Aging is part of life. But why do some organisms age more slowly than others? What happens in our bodies when we age? Which cellular processes control aging? And: Can we slow down aging by specifically intervening in these processes?
What is aging?
Aging is the progressive loss of our physical health over time. This deterioration eventually ends in death. In addition, aging is the major risk factor for countless human diseases, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and nervous system disorders.
Why do we age?
In 2013, a study on the 9 hallmarks of aging (Hallmarks of Aging) was published. Since 2023 there has been an update and the original 9 Hallmarks of Ageing have been expanded by 3 more. To date, the article is considered the key contribution in longevity research par excellence. Here we would like to present the 9 hallmarks of old age:
1. genomic instability.
As we age, our DNA becomes damaged. Damaged DNA can lead to defective cell function, this affects the function of our tissues and organs.
2. telomere wear and tear
As we age, the ends of DNA, the telomeres, become shorter. When a certain minimum length is reached, the cell becomes inactive and stops dividing. Such cells can die or cause inflammation, which accelerates the aging process and triggers disease.
3. epigenetic changes
In the course of aging, the epigenome gets - the molecular structure that controls the activity of our genes. - becomes unbalanced. This leads to certain genes being switched off when they should be on, and vice versa.
4. loss of proteostasis (maintenance of proteins).
Proteins and enzymes control all chemical reactions in cells. As we age, our proteins become damaged; they can no longer do their normal job. They tend to clump together, which can have a toxic effect on our cells. Alzheimer's, for example, is an age-related disease caused by damaged proteins.
5. deregulated nutrient sensitivity
As we age, our cells become less responsive to nutrient signals. This impairs the cells' ability to use and produce energy. This can lead to decreased energy and metabolic dysfunction.
6. mitochondiral dysfunction
As we age, the mitochondria. - the power plants of our cells - become non-functional. Without sufficient energy, the cells can - and thus also the organs - no longer work as well as they did when they were young.
7. cellular senescence (zombie cells).
Cells that no longer divide become senescent cells. They no longer perform a function, but they also do not die. They release harmful molecules into their environment that negatively affect other cells. Therefore, they are also called zombie cells. There are several reasons for cellular senescence. Among them are shortening of telomeres and damage to DNA.
8. exhaustion of stem cells
As we age, our stem cells become non-functional or die. Stem cells are present in almost every tissue. They are responsible for renewing tissues and organs and repairing damage. Therefore, a lower number or dysfunction of stem cells causes our tissues to renew less well and be poorly maintained.
9. altered intercellular communication
As we age, cell signals and the ability of recipient cells to respond to those signals change. This impaired communication leads to problems such as chronic tissue inflammation as well as the failure of the immune system to recognize and eliminate pathogens or defective cells, increasing susceptibility to infection and cancer.
10. deactivated macroautophagy
Macroautophagy insufficiency occurs when the body's cells are unable to perform cellular self-cleaning, known as autophagy. This leads to the accumulation of damaged or dysfunctional cellular components and is associated with cancer, metabolic and neurological disorders.
11. chronic inflammation
Inflammation is a chronic, low-grade inflammatory state that occurs as part of aging (also called "inflammaging") and can be influenced by lifestyle factors. It can contribute to age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders.
12. microbiome dysbiosis
Dysbiosis is a disruption of the normal microbial community that inhabits an environment like our gut. It can lead to digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, and increased risk for infections and chronic diseases.
How can I slow down the aging of my body?
We can counteract the hallmarks of aging by adopting a healthy lifestyle. For example, fasting helps eliminate zombie cells. But also dietary supplements like Zell Boost or Kollagen Plus, help us to positively influence the aging process.