Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1425, (10 - 16 January 2019)
Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Issue 1425, (10 - 16 January 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Live longer — without growing old

“Everyman desires to live long; but no man would be old.”
“Everyman desires to live long; but no man would be old.”

It may be an impossible dream but man has been chasing it since the dawn of time

The desire to prolong life, an ongoing quest for centuries, has extended our life span on average, almost doubled it since 1900 — from 47 years to 73-79 years today. Not bad at all, due largely to antibiotics, vaccines, water-purification, improvements in maternal and natal care, etc. Despite such progress our later years are overcome with the risk of diseases that diminish the quality of the extra years.

Life expectancy is increasing but in poorer health. The number of years of healthy life is not keeping up with dramatic changes.

To say that the one thing needful is longevity is not quite enough. We all wish to live longer, but also healthier — not moving around in pain, on a wheel chair, from hospital to clinic. We do not seek immortality but can we at least slow down the ageing process and stretch our lives a little longer?

Apart from anti-ageing creams, skin care, drug supplements, exercise, the surgeon’s knife, the dermatologist’s shots, as well as a healthy lifestyle, ageing is a biological inevitability. We cannot turn back the clock.

It is no wonder that there is a yearning to “unravel the mystery of age”, to find “the fountain of youth”, the secret for longevity. 

To deal with a growing unhealthy, ageing population, science is hard at work, helping us to live well. In medical centres across the world from the US, UK, Europe, Japan and Australia and such prestigious institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Harvard Medical School (HMS), scientists are toiling day and night to shed some light on our dark, declining years.

If NASA chose it out of 300 research entries for its forthcoming trip to Mars there must be some merit to it. This is a plot with many characters. Most of their names are puzzling acronyms.

Scientists at Harvard searched and searched and found the culprit. Its name is NAD.

The HMS published the astonishing results of its new research, led by senior author David Sinclair, professor of Genetics, which may well be the fulfillment of “the impossible dream”.

DNA repair is essential for all vitality cell survival and cancer prevention. Experiments on mice suggest a way to thwart DNA damage from ageing and allow cells to mend their broken DNA.

It is hard enough for a non-scientist to read, let alone explain. You may be all exasperated by those acronyms, as we are, but, here goes, one more time.

We all know what DNA stands for, do we not?   

DeoxyriboNucleic Acid is the carrier of all genetic input, present in all living organs. It is essential for all vitality cell survival and cancer prevention. Ageing damages DNA. Our tiniest vessels wither and die, causing reduced blood flow to organs and tissues — leading to the build-up of toxins. Vascular ageing is responsible for cardiac and neurologic conditions, muscular loss, impaired wound healing and overall frailty.

“We are as old as our arteries.” Scientists have reversed vascular atrophy and restored vessel growth in mice. We are next.   

DNA damage is also caused by radiation and chemotherapy, which along with killing cancer cells, causes considerable damage to healthy cells. How do we repair damaged cells? As we said before, through the magical letters, NAD.

NAD stands for Nicotineamide Ademine Acid which levels the effects of DNA. Now NAD too declines with age leaving fewer and fewer molecules to stop the harmful interaction of certain proteins. The function of NAD had eluded the scientists though it is found in 80,000 proteins across life forms.

NHD is a NAD binding site and it is nasty because it blocks specific regions interfering with DNA repair.  What to do? Our scientists figured that by binding NHD with NAD may play a similar role of averting harmful protein intervention to control DNA repair and other survival proteins. 

Unless you are a scientist, all that matters from the above is that NAD can help repair DNA cells, giving us new life, health and vitality even at 100 years. Why stop at 100?

Jan Vjig, geneticist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, concludes that humans are genetically programmed to live 115 years — why waste half your life span?

NAD is on the horizon within five years at most.

Moreover we have NMN, the booster to cells ability to repair DNA. After one week of treatment, cells of old mice were indistinguishable from cells of young mice.

Go Science.

Meanwhile, there are many things we can do to live longer, look younger and remain healthy. The “usual suspects”… eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, consuming alcohol in moderation, not smoking, maintaining a healthy bodyweight, prolonging life — up to 12 years for men, 14 for women.

Do you pray?

A JAMA Internal Medicine study published in 2016 found that religious people live longer.

In an 18-year study follow-up, 55 per cent were less likely to die if they attended their house of worship regularly.

Are we back to square one?

A University College of London study concluded that 85 per cent of those who feel young, live longer.  In other words you are as young as you feel.

Stay young at heart.

NAD can also mean” No Acute Distress”.

That will surely help you blow out those birthday candles, no matter how many they are.

Everyman desires to live long; but no man would be old.”

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

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