Death rates flatten out later in life and indicate that human survival cannot be limited. This is as opposed to some past work. In contrast to the allegations of some demographers and biologists, there may be no natural limit to how long beings can live. But there is no one yet in sight for such longevity.
According to a statistical analysis released in Science1 on Thursday on the probabilities of survival of almost 4,000′ super-elderly’ individuals in Italy, all aged 105 and older.
A team was led by Sapienza University demographer Elisabetta Barbi and the University of Rome Tre statistician Francesco Lagona. Both based in Rome who discovered that the danger of death. To them it seems to raise throughout most of life as individuals age decreases after age 105, creating a’ plateau of mortality.’ At that stage, scientists say, the chances of someone dying from birthday to birthday are about 50:50 (see’ Unlimited longevity’).
“If there is a mortality plateau, there is no limit to human longevity,” tells Jean-Marie Robine. Robine was a demographer who was not engaged in the research at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, Montpellier.
This would mean, at least hypothetical, that somebody like Chiyo Miyako. Chiyo is the Japanese great and great grandmother, at 117, is known the world’s oldest man.
Discussions by Researchers
Researchers discussed for a long time whether beings have a higher age limit. The consensus is that in adulthood, until around 80 years of age, the danger of death continues to increase. But there is a sharp discrepancy over what happens when individuals join their nineties and centuries.
Some researchers have looked at demographic information and found that our species has a fixed, natural’ shelf-life’ and that mortality rates continue to rise. Others looked at the same data and concluded that the risk of death flattens out in one’s ultra-golden years. So human lifespan has no upper threshold.
Table of content (Longevity)
Extension of Life under Longevity
In 2016, geneticist Jan Vijg and his peers at New York City’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine rekindled the discussion by analyzing the reported ages at death for the world’s oldest people over half a century. They estimated that at about 115 years— 125 tops, human longevity struck a ceiling.
Vijg and his team asserted that human aging had achieved its natural limit with few, if any, increases in peak lifespan since the mid-1990s. Jeanne Calment, a French super-centenarian who died at the age of 122 in 1997, is the longest known lifespan.
In the 2016 research, experts questioned the statistical methods, setting off a firestorm that Barbi and Lagona are now entering. Working with peers at the Italian National Institute of Statistics, the scientists gathered documents from 2009 to 2015 on every Italian aged 105 years and older. They collected death, birth and survival certificates in an attempt to minimize the likelihood of’ age exaggeration,’ a prevalent issue among the elderly.
They also monitored individual survival trajectories from year to year. this was rather than lumping individuals into age ranges as past research that combined information sets did. And by concentrating solely on Italy, which has one of the world’s largest per capita levels of centenarians, they prevented the problem of variability in information collection across jurisdictions.
As such, according to Kenneth Howse, a health policy investigator at the United Kingdom’s Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, “this information provides the best evidence to date of plateaus of extreme-age mortality in humans.”
Suspicion on previous Information on Longevity
Ken Wachter, a mathematical demographer at the University of California, Berkeley, and writer of the recent research, suspects that earlier conflicts over late-life mortality trends. This he claims were mainly due to poor records and statistics. “We have the advantage of better data,” he says. “If we can get data of this quality for other countries, I expect we’re going to see much the same pattern.”
Robin isn’t that certain. He suggests unpublished information from France, Japan and Canada indicate that proof of a plateau of mortality is “not as clear a cut”. Hence to determine whether Italy’s results reflect a universal feature of human aging, a global analysis is still required, he says.
Off boundaries under Longevity
The world is home to about 500,000 individuals aged 100 and up — a number that is expected to nearly double every century to come. Joop de Beer, a longevity researcher at the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute in The Hague, says that even if the risk of late-life mortality remains constant at 50:50. The swelling worldwide membership of the 100-plus club should translate around one year per decade into a creep upward in the eldest individual alive. Joop de Beer, a long-term investigator at the Hague Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute in the Netherlands, claims.
Many scientists claim they’re hoping to know better what’s behind the mortality rate leveling in later lives. Siegfried Hekimi, a geneticist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, speculates that the cells of the body ultimately achieve a point where repair processes can compensate for additional harm to maintain mortality rates.
