Theories Of Aging -- Which Is Correct?
In 1882 a German scientist named Dr. August Weismann introduced the "Wear and Tear" theory. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution it seemed natural to compare the human body to a machine. Machines wear our over time. So do our bodies.
We can take care of our bodies to make them last longer, just as we can keep our machines greased and oiled and tuned and regulated.
Some people overuse and abuse their bodies and therefore die faster, just as machines die from overuse or neglect that lets them rust.
Fortunately, however, unlike machines, our bodies are capable of growth and self-renewal. So the question becomes why, over time, do our bodies stop regenerating themselves in a youthful way.
Vladimir Dilman Ph.D came up with the Neuroendocrine Theory. This states that we age as our bodies produce fewer hormones such as DHEA, testosterone, melatonin, human growth hormone and thyroid hormone. And injections of these into the elderly brings back much of their youth. But why do our glands slow down their production of these hormones?
The Genetic Control Theory holds that we age because there's no evolutionary point in people living past the age of reproduction plus enough years to take care of our children. However, women can no longer reproduce after menopause. And men can reproduce until their testicles give out. Yet despite that, women live longer than men.
In 1954 R. Gerschman introduced the free radical theory. Free radicals molecules with an extra electron. This makes them attach themselves to other molecules to steal their electrons, so the free radical is in balance. This damages the molecule that had one of its electrons stolen. This sounds silly but it quite important on the bio-chemical level.
Free radicals attack the structure of cell membranes. They disturb DNA and RNA synthesis, interfering with the healthy function of our cells. They destroy cellual enzymes, then interfering with our metabolisms. Over time this damage builds up. Cells are damaged. Some cells go mutant and become cancerous.
Our bodies naturally produce free radicals through burning oxygen for energy and digesting food. Our bodies can cope with the normal processes. However, stress, toxins, injuries and other damage to the body can create an excess of free radicals.
One interesting theory is the Telomere Theory. A telomere is sequence of nucleic acids extending from the end of a chromosome. They help to improve the integrity of the chromosome when the cell reproduces. Every time the cell reproduces, the telemere "tail" grows a little shorter. When we run out of telomeres, we age and die.
There is an enzyme called telomerase that actually lengths telomeres. If we can learn how to use telomerase to keep our telomeres at the same length they are at age 25, in theory we may remain biologically 25.
My own belief is that most theories of aging have some truth. We age and die for many interrelated reasons.
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