Geroscience: the science related to aging


Benefits: Senior citizens will greatly benefit from exercise and thus inhibit the aging-associated enzyme (gerozyme)
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Dr Daniel Belsky, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, New York (my Alma Mater), has coined the term ‘geroscience’, meaning geriatric, or related to age. Here, he has devised a novel blood test which determines the pace at which a person is aging. His group has devised a method which studies the formation of methyl groups through an enzyme in the DNA of senior citizens and finds that this methylation is sensitive to aging. This is often referred to as ‘gerozyme’.

Several groups are working on drugs and other related methods to modulate the gerozyme, and how these efforts affect his/her aging. One group has suggested the drug called metformin is a tool to target aging (Cell Metabolism, vol.23, June 14, 2016). Another group has shown that if we inhibit the enzyme TORC1, it will enhance immunity and reduce infection in the elderly. More recently, Mannick et al, in a paper in Nature Aging (2023) have reviewed the effects of the drug rapamycin on the longevity and survival of animal models of human diseases, and how we may make the drug’s inhibitors a part of the standard of care for diseases of aging. Dr Belsky’s group had also studied the levels of DNA methylation in people across the socio-economical background (poor-rich, rural-urban) and finds that socio-economic disadvantage has a role to play.

The Columbia Aging Centre has found that a balanced diet supports brain health by reducing inflammation, promotes proper blood flow by supplying essential nutrients which aid cognitive function. And the website elaborates on this and states that healthy sources of proteins, healthy fats, and foods rich in antioxidants, such as healthy fats, vegetables, foods rich in oils, and plenty of fruits help in supporting healthy aging. This is of particular value to us in India, since the number of people above the age of 60 years is about 10 crores (out of a total population of 143 crores). suggests that proteins (animal and vegetable), nutritive grains (wheat, rice, ragi, bajra), oils, fruits and soft drinks help in healthy aging. These are easily available, both for meat eaters and vegetarians.

Inhibited by exercise

Researchers at Stanford University have found that a drug which can boost strength in injured or aging mice restores connections between nerves and muscle fibres. This drug blocks the activity of an aging-associated gerozyme called 15-PGDH which naturally increases in muscles with age and in neuromuscular disease. But with this drug, aging mice become physically active again. Mayo Clinic in Minnesota offers seven benefits of regular physical activity. These are: controls weight; combats health conditions and diseases like stroke, high blood pressure, type 2, diabetes, and cancer; improves your mood; boosts energy; enables better sleep; better sex life; and finally, it can be fun and social such as meeting, walking, or playing with others. All of us, particularly senior citizens, will greatly benefit by exercise, and thus inhibit the gerozyme.

Music may even modulate gerozyme and be a cure for dementia!

In 2020, a group from Toledo in Spain published a paper which concluded that music can be a powerful treatment strategy for dementia. And more recently, another group, again from Spain, has a paper titled: Music compensates for altered gene expression in age-related cognitive disorders. In effect, the paper suggests that music can modulate our gerozyme. So, friends! Sing a song or turn the music on!


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