“Why this plateaus out and what it means about the process of aging — I don’t think we have any idea,” Hekimi says.
The powerful evidence for a mortality plateau points to the likelihood of preventing death at any era for James Kirkland. James was a geriatrician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Some specialists believe the very frail is beyond repair. But if, over time, the chances of dying do not increase, he says, interventions that slow aging are likely to make a difference, even in the extremely old.
Not everyone purchases that argument — or the recent paper’s findings.
Marginal proof of mortality
Brandon Milholland, a co-author of Nature’s 2016 article, claims the proof for a plateau of mortality is “marginal”. The research included fewer than 100 individuals living up to or beyond 110. Leonid Gavrilov, a longevity investigator at the Illinois University of Chicago, notes that even tiny inaccuracies in Italian records of longevity could lead to a spurious conclusion.
Others claim the study’s findings are biologically unreasonable. “You are facing essential constraints imposed by body design,” tells Jay Olshansky. He was a bio-demographer at the University of Illinois in Chicago. He says, noting that cells that do not replicate, such as neurons, will continue to fade and die as a person ages. Thus they will be putting upper limits on the natural lifespan of humans’.
According to Haim Cohen, a molecular biologist at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel, this research is unlikely to be the last word on the age-limit conflict. And he says, “I’m sure that the debate is going to continue.”
Is it possible that we live longer but remain younger?
Aging occurs two ways, slowly and all at once, like bankruptcy in Hemingway’s description.
1. The slow way is familiar. Decades pass with little sense of inner change, middle age comes with only a slight slowdown. There is then a lost name, a lumbar ache, a white hair sprinkling, and eye wrinkles.
2. The fast way happens as a series of lurches: occlude eyes, hearing dwindles, a hand trembles where it hadn’t, a hip break. Also, the generally hale and heartfelt murmur of the doctor in the annual check-up. There are some indications here that concern me.
AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
You can go to the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, and bring on Agnes (for Age Gain Now Empathy System). This was to get a feeling of what it would be like to have slow method become quick method. Agnes, or the “sudden aging” suit, as AgeLab’s founder and director Joseph Coughlin defines, involves yellow glasses. These glasses express a feeling of yellowing of the ocular lens that comes with age. There’s a boxer’s neck harness that mimics the diminished flexibility of the cervical spine. There are bands around the elbows, wrists, and ankles to simulate stiffness; foam padding shoes to create a loop.
Slowly pulling on the aging suit and then standing up feels a little like a spacesuit which Russian cosmonauts wear. You’re at first aware of just a few additional weights, a small loss of sensation, one or two small burdens the extremities. But soon, it’s actively angry as you’re bending the suit which is slowing you down. You come to understand what makes it a robust emotional empathy tool: every tiny job becomes effortful. “Reach the top shelf and pick up that mug,” commands Coughlin, and doing so needs more attention than you expect. Rather than just receiving it, you reach for the mug. Your emotional cast, as the focused task stacks on the focused assignment, becomes an annoyance; you gain the same set-mouthed, dissatisfied, watchful look that you see on some elderly individuals on the metro.
The concentration that each act requires disrupts the flow of life that you are suddenly aware of is the happiness of life, the unceasing stream of pure action and responses, choices made simultaneously and mostly effortlessly. Happiness is absorption, and the contrary to willful attention is absorption.
In suit analysis
After about half an hour in the suit, annoyance turns into rage: damn, what’s wrong with the globe? (Never: What’s wrong with me?) The suit makes us conscious of not so much the physical problems of ancient age that can be handled, but the disconcerting mental state connected with it — the cost of age is a constant aggravation. King Lear’s theme and action and motivation suddenly become quite apparent. You get angry at the reticence of your youngest daughter because you had to fight to unroll your kingdom map.
AgeLab’s intention is to relieve this development. There are the promotion and incubation of new technologies and products and services for an ever-growing aging people market. (“Baby boomer turns seventy-three every eight seconds,” Coughlin observes.) Coughlin, who is in his late thirties, is the picture of an old-fashioned American engineer-entrepreneur; he is bald in the outdated, tonsured, Thurber-husband manner, wearing a bow tie and heavy red-framed glasses, and walking a visitor through the studio indicates a cross between Mr. Peabody and Q, from the Bond movies, showing you the recent gadgets. His talk is crisply aphoristic and sprinkled with a simple flow of statistics: each proposal has its amount connected with it immediately.
