Lifespan | David A. Sinclair

Summary of: Lifespan: The Revolutionary Science of Why We Ageand Why We Don’t Have to
By: David A. Sinclair

Introduction

Are you prepared to unlock the secret to a longer, healthier life? In ‘Lifespan: The Revolutionary Science of Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To,’ David A. Sinclair explores the complex world of genetics and aging. Within these pages, you’ll learn about the fascinating discovery that aging is actually a disease, one with symptoms, causes, and potentially a cure. This eye-opening book examines groundbreaking research and studies, shedding light on age-defying creatures and the genetic complexities behind human aging. With extensive analysis of existing anti-aging solutions, from diet to medicines, Sinclair offers a fresh and exciting look into the potential for humanity to tackle the challenge of aging and extend our vitality into old age.

Aging, The Cured Disease

In the past, flu, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gastrointestinal issues caused 50% of deaths in the US. Medical developments have hugely reduced these mortalities. So, what if we viewed aging as a disease – with issues such as organ failure, cognitive decline, and infections – that also has a root cause? Studies now reveal aging as a curable disease, with many recent discoveries paving the way for more effective treatments. Vaccines for SARS-CoV-2, if developed properly, could even push the boundaries in this area. By specifically targeting its cause, we could live longer with significantly better health and wellness for many years to come.

The Secret to Immortality

The freshwater polyp Hydra vulgaris has evolved to resist biological senescence, the cause of aging. This small water-dwelling organism shows no signs of aging when kept in lab conditions, making it intriguing to geneticists. Other creatures like the bristlecone tree, Greenland shark, and bowhead whale have also seemingly evolved to defy or significantly defer biological senescence. Humans have the potential to evolve in a similar way, given our genetic hardwiring. Scientists speculate that early cells all had two genes inside of them, gene A, a caretaker gene, and gene B, a silencing gene. Gene B eventually evolved to actively repair any damaged DNA within the cell before reproduction started up again. Humans exhibit a more evolved version of this survival circuit, to repair DNA and prevent the loss of genetic information that causes cells to stop replicating and contribute to the aging process. While we are hardwired to avoid senescence, the answer to why we aren’t immortal lies in the same survival circuit.

Aging and Cellular Information Loss

In “Information Theory of Aging,” the author suggests that the loss of cellular information causes aging. DNA repair processes are responsible for this loss as they may damage DNA while repairing it. This loss of vital information eventually leads to cellular dysfunction. The epigenome plays an equally important role in transmitting genetic information to our bodies. Gene marking is one of the epigenetic processes that contribute to information loss. Sirtuin genes are crucial in promoting vitality and extending lifespan. However, when they do not function correctly, they become unregulated agents contributing to aging. The loss of cellular information causes aging, and longevity genes such as sirtuin genes are essential in combating aging.

Pockets of Longevity

Geneticists have made great strides towards solving the puzzle of aging. Meanwhile, a phenomenon known as Blue Zones has been identified in various parts of the world. These zones are home to a remarkable number of 90-year-olds and centenarians who lead active, healthy lives. What is their secret? It turns out, there are a few things they all have in common. For one, they follow a predominantly plant-based diet low in animal protein. This type of diet delivers just enough amino acids to maintain healthy bodily functions and keeps the body under desirable stress to activate genes that promote cell vitality. They also restrict their caloric intake, sometimes through periods of fasting. Long-term calorie reduction may not be for everyone, but intermittent fasting can help achieve the desired effect of lowering the hormone IGF-1, associated with aging and disease. Understanding the secrets of Blue Zone residents may provide a roadmap to a longer, healthier life.

A World without Aging

Scientists have discovered potential life-extending compounds that may one day eradicate aging. From the humble soil bacteria to wildflowers, anti-aging remedies may come from nature. One of the potential cures is rapamycin, found in a bacterium species in Easter Island. Rapamycin has led to a life span extension in flies and mice. Research suggests that it inhibits mTOR, a gene that can promote cell growth but can lead cells to stop dividing when it goes rogue. Inhibiting mTOR may regulate cell activity, thus promoting longevity. Metformin, derived from wildflower goat’s rue, boosts energy activity in cells by activating AMPK, an enzyme that stimulates mitochondria, boosts energy production and cellular repair function. Metformin has also been found to reduce dementia, heart disease, and frailty. Scientists are also targeting senescent cells, or zombie cells, as part of their anti-aging research.

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