Each Cyclops had a single eye because, legend has it, the mythical giants traded the other one with the god Hades in return for the ability to see into the future. But Hades tricked them: the only vision the Cyclopes were shown was the day they would die. They carried this knowledge through their lives as a burden—the unending torture of being forewarned and yet having no ability to do anything about it.
Since ancient times, aging has been viewed as simply inevitable, unstoppable, nature’s way. “Natural causes” have long been blamed for deaths among the old, even if they died of a recognized pathological condition. The medical writer Galen argued back in the second century AD that aging is a natural process.
His view, the acceptance that one can die simply of old age, has dominated ever since. We think of aging as the accumulation of all the other conditions that get more common as we get older—cancer, dementia, physical frailty. All that tells us, though, is that we’re going to sicken and die; it doesn’t give us a way to change it. We don’t have much more control over our destiny than a Cyclops.
But a growing number of scientists are questioning our basic conception of aging. What if you could challenge your death—or even prevent it altogether? What if the panoply of diseases that strike us in old age are symptoms, not causes? What would change if we classified aging itself as the disease?
David Sinclair, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, is one of those on the front line of this movement. Medicine, he argues, should view aging not as a natural consequence of growing older, but as a condition in and of itself. Old age, in his view, is simply a pathology—and, like all pathologies, can be successfully treated. If we labeled aging differently, it would give us a far greater ability to tackle it in itself, rather than just treating the diseases that accompany it.
“Many of the most serious diseases today are a function of aging. Thus, identifying the molecular mechanisms and treatments of aging should be an urgent priority,” he says. “Unless we address aging at its root cause, we’re not going to continue our linear, upward progress toward longer and longer life spans.”
Image Credit: Stuart Bradford
Thanks to Heinz V. Hoenen. Follow him on twitter: @HeinzVHoenen
News This Week
Scientists are to increase surveillance for new coronavirus mutations amid concerns that future strains of the virus could develop at least partial resistance to antibody treatments and Covid-19 vaccines. There is no evidence that the [...]
From the moment you turn off your morning alarm, to the time you hit the pillow, your life is full of surfaces. Swiping through your phone, opening doors, putting in your PIN – there are [...]
A new report suggests that lingering “brain fog” and other neurological symptoms after COVID -19 recovery may be due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an effect observed in past human coronavirus outbreaks such as SARS [...]
ClSARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can relieve pain, according to a new study by University of Arizona Health Sciences researchers. The finding may explain why nearly half of people who get COVID-19 [...]
Contrary to president Donald Trump’s repeated declarations, the coronavirus pandemic was not — and still isn’t — totally under control. That lie is central to “Totally Under Control,” the [...]
Summary: A new study suggests COVID-19 may deplete testosterone levels in males. Findings reveal as testosterone decreased, the severity of coronavirus increased. Men who died from coronavirus infection had significantly lower mean testosterone than those [...]
It is the question scientists around the world are trying to answer: how long can the coronavirus survive in the tiny aerosol particles we exhale? In a high-security lab near Bristol, entered through a series [...]
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, researchers are working overtime to develop vaccines and therapies to thwart SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the disease Many efforts focus on the coronavirus spike protein, which binds the [...]
A research team in Hungary pinched the coronavirus with a fine needle to measure how much force it could take before popping like a balloon. It did not. The native virion of Sars-CoV-2 – a [...]
Headaches, confusion and delirium experienced by some Covid-19 patients could be the result of the coronavirus directly invading the brain, according to a study published Wednesday. The research is still preliminary – but offers several [...]
By Boris M | Published in Coronavirus During the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a lot of information about the virus and its effects on mental health. That’s because coronavirus and the social, financial and psychological [...]
A serious illness suffered by an Oxford University coronavirus vaccine trial participant was most likely “life-threatening”, a bioethics researcher says. But that doesn’t mean the clinical trials will be scrapped. AstraZeneca and Oxford University [...]
Analysis of seven trials finds dexamethasone and hydrocortisone should be given in severe cases. Studies around the world have confirmed that steroids can save lives in the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to new recommendations from [...]
Experts say strong evidence of efficacy needed to avoid approval of inferior vaccines. The rush to immunise populations against Covid-19 could lead to the rollout of a vaccine that is not very effective and [...]