“Where science is in doubt, politics begins,” he says. “In the designation case of some states, an aged driver is fifty years old, in some eighty- we also do not believe that what is the old driver. This suspicion is an itch which I needed to scratch in the last century.” Extensive gift of human history – thirty plus years of life – and we do not understand what to do with it? Now we are living for a long time, what are we going to do, what are we planning?
Learning by AgeLab
The suit wearer discovers that putting the mug softly down on a neighboring table is also a bit of a challenge after picking up the cup. So, Coughlin follows from room to room, narrating everything that the AgeLab has learned.
For you, this is a helpful model, “he claims. “There are about eight thousand days from zero to twenty-one. It is eight thousand days from the twenty-one crisis to the midlife crisis from the mid-forties to 65-8,000 days. Nowadays, if you’re going to make it sixty-five, you’re going to have a 50% opportunity that you’re going to make it eighty-five. Eight thousand more days! That’s no longer a journey to Disney and wait to see and die from the virus you get on a cruise for the grandchildren. We are reflecting, redefining one-third of adult life! The most significant accomplishment in human history — and all we can say is that it will break Medicare? Why don’t we take that one-third and generate new tales for individuals as they age, new rituals, new mythologies?
The Agnes suit is one of many tools and appliances — or “cool toys,” as they are more technically known. The suit was developed in the AgeLab’s glass-walled halls and cubicled corridors of the AgeLab. It was prepared to entertain visiting authors and instruct business visitors. There is the driving simulator, particularly equipped to monitor the eye motions of the driver as they flit from the dashboard to the horizon. (“The automotive sector is asking individuals to modify fifty years of riding practices in ten minutes without guidance with its latest techniques. These techniques can be like navigation systems,” Coughlin claims.)
There’s Paro, a robotic baby seal from Japan that bleats and moves its head and is intended to behave as a comfort to aging individuals. This is especially about Alzheimer’s patients struggling at the end of the day with the “sundown” time when confusion and restlessness get acute. (“It’s a seal, not a dog or a cat because people have great experiences with dogs and cats and even the patients with Alzheimer’s can see the odd non-likeness, “Coughlin said. Mobile robotic nurses are produced for the elderly, and vast blue upholstered chairs are created for the elderly.
There are big study displays displaying pictures of cyclists, their faces integrated with sensors, and the varieties of “Glance Classification”. These can lead to “Crash Avoidance” when evaluated. Crash Avoidance is “The relationship between safe and trusting choices can be a story of life or death on the road”, Coughlin describes. And there are displays of age-related term clouds. These clouds demonstrate the critical distinction between the term’s females imagine their post-career life (freedom, time, family). Also, those which men use (retirement, relaxation, hobbies).
A paradox influences AgeLab’s work. Set up to engineer and encourage new products and services explicitly intended for the age’s growing market, the AgeLab quickly found that engineering and supporting new products and services specifically intended for the age’s growing market is a useful way out of the company. There’s nothing ancient individuals will purchase that reminds them they’re old. They are a market to which it is impossible to market. Accepting assistance in getting out of the suit is accepting that we are lifelong in the lawsuit. We’d rather suffer because we’re old than acknowledge being old and hurting less.
Well, this is an ancient paradox. In the 1950s, Heinz attempted to market a “Senior Foods” line, which was mainly baby food for the elderly. It failed not only spectacularly but poisoned a whole category as Coughlin put it. Perhaps most perverse of these failures is the PERS system, a group of devices, best known for the TV-ads that an elderly woman shares: “I fell and I can’t get up. I don’t get up!” Designed as a throat during which emergency services are summoned if under pressure. It’s easy and efficient. “Nobody wants one,” says Coughlin, “the issue.
“The total penetration of the 65 + market in the U.S. is less than 4%. And German research showed, when subscribers fell and remained on the floor over five minutes, they couldn’t use their phones to appeal for help 83 percent of the moment. “That is, many elderly individuals would thrash on the ground in trouble earlier than press a button. The button, that could appeal for support but whose actual effect is to acknowledge that I’m old.
