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How to live forever (or at least to 100)
The dream of living forever permeates human culture. Mythical tales of immortals are found everywhere from the Greek myths and alchemist's notebooks to modern movies and futuristic science-fiction books. As the science of aging progresses, scientists have made tremendous progress in extending human life. From lowering infant mortality rates to creating effective vaccines and reducing deaths related to disease, science has helped increase the average person's life span by nearly three decades over the past century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Where will the future of genetic engineering and regenerative medicine take us? No one knows, but researchers are narrowing down the places to look for that next fountain of youth.
Kick old cells to the curbSlide 2 of 15
Kick old cells to the curb
The adage "out with the old and in with the new" could help prevent age-related diseases if applied to certain cells, suggests a study on mice, published in the journal Nature in November 2011.By removing the body's worn-out cells, called senescent cells, several times during the lifetime of aging-accelerated mice, researchers were able to spare the mice of cataracts, aging skin and muscle loss.
These comatose cells send out chemical signals that have a strange impact on the cells around them, and researchers have speculated that these chemicals can lead to age-related diseases. Compared with mice that kept all their senescent cells, mice undergoing spring-cleaning of old cells had stronger muscles, fewer cataracts and less wrinkled skin (because their fat deposits in their skin were in better shape).
Even if their treatment started at middle age, deterioration of the subject's muscle and fat cells was nearly stopped when the researchers started removing their senescent cells. Such an approach, if validated, could be used to help develop a vaccine to prime the immune cells to attack senescent cells.Slide 3 of 15
Starve yourselfSlide 4 of 15
Reducing calories in your diet could help you live longer, if you are a worm or a mouse. The effects of a reduced-calorie diet are still debated in humans, though. Recent research in the Journal of Nutrition, published in January 2009, added another layer to the caloric-restriction debate: In the study, naturally chubby mice lived longer when fed reduced-calorie chow than lean mice that ate the low-cal food.
Previous studies have indicated that lab animals, like the nematode C. elegans, the fruit fly Drosophila and lab mice, all lived almost twice as long when fed an almost-starving diet (30 percent fewer calories than usual), but the effect on humans isn't clear. A study published in July 2008 indicated that eating less could add five years to the life of an average human.
The restricted diet seems to work by lowering metabolic rate, reducing the frequency of age-related diseases by reducing the amount of "free radicals" produced naturally by our bodies. This may happen by reducing levels of thyroid hormone, the study in the June 2008 issue of the journal Rejuvenation Research suggested.Slide 5 of 15
Have healthy parentsSlide 6 of 15
Have healthy parents
You are what you eat, and, it turns out, you might also be what your parents eat. A study in rats presented in April 2010 at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting, indicates that what your parents are exposed to, through their food and other toxins in the environment, can impact not only their health but the health of their offspring. Specifically, rat diets high in omega three fatty acids during pregnancy left not only daughter rats, but also granddaughter rats at an increased risk for breast cancer.
A similar study in mice (published in the journal Cell in December 2010) indicated that a father's diet could influence the expression of hundreds of genes in his offspring, including those genes involved in fat- and cholesterol-processing in the liver.
These types of changes to gene expression are called epigenetic changes. Instead of changing the genes themselves, epigenetic changes alter how the genes are accessed and used. New research published in the journal Nature in 2011, indicates that, at least in worms these epigenetic changes (which in that study increased the worm's lifespan) can be passed down to offspring for several generations. Researchers had previously thought that the epigenetic slate gets wiped clean when sperm meets egg.Slide 7 of 15
Be hardworkingSlide 8 of 15