with different internal temperatures. This is not possible—but there are organisms that can be subjected to various internal temperatures without immediate harm. In a recent paper in Nature , a team at Harvard Medical School determined the temperature dependence of aging in the roundworm C. They found that the shape of the survival curve remained essentially the same, but it was stretched or contracted as the temperature was changed.

    Creatures raised at lower temperature enjoyed a stretched survival curve, while worms exposed to higher temperature lived shorter lives.

    One in Six Say They'd Rather Die 'Young.' What Age Is That?

    When I first encountered the Gompertz-Makeham law, it looked oddly familiar. In my lab we study the survival probability of single molecular bonds using an atomic force microscope, which can measure the minute forces acting between two molecules. In a typical experiment, we attach one protein to a flat surface and another to the tip of a small cantilever spring.

    We let the two proteins bind to each other, then slowly pull on the spring to apply an increasing force to the two molecules. Eventually, the bond between two molecules breaks, and we measure the force needed to achieve that breaking.

    This is a random process, initiated by thermal motion. Each time we do the experiment, the breakage force is different. But the survival probability of the bonds plotted against applied force looks just like human survival plotted versus age. Mirren gives full credit to her stylist for expanding her wardrobe, while she tends to prioritize practicality over anything froufrou.

    A really cool pair of shoes does a huge amount as well. My stylist knows what fits me and looks good on me. My own personal style is ratty T-shirts and very old skirts.

    Why Are Old People Less Scared of Dying? | Time

    My normal everyday wear is not that impressive. We think she'd look radiant in anything, but talk to Mirren and you immediately figure out that she has no time for insipid compliments or vapid self-importance. Follow your instinct. Believe in your instinct. But always be careful, I guess. One problem is that even in one individual the telomeres of different chromosomes have very different lengths. Therefore an individual might have on average long telomeres; but, he might have one chromosome with a very short telomere that could affect cell growth.

    ViewZone: In the work of Shay and Wright see below , increased telomere length was positively associated with telomerase. How significant is this?

    Langmore: Shay, Wright and all their many collaborators stimulated telomerase activity in normal cells. This was expected to 1 Increase the length of telomeres and 2 Prolong the lifetime of the cells in tissue culture. The treatment did both, in perfect agreement with the telomere hypothesis of aging. ViewZone: How much was cell lifetime prolonged due to this treatment that reactivated telomerase? Langmore: The increased proliferation of the cells was perhaps equivalent to hundreds of years of human life.

    Langmore received his Ph. He has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge and at the University of Basel.

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