You Can’t Win

An item in yesterday’s New York Times reported a somewhat dispiriting result on the anti-aging front. (This is a subject that seems to attract my attention more and more as time goes by, for some reason, and particularly so this week, when I feel as though I am aging about 48 hours each day, with about 90% of it happening at seven a.m. when the alarm goes off). Apparently a troika of researchers at the University of North Carolina, the University of Michigan (go blue!), and Harvard have found that a gene called p16-Ink4a, in acting to prevent cancer, might be contributing to our senescence.

Here’s the idea. The regeneration of tissues is achieved by way of adult stem cells, but it doesn’t take so much for the division of these cells to start to go wrong, leading to the uncontrolled cell growth we call cancer. The longer you go, the more chance there is that such an error will occur, so as we get older the body begins to suppress the production of the protein – Ink4 – that keeps the stem cells in the youthful dividing phase. So it seems there is an unpleasant tradeoff here: either keep those cells dividing, with a rising risk of cancer, or gradually put on the brakes, and drive the body into decrepitude.

I am still confident that medical ingenuity will triumph, perhaps in my own lifetime, over senescence (not that such a victory would be without its own troublesome consequences), but this seems to be a bit of a setback. Read the Times story here, or read this article in Science.

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  1. the one eyed man says

    Now that I have crossed the fifty year threshold, had the colonoscopy, and received mail from AARP (how did they find me?), I figure that I should look forward to senescence and decrepitude and embrace both of them.

    I already have trouble remembering where I parked my car at the mall. I look forward to putting my pants on backwards, calling my wife by the name of my ex-girlfriend, and walking into the ladies room by mistake. Without realizing that I made a mistake.

    Posted September 8, 2006 at 8:57 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    They say first you forget names, then you forget faces, then you forget to pull up your zipper, then you forget to pull down your zipper…

    Posted September 8, 2006 at 11:09 pm | Permalink