“We purchase products for what they say about us, ” not just to do employment “Coughlin summarizes. ‘An old man walking,’ said beige or light-black strap or pendants.”
AgeLab has rediscovered the eternal reality that identity is much more important to us than usefulness. The most efficient way to comfort the elderly is by a kind of funniest convergence of products. These products are intended and allegedly intended to satisfy the requirements of impatient boomers secretly. The finest acoustic instruments are the most similar to earbuds. An iPhone or an Apple Watch app is the most efficient PERS tool.
In the past, such unforeseen convergences occurred. Retirement villages were concentrated on golf courses, retains Coughlin. This is not because old people like golf necessarily but because they like golf carts. These carts provide more mobility in and around the town. There is a golf course. This’ exaptation’ method has now speeded up. For the aging population, there are TaskRabbit, Uber and Rent the Runway. These are services that provide direct assistance for particular problems.
The paradigm is dominating that elderly individuals are not looking for new technology, “suggests Coughlin.” Take the oven for the microwave! It couldn’t have been intended better for individuals living on their own. This is a perfect illustration of what I call ‘transcendent design,’ not designed for elders but ideal for them. We do a lot of tasks in the on-demand economy, designed for thousands of years but better for boomers. Food is provided— these are wonderful, helpful services that can reach anybody’s home. In specific, elderly females are saved from their micro dietary shortcomings. While the millennials want them to be comfortable, the boomers wish to them to care for their families.
Coughlin hates what he calls “the narrative,” whereby new tech appeals to unique individuals. “Start-up cash comes to young individuals because that’s what start-up entrepreneurs are expected to look like. Also, the products are intended for children because that’s what start-up products are supposed to look like.” In his view, the narrative, more than any rational calculation of profit, accounts for the technological difference. He also detailed it in his book “The Longevity Economy.” “There is no reason for this huge prejudice in Silicon Valley and the tech sector in favor of youthfulness,” he claims. He also hates the resource misallocation, relying on mere myths. “We believe we are sending our elderly people to organizations. The reality is that less than 10 percent of the elderly go to nursing homes or have been helping the living.
The senior-housing sector is constructing inventory intended for seniors. But eighty-seven percent of retirement-age individuals want to remain in the same home of three. These are ‘M’s, mortgage, marriage and memories. The issue is they’re not able to. Not when it’s a two-story house with a bedroom and upstairs bathroom. If we can fix the issue of stairs, we will not need new homes.”
Suggestion by Coughlin
Coughlin suggests that getting easy responses to two issues can determine if you will age well on the spot: “Who will alter the light bulb and how will you get an ice cream cone? Little assignments become elevated friction sources. It’s not that to change the light bulb you can’t climb the ladder. But you’ll have someone screaming at you for the first time,’ You’ll fall and break your neck! That’s the issue of aging that we have to tackle, not building older people’s homes or senior villages.”
Coughlin also says, “It’s the failure of sector and engineering to address the real issues of aging. The issues summed up by the aggravation of the Agnes suit which makes Coughlin impatient with academic speculations about expanding their lives. “We have expanded our lives already! What we need is not to postpone death for a while, but to write as it might be a new narrative of aging.”
Point of Aging
Aging has no point; it’s a point’s angry lack. After externally reproducing ourselves, we break down on internally replicating ourselves. Cellular replication processes that enable us to be reconstructed boats even as they cross the ocean cease to act effectively. This is because they do not have an evolutionary reward to work effectively. They are like code monkeys in a failed tech business: they can mess up everything. They don’t mindfully forget to code for our hair’s color or skin’s elasticity. Also, there’s no punishment for failure. We’ve already made all the children we’re going to create.
That, at least, is the classic explanation of why we age in the 1950s, suggested by British Nobel Prize winner Peter Medawar. Once we’ve passed reproductive age, the genes may become sloppy about copying, enabling mutations to accumulate, as natural selection is no longer concerned. And that’s how things fall apart. The other thermodynamics legislation ultimately reaches us all. For a decade, the car or the Cuisinart has been working, breaking down, and cannot be fixed; rust never sleeps, and we do.
