JUST as a computer requires code to work, our bodies are regulated by molecular “programmes” that are written early in life and then have to do their job properly for a lifetime. But do they? It’s a question that has intrigued researchers for years.
Claes Wahlestedt, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and associate dean for therapeutic innovation at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is senior author of a new study. Longevity Related Molecular Pathways Are Subject to Midlife ‘Switch’ in Humans — published recently in Aging Cell.
Working with first author Dr Jamie Timmons of King’s College London and Stirling University Science Park, United Kingdom, and an international group of researchers on human aging, Wahlestedt made a striking observation: Key molecular programs known to promote longevity do not last beyond midlife.
The study provides a possible new reason why human disease burden increases so sharply from the sixth decade of life onward as health-protective mechanisms disappear.
Which raises the question: If one wishes to boost these established “anti-aging” programmes with drugs, nutrients, or lifestyle choices, is it too late to start by the time you reach your 60s? Possibly, said Wahlestedt, at least if you hope to benefit fully from such interventions.
“For over a decade, it has been clear that key biochemical events regulate the longevity of small short-lived animals such as worms, flies, and mice, but these mechanisms had not been observed to be active in humans,” Wahlestedt said.