Why We Can’t Be Immortals: The Science Behind Aging

We cannot deny the fact that many are still searching for the proverbial fountain of youth. Up until today, one of the most talked about topics is anti-aging. While it is true that many of us want to live for a very very long time, it is also true that most of us want to maintain our youthfulness throughout old age. Although aging will inevitably have its effects on our body, we still desperately seek ways to delay these effects.

Why Do We Age in the First Place?

So many anti-aging secrets have been discovered, revealed and shared but eternal youthfulness is still something that’s so far out of our reach. But why do we age in the first place? What is it about the human’s biological make up that causes us to grow old? Numerous internal and external factors play a role in affecting the rate of aging. Some of the external factors that contribute to cell damage and repair are diet, exercise, lifestyle choices and the elements. All of these play a role on how and how fast we age. But apart from these factors there is one major player of aging.

A Ticking Biological Clock

You may be surprised but the truth is buried within our genetic make-up is a ticking biological clock. It can only continue to tick for so long. In simpler words we are programmed to die. This is a biological fact and no matter how uncomfortable this sits with some of us, this truth remains the same.

The human body is composed of trillions of cells that continuously undergo cell division. Every time a cell divides, a copy of their DNA is made. Our DNA is tightly packed in structures we refer to as chromosomes and we have 23 pairs of these.

You probably are still wondering what have all of these things got to do with aging. We are getting to the answer. Going back on track, the process of DNA replication of our body is not quite perfect. It skips out each end of the chromosome. As a coping mechanism, our body produces telomeres on each end of chromosomes to protect important DNA information from getting lost or cut out. Telomeres are basically meaningless repeats of DNA that our body can afford to lose. However every after cell division, these telomeres start getting shorter and shorter until the time comes that they are completely stripped away. When this happens, our cells stop dividing.

Why We Can’t Be Biologically Immortal

There are some flat worms that are said to be biologically immortal as they are able to regenerate their telomeres over and over again. However the life span of flatworms varies and they are still susceptible to illnesses which further validates that genetic and environmental factors do play a role in aging.

But why can’t our cells be like those of flatworms. The human body limits its telomere replication to around 50 times to protect itself from the development of cancer. Cancer happens when there is uncontrollable cell growth and cell death evasion. When we reach the point when our cells no longer replicate, we have come to cellular senescence. Once cellular senescence is reached, the cells start losing its functions and then die which result to the onset of aging characteristics.

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