Comparison of species
And yet, for decades, some trees go on gathering rings, growing older without really getting older. Some of the species, although often hard-to-track animals, such as Arctic sharks, might be living for decades or so. Even though aging at some pace is eventually inevitable. Its also far from self-evident what happens when we age.
The real trick may not be how much we age, but how much we don’t. Human beings are outliers. We live much longer than other creatures of our size. We also challenge the overall reality that smaller animals’ live life shorter than larger ones. (Not that we should take too much pride in our defiance; another big challenger is the naked mole-rat, the ugliest animal in the world. It often lives for absurdly lengthy periods and seems to be barely aging. Although one might ask how anyone but another naked mole-rat could say.) Those additional thirty years of life, though earned by improvements in medicine and public health. These can be obtained because we’re just going on, given a little opportunity. Then the big issue of human aging is not why we fall apart, but why nature allows us to stay together for so long.
One evolutionary rationale is that human groups have something essential, with their youth’s slowly unfolding infancy, to keep the older people around even when they can’t create more young people. Older people are repositories of widespread cultural memory: having a few senior citizens around who know what to do, so to speak, when winter comes would seem advantageous. Evolutionary biologists tend to doubt whether nature is concerned with group fitness rather than individual fitness. But the “kin selection” model— which gives weight to the fact that helping my relatives helps to preserve my genes — suggests that there may be evolutionary advantages in having grandmothers around to look after children and remember where the fish goes every twenty years.
(Again, people who have grandparents around to remind them of what they are doing wrong probably believe that killing old people could quickly make their genes better or at least more serendipitous.
And so elsewhere in Cambridge, particularly in some Harvard genetic laboratories, the AgeLab chairs and seals and expected facilities are considered as mere Band-Aids on the issue to be solved. Whispers of undying yeast, stories of eternally young mice, rumors of rejuvenated dogs, and researchers who stubbornly insist that age is a disease to be handled like any other.
Where it was taken for granted fifty years ago that the age issue was an issue of the inevitable slowing down of all, entropy working its worst, now many scientists are inclined to believe that the problem is “epigenetic”: it’s an issue reading the information— the genetic code — in the cells. To use a Harvard geneticist David Sinclair metaphor, the information in each cell is digital and perfectly stored; it is the “reading,” the active expression of the information, which is effectively analogous and subject to occlusion on a CD’s plastic surface by the equivalent of dirt and scratches. He said, clear them out, and as the younger one jumps out, still intact in the layer of data, as the more youthful Beatles jump out of a restored and remastered CD.
(It wouldn’t be the first time in the history of science that the way we believe of a phenomenon was impacted by the types of human-made designs we’re familiar with. When a telephone switchboard was our most amazing knowledge-bearing system, individuals felt the brain was like one; when Xerox copies, growing less readable as generations passed, were familiar to everyone; It was apparent that the picture of a cell ceasing to replicate itself efficiently in this way.)
“If we believe epigenetically, we can see that cells can be industriously repaired.” A legendary figure in the conception of genomic sequence techniques, he must assist him in being a science eminence, with an aura of one, a tremendous Darwinian beard and a slow-spoken orotundity, he must be an aura for scientists. For his studies in attempting to resurrect extinct species, especially the woolly mammoth, Church gathered further emphasis. (One of his usual jokes is that visitors are excluded from the fifth floor of his lab as mammals and Neanderthals reside here). It is also a group of engineering entrepreneurs who seek to sell products to fewer aging individuals and not to create better outcomes for aging individuals.
Aging may not be a disease but an error to be remedied. Sinclair, for one, extended the life of the yeast successfully and said he moved on to human trials. He is an evangelist for the benefits of what it called “hormesis,” namely, the use of brief, intense exercising or intermittent fasting to induce metabolic stress. His neat epigenetic epigram “Strive to be hungry every day, out of breath.”
The “translational” or applied type of anti-aging studies seems to follow two primary fronts:
1. “Tiny molecules,” which mainly mean dietary supplements designed to regenerate the correct protein.
2. Perhaps more dramatically genetic engineering. Genetics typically involves adding or otherwise manipulating genes to a population of animals, often mice.
