I keep bringing stories like this up because the animal rights movement’s propaganda has seriously eroded the public’s support for animal research–not to the point that a majority oppose it–but the numbers should be limited to strict animal rightists, and it’s not. In any event, using genetically altered mice, scientists think they have found the cause of aging. From the story:
The Newcastle team, working with the University of Ulm in Germany, used a comprehensive “systems biology” approach, involving computer modelling and experiments with cell cultures and genetically modified mice, to investigate why cells become senescent. In this aged state, cells stop dividing and the tissues they make up show physical signs of deterioration, from wrinkling skin to a failing heart.
The research, published by the journal Molecular Systems Biology, shows that when an ageing cell detects serious damage to its DNA – caused by the wear and tear of life – it sends out specific internal signals. These distress signals trigger the cell’s mitochondria, its tiny energy-producing power packs, to make oxidising “free radical” molecules, which in turn tell the cell either to destroy itself or to stop dividing. The aim is to avoid the damaged DNA that causes cancer.
Huh, I thought this stuff never had an “aim.” But I digress. It seems from this story that aging is a by product of a fail safe process by which cells destroy themselves in order to prevent cancer, and eventually the “cure” produces the same result as the avoided disease–only much later.
Without animal research as part of the usual integrated scientific approach, this potentially crucial information just could not have been found, nor the beneficial medical products likely to flow from this basic life science discovery, ever developed.
Oh, and for you transhumanists that think this will lead to your living forever–sorry:
The answer is complex, and will not produce an elixir of eternal life in the foreseeable future.
But it could lead to better treatments to make our mortal lives more healthy and vigorous. Hurray.