“Eating well, sleeping, and exercising are more effective than any anti-aging medicine,” says chemistry Nobel Prize laureate.

 

Old age and death affect everyone and generate terror in most.

But why do we age and die? Is immortality or delaying old age possible?

Venki Ramakrishnan, 71, an Indian molecular scientist, has spent his career exploring these topics.

He shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Thomas A. Steitz and Ada E. Yonath for his discovery on ribosomes, which produce proteins, which sustain life in all creatures.
Why We Die: The New Science of Aging and The Quest for Immortality, by Ramakrishnan, will be released in English in March.

BBC News Mundo, the BBC’s Spanish-language news service, interviewed the expert on these topics, from cell deterioration’s chemical reactions to humanity’s huge benefits from longer lives.

BBC: Aging is what? This process in humans is what?

Venki Ramakrishnan—DNA gene damage is a major cause of aging.

How to produce proteins is the most important gene knowledge.

Cellular proteins perform millions of chemical processes that enable life. They provide our body form and strength and facilitate cell communication.

Thanks to them, we can sense. Our nervous system uses them to send impulses and retain memories.

Antibodies are proteins that help the cell make lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins, hormones, and DNA.

Therefore, aging is linked to the loss of our body’s capacity to control cell protein creation and destruction.

The buildup of chemical damage to molecules, cells, tissues, and the body is visible.

The process begins gradually from birth. We get older before that, but we don’t realize it.

As time passes, symptoms worsen and essential system failures hinder overall bodily function. This causes death.

The intriguing thing about dying is that most of our cells are still alive, which is why organs may be given, but they can no longer operate together. This kills.
BBC – You say in your book that evolution explains everything in biology. From an evolutionary perspective, why do humans age and die?

RK: Evolution doesn’t care about individuals.

Evolution is mostly about gene transmission. Individuals contain these genes.

As long as you can grow, breed, and raise your kids to reproductive age, evolution doesn’t care what happens to you since you passed on your genes.

Our organisms might spend more time avoiding aging or improving their repair processes, but evolutionaryally, it’s more effective to grow quicker and reproduce to pass on our genes.

Each species has a different balance.

A species at high danger of being eaten by a predator should not adapt to survive for many years since it is likely to be eaten at any moment.

Smaller animals have shorter lives than bigger ones.

An oddity: bats live longer than rats yet weigh roughly the same.

Why? Can fly, hence less susceptible to predators.

BBC – Over 150 years, life expectancy has doubled. if life expectancy may continue to rise or if we have hit our organisms’ life limit is a major scientific topic. Where do you stand in this debate?

Ramakrishnan Our existing knowledge limits us to 120 years, and we are unlikely to live longer.

The strange thing is that Tom Perls, a Boston-based longevity expert, found that although the number of persons reaching 100 years old grows, the number reaching 110 does not.

After 110, we reach biological limits, he believes.

Yes, hereditary and lifestyle variables allow some individuals to live beyond 110 years, but the number is not rising.

It seems there is a natural limit.

There are however calculations that demonstrate that eliminating illnesses like cancer will only boost life expectancy by a few years.

Possibly, we could exceed this constraint by treating the causes of aging, but I’m not sure how straightforward or pleasant that would be. It’s important to consider since it might have major societal effects.

Some optimists believe the first person to live to 150 has been born, but I think they’re overly hopeful since aging is multifactorial and there are no definite treatments to halt it and keep us healthy.

Ramakrishnan – Cancer, dementia, inflammation, osteoarthritis, and heart disease are all linked to age, hence some say aging is a sickness.

Others say we all age. How can something inevitable and universal be a disease?

The WHO just declared aging a non-disease.

There is a lot of temptation to label aging a disease because of the money spent in research.

Diseases are required for clinical trials and government clearance.

BBC: Where will anti-aging medicines advance most in the next years?

The Yogi Berra joke goes: “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.”

There are various methods to delay aging, but I’m not sure how advanced they are.

Researchers have shown that reducing calories slows aging, but it may harm younger individuals.

Therefore, a medication with calorie restriction-like effects is sought.

I joke that you can eat cake and ice cream without counting calories because you take a medication. That’s what many want.

Rapamycin, which follows similar method, is popular but immunosuppressive and dangerous in large doses.

Parabiosis—blood transfusion from young to old—is another fascinating area.

Blood rejuvenates the animal, which means there are investigations to uncover aging factors in the blood.

Another strategy involves senescence, when cells cease dividing and functioning properly.

Senescent cells increase with age, and their inflammation is another cause of aging.

Researchers wonder: can senescent cells be selectively destroyed? There is evidence that this may reverse certain aging effects.

Reverting a cell to its original form is a fascinating topic of cellular reprogramming.

This technique typically causes malignant tumors, making it dangerous.

Animal tests have shown promise, but humans cannot yet use it.

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