Perhaps by rejiggering the genome of a mouse into the embryo and then using it to breed a genetically modified strain. Due to genetic alterations, in mouse research, the rodents have produced higher quantities of a single protein, sirtuin 6 (although some researchers feel that the operation has helped mice to live as long as female mice).
Church and Noah Davidsohn, a former postdoctoral fellow in his laboratory, went on the secret but talked about making new ancient dogs. The beagles of the Tufts veterinary school have received gene therapy and they presently publish Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, who are incredibly susceptible to age-related mitral valve illness, which they almost all develop by the age of 10.
Genetically Modified Virus
Church and Davidsohn’s team use a genetically modified virus to put a piece of DNA into the cells of a dog’s liver and to obtain it in order to create a protein designed to prevent heart diseases. But the team’s aspirations are higher. The report identifies other objectives for gene-based interventions, examines an aging gene database: genes that are overexpressed or underexpressed— which create one protein too much or too little— as we grow old. These are the notes that are silenced or amplified on the CD’s replay of life and Davidsohn and Church want their right volume to be restored.
Many issues are associated with this work, including the remarkably few’ organic markers’ of enhanced longevity. We understand that cancer is handled effectively when the cancer cells are gone, but how do you know if you have made individuals live longer, but only when they wait centuries and see when they are gone? Ideally, we would discover something measurable in a blood sample, say, and reliably linked to the lifespan of someone.
In genetic engineering, Church is hopeful. “We understand,” he said, “because the programming of embryonic stem cells was successful already. You could take the ancient cell and transform it into a youthful cell. We do this now.
Most research had been performed in mice, in which a factor of two has expanded mice’s lives. It’s not considered impressive as it’s mice, but we work on dogs now. We have recognized around nine routes to cell rejuvenation,
(Senescent cell elimination “— molding cells that are no longer divided and that tend to cause inflammation and continuously behave as an irritant to their neighbors).
We’re in clinical dog studies already, “Church suggests. “If everything goes right, we should have achieved it in two years, and overlap it in five years with human clinical trials. In my opinion, dog tests will be excellent. Based on the mouse tests, we hope that the effects in mouse, dogs and humans will be general, independent of species. We use the same gene therapy.
The church is conscious that, among other regulatory bodies, the Food and Drug Administration is not insane about strange fresh therapies that tackle what we usually consider a natural process. “Our emphasis is not on longevity but inversion, partly because it is simpler to obtain FDA approval to reverse illnesses than to prolong life.” “Longevity is not our goal— we just want the age-related illnesses to be reversed.” “We want individuals to live better, not necessarily longer, but more of the better,” Noah Davidsohn enthusiastically says.
However, the Church makes it clear that these are next issues. “How old are individuals able to develop? “He tells that. “Well, there is no upper limit if our strategy is genuinely efficient. But eternal life is not our objective. The objective is to achieve youthful well being, not an expanded age-related decrease.
One of the striking stuffs, you know, is that many super-centennial people, who have lived productively for 100 years, “live a young life, and then die very fast. You live well, and you are here, and you don’t live well. This isn’t a poor image.
Scepticism of researchers
Many of the researcher’s skeptics wonder how long this type of work will influence aging or how soon. Instead of endorsing a product, the Elysium team is advised by this network of researchers, clinicians and health practitioners in the identification and growth of a product, as well as by the literature, how one distinguishes between advice on the pro in the Elysium Health Advisory Board and the Elysium Health Services. Others may recall that at the beginning of the 20th century, a procedure that has been kept as a science answer to the aging issue for the implantation of monkey glans into individuals. (W. B. Yeats had a similar procedure.) Somewhere in the fountain of young people.
There lies a more sadistic reality behind the optimistic promise of aging spaniels and soon their owners: that even basic research cannot always heal a fundamental issue. No therapy for senility, as it was once called, is visible despite what appeared to be groundbreaking findings of the essential genetics and dementia pathology. An increasing number of individuals are entering old age not only decreased but also devastated, in more prosperous nations with higher life expectancies, by Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Old Lear is first and foremost not anxious about age, but about folly. This is which he imagines just as dementia: the loss of control, remembrance and cognition. This is as his destiny is reflected in the ranting homeless man Edgar’s Poor Tom.
