Aging and Disease — a comment by Robert Kane Pappas

March 15, 2011

Last week, Vince Giuliano wrote a probing blog about aging and disease, which can be found on this site and on  I contributed a video clip. One of his underlying points is that a disease which is cured by stimulating one of these regulator genes — for instance SIRT1 or mTOR –- will likely result in increased lifespan as a side effect; so interrelated are aging, disease and mortality. The following clip extends this idea to ask, what are these genes doing?

Understanding these genes in terms of cellular repair and maintenance sheds light on:

  1. Why people get differing degrees of a given disease. Why, for instance, one person gets MS, and in 5 years is confined to a wheel chair, while in another person, the disease plateaus and decades later that person is still functional.
  2. Why some people get better, even as they are getting older.  They “successfully age,” meaning the body maintains or regains equilibrium, homeostasis.
  3. When we age, many things are going wrong.  It seems to follow that a more sophisticated way of preventing and curing many diseases – especially those with multiple causes – would be to affect those underlying causes as a group simultaneously.
  4. These genes help explain how some people are functional and active nearly up to their death; while others experience a long decline over decades.
  5.  How some people handle the various stresses of life better than others. The word “stress” itself covers the gamut – there are environmental stresses, metabolic stresses, heavy metals, physical accidents, emotional and psychological trauma. These “insults” are dealt with on a cellular level. What’s more, they will necessarily also contain a neurological component.

There are unanswered questions concerning these regulator/repair genes, SIRT1, mTOR, and IGF-1.  How do they behave over time?  Does their activity decrease or increase?How much do their  activities overlap?

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