July 28, 2010

Aging is Old Hat

By Gerit Quealy 

[The following is an except from an article originally posted on Huffington Post on July 26, 2010] 

Dr. Leonard Guarente


Summer movies usually mean blockbusters. But the new film TO AGE OR NOT TO AGE belongs more in the realm of myth busters. 

Sidestepping long lines for  Inception, I traded in Leonardo DiCaprio for Dr. Leonard Guarente of the Glenn Laboratory for the Science of Aging at MIT, explaining how research is bringing dreams of a fountain of youth closer to reality. 

Sexy stuff? Well, yes. Wriggling worms and a protracted reproductive cycle aside, I’ve found scientists more and more sexy (with the exception of my high school chemistry teacher). When what emanates from the gleaming bald pate of Dr. Guarente illuminates the hard science behind staying young, you can feel your pulse quicken. 

The cast includes a phalanx of scientists, cells, mutant genes, a cameo by a 405-year-old clam that was born the year Hamlet was first performed on the public stage, and a parrot. The plot? “A profound mystery” says Gordon Lithgow Ph.D. of the Buck Institute, but also part science fiction, part reality show. 

Not to mention whodunit. We’re essentially talking about the death of aging. And how exactly the scientists are going to do it. “It’s huge,” agrees writer/director Robert Kane Pappas in a brief conversation. “I had to do a sort of Cliff’s Notes to touch on everything.” 

And he does, but the film unfolds gently, so it’s easy to miss how packed it is with information. Research on cancer cells that don’t die, longer lives for monkeys through caloric restriction, longer lives for mice through the consumption of resveratrol, a compound from grape skin that’s been touted as a sort of Fountain of Youth by the mainstream press — are all spotlighted. (Pappas admits he is taking resveratrol. As are many of the other scientists.) 

“It’s the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong,” says a character in Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia

For the full article click here. 

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