Hot Damn, Larry Niven was Right!

In "A World Out of Time", Larry Niven wrapped quite a few unresolved scientific theories into an interesting bundle of a story. Not all of it has turned out to be true, such as RNA memory transfer. Also, it will be a while before we can actually prove whether circling a starship around a black hole will slow down its local time relative to the rest of the Universe and effectively travel forward in time. (Yes, I know, current research backs this theory; but it is something else to orbit a black hole and return in actuality.) Then there were the two different approaches to longevity that are proposed in "A World Out of Time". One involved freezing a person's endocrine system in their pre-pubescent years, which sounds pretty damn boring to me... spending eternity locked in a child's body. Blech! The other theory, the one that looked like it was going to prove false with all the research regarding the role of telomeres in aging, seems like it just might be panning out: Cellular aging is (at least partially) a result of 'garbage' proteins building up in cells and can be reduced, if not eliminated, by cleaning these proteins out of the cell. Of course, this current research project used something a little more mundane that transmat (matter transfer) booths specifically tuned for these proteins; but the result is no less cool!

Follow the link for the article in all its coolness:

Scientists stop the ageing process ABC News in Science
[snip]

"Many of these diseases are due to 'misbehaving' or damaged proteins that accumulate in neurons. By preventing this decline in protein clearance, we may be able to keep these people free of symptoms for a longer time."

If the body's ability to dispose of cell debris within the cell were enhanced across a wider range of tissues, she says, it could extend life as well.

In healthy organisms, a surveillance system inside cells called chaperone-mediated autophagy CMA locates, digests and destroys damaged proteins.

Specialised molecules, the "chaperones", ferry the harmful material to membrane-bound sacs of enzymes within the cells known as lysosomes.

Once the cargo has been "docked", a receptor molecule transfers the protein into the sac, where it is rapidly digested.

With age, these receptors stop working as well, resulting in a dangerous build-up of faulty proteins that has been linked, in the liver, to insulin resistance as well as the inability to metabolise sugar, fats or alcohol.

The same breakdown of the cell's cleaning machinery can also impair the liver's ability to remove the toxic build-up of drugs at a stage in life when medication is often part of daily diet.

In genetically modified mice, Cuervo compensated for the loss of the receptors in the animals by adding extra copies.

"That was enough to maintain a clean liver and to prove that if you keep your cells clean they work better," she says.

[snip]

Sure, it took genetic engineering to make these mice livers stay young; and that isn't practical for us pre-built human beings. The neat thing is, having isolated that this particular chemical process, perhaps a 'rejuvenation' technique can be developed for the receptors. Even if this therapy doesn't work on all cells and organs, I sure wouldn't mind a once a week pill I could take that would help me maintain the liver of a twenty year old! he he ha ha ho ho

-Chris

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