The longevity Sciences

William Amzallag, M.D.

« To be born is not a crime so why we all are sentenced to death? »

August 4th 1997: we are in Arles (France), Jeanne Calment, a French born on February 21st, 1875 died at the age of 122 years, 5 months and 14 days: she lived 44,724 days and she has since became the world’s oldest woman , holding the absolute record of longevity. At this time, most experts thought we had reached, with Jeanne, the limits of human longevity.

Ten years later, experts prove the contrary; today we can already double the current lifespan. Not only we can slowdown the aging but also «turn back the clock « , one can literally rejuvenate. We know how to rejuvenate cells, tissues and organs, what we do not know yet is whether it can work on each on us, individually!
How many times we heard our self-saying «Ah, if I was 25 years younger, with my current experience! »But this day … maybe today! Better, why not ten more years? Ten healthy, and productive years, cancer free, Alzheimer free! Or even better: twenty more years to spend with your loved ones, time to do everything we didn’t had time to do!

What we seek is not only a longer life, but a long life full of energy and creativity. Investing in our well-being today can be rewarding in the following years as technology advances at an exponential rate and more we can remain healthy, more our chances to take advantage of these progresses will be great .

Today, many experts believe that aging is a disease whose mortality rate is, for the moment, still at 100%. So we could survive to some serious diseases but not to aging. Most of us do not accept the idea that one could live «forever». Many others, for various reasons, consider that death is a good thing: why? Because, since we were born, we have been conditioned to accept death as inevitable considering we had no weapon against. And yet, if we look back, History shows us that our longevity has increased steadily over time and there is no reason for it to stop!
How long can we live? You might be disappointed to learn that we do not speak about «eternity» or «immortality. » In fact, what is important is to raise the concept of limits. Although we would not want to live for forever, we do not want to die today or even tomorrow… one day perhaps, but not tomorrow: and this is the whole point!
Because a cure against aging would force us to make a choice; advanced in aging put the burden on our hands , we ,suddenly, would like to live longer, to see our grandchildren grow up , or finishing projects that are important for us , or for a million other reasons!

Aging : A disease ! !
Natural death cannot be seen today as a universal law of nature. Some organisms such as bacteria or plants can overcome their aging and be considered as having a kind of immortality. Old age is not only the inevitable consequence of wear and tears of our functions mainly because some other species may avoid aging…
Old age will generate most of serious chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease or stroke. Some very known and reputable scientists, consider aging as a non-inevitable disease and, therefore, many research laboratories, worldwide, are working on a possible treatment of aging / disease.
Some research centers like Pr Miroslav Radman laboratories (Faculty of Medicine René Descartes, Paris) attempt to elucidate the molecular basis of «the strength of life. » His studies are mainly concentrated on repairing molecular damage mechanisms and more specifically the oxidative damage that affect the DNA and thus the quality of proteins. Pr Radman prefers focusing on ways on preventing damage to the repair molecules which, therefore, will ensure quick and efficient maintenance. He believes that these protective molecules are present in Nature, they exist in some robust species that could well protect the non-robust ones. This would make it possible to imagine that one can extract these molecules for the protection of our own cells.

Aging: three different ways!
Every living specie has a limited lifetime, which can vary according to the species : a whale can live a hundred and fifty years , a shrimp seven, a crocodile over a hundred years but a centipede just five years ; a turtle hundred eighty- eight years, but a mouse three years. Man is not an exception, it would also be subject to a time limit, as the absolute record (for now) is one hundred twenty-two. But it is the only one among all species who want to change things and he already uses every artifice: prostheses, transplants, and drugs, electronic, nuclear, biological nanotechnology to reduce handicaps and improve longevity.

According to Jean -David Ponci aging appears in three distinct forms:

1/ Those who witness «gradual senescence» as man and which is due to a lack of body defenses facing its own “erosion”. The man gradually loses its force very early, probably around 27/30 years. Although he is still able to replicate, its strength declines. From a biological point of view these accumulated damages are responsible for aging, while longevity depends on the effectiveness and promptness of responses to such damage. More efficient and faster is this response, more we have the opportunity to live longer.

2/ Those who exhaust their body for breeding. This strategy allows the species to ensure the greatest possible reproductive success. Many species are experiencing very rapid senescence once ensured their reproduction. This is the case of certain animals such as salmon : after a long migration and labor related to reproduction , genitors are exhausted and are carried away by the current into calmer waters , where they remain a few days ,the time to die. The study of all forms of accelerated senescent confirms that this process has no other aim than to optimize reproduction.

3/ Those who have not infinite but rather indefinite longevity as some plants; these living beings possess this ability to regenerate their body from some of their cells. Their longevity is called «indefinite» because unpredictable: they can live a day like ten thousand years. For example, in the hydra, when part of his body is cut, the body regenerates in 2 or 3 days. The hydra is potentially immortal. Indeed, hydra would contain in the central part of its body special stem cell potentially stronger than human stem cells. In case of injury, these stem cells differentiate to form the missing cells and rebuild the amputated part.

The one million dollar question is to understand what or who allows such or such specie to enter into one of these three categories. The most valuable hypothesis is to consider the reproductive function versus the aging potential
Species in which sexual and somatic functions are not separated use their reproductive function also to ensure the integrity of somatic cells. This is the case of bacteria whose longevity is unlimited. Conversely, all other beings who have two separate functions (such as humans) would be sentenced to age. In plants the two functions are not clearly separated. That is why it is always possible to remove part of the plant and transplant it.

All these forms have on point in common: the priority of the reproduction. This is the principle of the primacy of the species on the individual and this principle is almost mandatory for all species that invest too much energy to the survival of individuals at the expense of reproductive success and therefore would be condemned to disappear. This leads us to ask certain questions that could cause a metaphysical or religious debate: Man, because of this separation between somatic cells and reproduction functions simply appears as a carrier of “immortal” genes going from one mortal body to another to another mortal body. So why our genetic codes are not developed so that we live 300 or 600 or 6,000 years? How these numbers could jeopardize reproduction?

William Amzallag M.D.
June 2015