It is a little bit nibbling to move from the Harvard Juvenile Factories into the Patrick Hof lab at Mount Sinai, Icahn School of Medicine, Manhattan. There is talk here of a discouragingly small number of slow-moving fronts over decades rather than imminent innovation. Hof, a neuronal expert in aging and Alzheimer’s, considers the exposure to ever more confusing complexity. Contrarily, the Harvard crowd will soon see fast fixes.
His ten-story office is packed with Blake lighting pictures and Whistler portraits while his children’s pictures cycle behind him on the screensaver. These pictures were fused with images of whales and dolphins, which is of his specific concern. In its neighboring workshop, scientists, post doctors, junior teachers, professional technicians are exploring the young and elderly brains of many types of animals using what is like all types of microscopes. These are more extensive views, high resolution mid-size views. A single colossal electron scan microscope that allows scientists to see the neural structure down to a dendrite’s.
At the start of digital microscopy, my career began, “Hof claims. He’s white-haired, with his indigenous Switzerland’s smooth accent. “We can now obtain terabytes of data. We can collect whole neuron networks within a single animal brain and do tissue staining. And we take a piece of a brain or a whole brain. Slice it into fragile parts that we incubate with an antibody that labels a particular neuron population, and we retrieve that. Or we can load fluorescent dye neurons. Inject it with a very thin glass pipette running straight into the neuron, so we have a fluorescent neuron!”
The laboratory of Hof is filled with brains. There are shelves holding rows of what looks like hinged, dark-wooden cigar boxes in a big famous laboratory outside the microscopy rooms. “These are all brains,” states Hof incidentally. He takes down a box and opens it; on it is a slide inside with what looks like a small brain profile. “This is the brain of man. It’s a like bread-sliced section. It feels tiny because in a chemical process it was incubated. We began with the entire hemisphere and then incubated it in an alcoholic therapy. It also shrinks by two-thirds. Then you stain it, and you go there. “The parts of the brain are held permanently, Hof explains, and loans from lab to lab, like library books.
Study of brains
Hof, who took the brains of whales and dolphins to study, likes to take tourists to an open, chilled “brain room,” a kind of rare-book brain collection, to see some lovely cases. The space for the brain is a revelation. Here they are: human brains, monkey brains, dolphin brains. The space between brain and mind never looks as big as when you see the stuff of mind. And the stuff is curved and segmented, as hideous as an intestine, floating in a fixing solution.
There is even a sperm whale brain in the room. “the planet’s biggest known brain”, Hof claims. (It looks nicely wide, with nobly wide-spaced convolutions). It’s difficult to find the brains of senile cetaceans, he says. “Beach is young adults, and the elderly tend to die quietly at sea.” Hof hopes insight may be discovered in the study of neurodegeneration in the more expansive, differently organized cortexes of cetaceans.
Destruction of Mind
Alzheimer’s research became Hof’s unique concern due to its insidious destruction of ordinary minds and ordinary personality. “You can’t tell any distinction between an aging non-demented brain and a younger human, even under severe magnification,” he suggests. “To see any loss in the neural organization just through aging without the disease. You have to have really good rates of resolution. But holding in your hand the brain of an Alzheimer’s, you can see the atrophy.
In Alzheimer’s studies three decades ago, Hof explains, two main proteins were related to the terrible dissolution of selves:
- Beta-amyloid, which created plaques between neurons;
- Tau, which formed tangled fibrils within neurons.
The comparative significance of the two was challenged, but many researchers found that the plaques and fibrils clogged the brain as coffee grounds clogged a drain. It seemed likely that if they could be cleared off, there would be therapeutic benefits. “We now understand these are downstream impacts,” claims Hof. “It’s much, much more complex what happens upstream to cause them.
With the causes unclear— the debate on which anomalies are better seen as culprits or bystanders continues — and the cure far away, Hof can only list the “co-morbidities” for Alzheimer’s, the conditions that most closely correlate with their onset. They are the old-fashioned sins: obesity, absence of practice, poor diet— and the diseases they can make. The new science often seems to distill into ancient wisdom for all the cascades of longevity studies: be fit, stay thin, and you’ll look and feel older longer.
