Why Do We Age?
In the eternal search for the Fountain of Youth, researchers at the University of Michigan were surprised to discover that being exposed to "oxidative stress" early in life may actually help fend off the ravages of age. The likelihood of a link between oxidative stress and aging has led to a plethora of antioxidant products such as dietary supplements and anti-aging creams, but the role of oxidative stress in aging is still controversial and the effectiveness of these antioxidants is debatable. But what if coping with oxidative stress early on could in and of itself help to make us more able to resist cell damage as the years go by?
In a paper to be published online July 19th 2012 in the journal Molecular Cell, UofM molecular biologist Ursula Jakob and colleagues report that this may indeed be the case. They base their assumptions on their study of C. elegans, the roundworm that is a venerable research animal. The team found that worms that were forced to deal with very high levels of reactive oxygen from the larval stage on through the rest of their lives were able to cope much better with reactive oxygen as they aged.
A release from the university quotes Jakob as saying, "Of course, we have no idea whether this is also the case in humans. However, there are some convincing studies conducted in mice which show that manipulating metabolism in the first few weeks of life can produce a substantial slowing of the aging process and increase in life span."
The next step is to discover the mechanism behind early oxidant accumulation and to explore the intriguing possibility that by manipulating these levels of reactive oxygen early in life, researchers could potentially affect the lifespan of the organisms, Jakob said.