For centuries, people have sought the Fountain of Youth. Ponce de Leon thought he had discovered the Fountain of Youth in 1513 in Florida and, although it’s a great place to visit, Florida isn’t the fountain of youth any more than is Pasadena! One of the world’s biggest secrets is how and why we age. When our cells become old, what happens to them? An international team of researchers and scientists at two institutions (England’s Newcastle University and Germany’s University of Ulm) set forth to answer that question.
The research focused on genetically modified mice, and utilized cell cultures and computer modeling. This is what they learned: when a cell reaches a certain age, it either stops multiplying or it self-destructs. This happens when the cell gets a signal that it has DNA damage, which is caused by cellular aging. When the cell discovers this DNA damage, it sends a message to the mitochondria (the energy pack of the cell) to create free-radical molecules that will “instruct” the cell to destroy itself or stop dividing.
Like other biological activities, the answer to the secret of aging is complicated. Understanding cellular aging might not result in the creation of the Fountain of Youth, but it might help scientists and researchers to create medications to better fight age-related disorders such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Along the way, perhaps a new wrinkle treatment will also be created!