Understanding of Variables
“The illness is sufficiently varied and heterogeneous to push therapy and prevention on multiple fronts,” Hof says. “First, what can you do to promote good aging and what can you prevent? Every elder is unique and will have uniquely distinctive life experiences and practices. So, we’ll have to look at that element in ways that discourage or treat the growth of something worse to some extent. Then the causative variables need to be better understood. Several interesting markers are pointing to leads. Inside the cells, some proteins perform cellular roles that affect a cascade of response, but specifically targeting without changing other features becomes very hard. It’s not simple at all.”
The sensation is disconcerting as you take off the Agnes suit — piece by piece; the boots and then the weights of the neck and the impeding gloves. It’s the return of flow, the feeling of choice and possibility as you start moving through the world again, which makes you remember that what it is to be young is not to be in an ecstasy state, but simply to be unimpeded, to be in the world without having an undue awareness of your own muscle and bone within it. When we remove a splinter from our foot, it’s the same thing we encounter; what we get is not happiness in a positive sense, but a return to not having to think about the prison and our flesh. We’re forgetting our inside and folding back.
Real Condition of Youth
Youth’s real condition is the capacity to forget ourselves physically. A colleague who is still creative in his eighties points out what he calls the possessive geriatric: individuals over eighty are supposed to say, “I’m going to take my bath,” “I’m going to take my walk.” We can counterpoise that to the possessive pediatric: “You’re going to take your bath,” “It’s time for your nap.” Only in midlife do we feel safe enough to enumerate activities that occur separately outside of our ownership of them: “I’m going to take a bath,” “I’m going to take a nap.” There are a bath and a nap, briefly, outside of our ownership of them — they’re just around to bring them, we guess, and they will always be.
The indomitable egotism of the elderly is captured by Glenda Jackson, now playing Lear on Broadway at the age of eighty-three. Watching her on stage, we are asked not only to recognize the anger but ultimately also the wisdom of age. The old one tells Shakespeare, can become, or help us grow, the spies of God.
Presidential commission’s report
A century and a half ago a report was created by a presidential commission chaired by bioethicist Leon Kass. The report raised concerns about prolonged longevity studies. “Could we cheat ourselves,” the study asked, “by moving away from the contour and restriction of natural existence (our frailty and finitude) that serves as a lens for a broader vision that could offer coherence to all lives and sustain meaning?” After all, we turn to the image of the old for comfort. We turn to the job of consolation and enlightenment marked by the frailties of aging.
Matisse, his fingers crippled by arthritis, picked up scissors and painted paper and discovers a new world of purity. De Kooning paints some of his most prominent images on the brink of Alzheimer’s, just as renewed simplicity breaks the hand of excessive excellence.
Swift created the Struldbrugs race in “Gulliver’s Travels” to think what eternal life would be like. Eerily, they were provided an accurate phenotypic marker, a defect above the left eyebrow. They were also given the age-related ill-temper. Promised eternal life, with ever-growing aging they were cursed and the most miserable individuals, are alive.
What we want is the point made by Swift. It is not eternal life but eternal youth. This is what the new science appears to promise us is more like a continuous middle age. Indeed, we may already converge as a population— irascible millennials. These feel dated at the age of 25. These determinedly upbeat boomers who insist on feeling young at the age of seventy, on a single American age. Its a sort of permanent intermediate sharing, where we dye our hair and bring our pills and crash unexpectedly in the midst of dance.
We live well right now, and then we’re not living well, and then we’re dying. The most science seems to give us is this: we’re going to live well and then we’re going to die.
In the past, as science and medicine annihilated old curses, we were worried that the corresponding compensating benefits would be lost. And yet the pain in childbirth, which some believed was foundational to what we call Judeo-Christian morals. It could be mainly subdued to mother love without any loss; consumption was healed without diminishing the romantic poetry romance. May be the loss of aging would be one more time in the series, where we were dancing and making love and skiing. Its like all other supercentenarians, in the sharp eye, on the edge of the still inevitable cliff. The word ‘ death’ is only in a small ball, associated with the stray and bubbling thoughts of younger men. This is much lower than the others. Its lost through more massive clouds of hope in the word cloud of concepts associated with aging in the AgeLab.
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NB The write-up is based on the most prevalent media information and is not a medical advice. Consult your Authorized Cardiologist for any Medical Treatment.