It’s time to break the common notion about aging to increase longevity. Learn more about this field of medicine and science through Dr. Matt Kaeberlein.
In this article:
Increase Longevity by Delving Deeper into Aging Mechanism—and Studying Dogs
What Is Aging?
To know the answer to the question, “How do you increase longevity?” is to understand the basics of aging. LIV has already discussed the idea that it can fall into two categories:
- Chronological aging
- Biological aging
Chronological aging refers to your age according to your year of birth. Biological aging refers to the rate in which your body shows signs of aging.
These signs can include:
- Presence of risk factors for age-related diseases such as cancer or cardiovascular disease
- Lower quality of life such as the inability to enjoy sex
- Cognitive decline, including the odds of developing dementia like Alzheimer’s disease
In his talk in 2018, Dr. Matt Kaeberlein provided more insights on biological aging and, thus, how to increase longevity. The pathology professor at the University of Washington shared the following:
1. People Can Age at Different Rates
In the video, the doctor showed two photos of celebrities who are almost the same age. One of them, though, looked older than the other.
It is a good representation of the fact that aging can happen at different rates between people. One of the reasons is point number 2.
2. Both the Environment and Genetics Can Contribute to Aging
The doctor then went on to say that it’s not only genetic factors that can impact health and longevity, so do environmental factors.
One of the examples is air pollution. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it was responsible for 16% of the mortality rate for lung cancer in 2016.
It also contributed to 26% of respiratory infection deaths and 17% of fatality from heart disease and stroke.
Meanwhile, the drug overdose deaths in 2017 reached over 70,000, according to the CDC. Although some died of cocaine or heroin, opioids, a popular painkiller, is the leading cause.
3. Age Is the Universal Risk Factor for Disease
The doctor also highlighted an often-missed data about disease and aging. Age is the most common risk factor for many conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
There are many explanations as to how age is a significant risk factor. One of these is the development of free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage other cells in the body. In turn, they can destroy organs and tissues and increase oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress occurs when the amount of antioxidants in the body is lower than the number of free radicals.
Right now, the goal isn’t to live forever. Instead, it’s to increase longevity free of chronic disease or ill health for as long as possible.
If aging is a universal risk factor for disease, it may then hold the secret to preventing diseases and extend lifespan.
The Role of Rapamycin to Increase Longevity
In the past, LIV Health tackled rapamycin, a drug usually provided to transplant patients. An experiment in the 1990s showed it may help promote longer life expectancy and slow down aging.
To understand how, we need to review mTOR or mammalian target of rapamycin. Researchers, over time, learned that mTOR regulates many processes that relate to aging:
A study in 2019 enumerated some of them:
- Nutrient sensing
- Autophagy or the regeneration of new cells
- Senescence or the aging of cells
- Stem cell creation
- Changes in the production of amino acids and proteins
- Mitochondrial function
What is a stem cell? It is a type of cell that can develop into special cells or specific body tissues.
Dysfunction or alteration in any of these functions can lead to signs of aging, including the development of chronic disease.
IGF-1 and Diet
Another factor that contributes to an increased risk of mortality is a human growth hormone called IGF-1. It is a signaling pathway that a 2018 study called “Jekyll and Hyde” for the brain.
While it encourages cell survival and growth of new neurons, it can also reduce the ability of the brain to resist the effects of stress and free radicals. The accumulation of “cellular debris” or dead cells can limit autophagy.
Coincidentally, the 2019 research mentioned above established a connection between mTOR and IGF-1. The former, after all, is a nutrient sensor and works closely with the IGF-1 receptor.
In the video, Dr. Kaeberlein shared that when scientists or researchers turned down IGF-1 in nematodes, fruit flies, and mice, it slowed down aging.
In a separate experiment involving yeast, scientists discovered that inhibiting mTOR changed its cells. The yeast became smaller, but it lived longer than normal cells.
Rapamycin can then potentially help increase longevity since it inhibits mTOR signaling pathways. It achieves this by binding to a protein of mTOR.
The results may partly explain why some believe that intermittent fasting can encourage human longevity. Also known as IF, it is a type of diet where people fast for a number of hours.
Some of the popular options are:
- 16 hours of fasting, 8-hour window of eating
- Eating only 500 calories every other day
- 24-hour fast
A 2019 research in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that individuals doing IF may be living longer as this diet:
- Conserves cellular energy
- Suppresses inflammation
- Increases stress resistance
Slow Down Aging with the Help of Dogs
Rapamycin indeed is one of the promising interventions against aging and a tool that can help increase longevity and health.
The concept, though, is still in its infancy. Researchers have to do more clinical trials and tests to determine the drug’s level of safety and effectiveness.
In one of the studies, dogs are the best participants. Dr. Kaeberlein shares one of the ongoing studies in his lab called the Dog Aging Project.
What makes dogs good candidates for testing rapamycin and its effects on the human lifespan?
- Genes and environment also influence the appearance of dogs throughout centuries. It explains why there are already many dog breeds around the world.
- Dogs tend to age faster than humans. For example, one dog year equals seven human years.
- Even then, the rate of mortality between dogs differs. For instance, a big dog like a Labrador may be of the same age group as a Chihuahua, but smaller dogs tend to live longer than the big ones.
- Like older adults, older dogs are also prone to different diseases, although their prevalence can differ from those of humans. Dogs are more likely to get cancer than heart disease, for example.
For this project, the lab aims to learn how to slow down aging or increase the longevity of different species of dogs. It works with various researchers, veterinarians, and even dog owners as well.
Rapamycin and Dogs
In this project, the lab hopes to understand the role genetic factors and environmental factors play in health and longevity. It also wants to test the potential of rapamycin.
For this, the researchers are recruiting various kinds of dogs, whether mixed breeds or purebreds. They would then follow their development within ten years.
The dogs will also receive rapamycin. Whether it can increase longevity is still unknown, but the researchers ensure it should be safe to administer to dogs.
People want to live longer. It may explain why older people seek different anti-aging treatments, which teams LIV Health can help you with.
Individuals these days eat more fruits and vegetables or increase their physical activity. Dr. Kaeberlein, though, highlights that the ultimate secret on how to increase longevity lies beyond diet and exercise.
The source may be in the genes and the environment, and that drugs like rapamycin may promote a longer lifespan. Perhaps we’ll know more from their lab’s Dog Aging Project.
What do you think is the secret to anti-aging? Share your answers in the comments section below!
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