Mystery of ageing

Published On: November 10, 2019 02:00 AM NPT By: Narayan Man Shrestha

Though we generally take ageing as the signs exhibited during the old age, usually after our fifties, it actually starts immediately after we are born

After completing a gestational period of around nine months or 273 days, a human baby sees this world. This is the day when we celebrate our birthday with great zeal and happiness. People feel happy on their birthday, whereas, the fact is we are getting one year older on this day. And the bitter truth is still that with every passing second, we are nearing our inevitable end that is to say ‘death’. 

After we are born, as the years pass by, the symptoms of ageing begin to appear. Though, we generally take ageing as the signs exhibited during the old age, usually after our fifties, such as grey hair, wrinkled face and puffiness below eyes, weakness, painful movement, poor eyesight and hearing etc, ageing actually starts immediately after we are born. Ageing gradually starts as time passes and thus we enter various stages of life such as infancy, childhood, adulthood and old age which finally culminates into the ultimate and complete collapse. The death.

A lot of researches are being conducted in different gerontological institutes worldwide to unravel the secrets of the ageing mechanism. Few have arrived to conclusions as regards to reasonable answer to the question, “What actually happens to the young body as it skips into the old age?”

Among many others, one of the initial theories related to ageing suggests that ageing is primarily due to the wear and tear of the “telomeres”, which are the small portions of the chromosome tips. Chromosomes are the bearers of heredity as they carry genetic materials in the cell.  The cells have to keep dividing continuously and in this process, the chromosomes keep replicating which results in the loss of telomeres.  And it is this gradual removal of telomeres from the chromosomes that result into ageing. 

Another school of thought reveals the mystery of ageing in some other way. This second theory is of the view that an accumulation of error in the amino acid sequence during protein synthesis causes the ageing. Errors that affect the specificity of the enzymes required for protein synthesis especially will result in further errors, in the protein synthesis.

Glucose, which is the main respiratory substrate of the living cells, does combine with various proteins to produce small compounds called Advanced Glycosylation End products (AGEs).  AGEs are substances that are commonly found in food, particularly meat, and can hasten vascular disease. High temperature during cooking food sets off a chemical reaction in food creating AGEs. The third theory suggests that these complex molecule AGEs harm all other cellular components, making the tissues stiff, inelastic and sticky. Additionally, AGEs are instrumental in reducing the cellular abilities to replicate and repair.

Yet another compliable theory states that certain naturally producing free radicals, which are highly unstable molecular fragments, operate oxidative reactions which lead to degeneration of collagen, elastin, lipids and other body substances and may result into ageing. Furthermore, certain free radicals attack specifically on unsaturated lipids making up cell membranes and this may seriously impede the diffusion of nutrients in the cell and exit of waste products out of the cell. This might cause cell death and consequently ageing.

It has also been speculated that as a person gets older, his/her immune system becomes unable to distinguish “self” from “non-self” and consequently results into the destruction of normal  and  desirable proteins of the body, thus leading to ageing. In total, ageing can be defined as the process programmed by the action of switch “on and off” mechanism that occurs in the genetic machinery of the cell.

It would be certainly a mesmerizing scientific victory for mankind to be able to slow down or altogether stop the process of ageing.  Until any other marvellous  discovery happens it would not be ignorant  to accept the natural phenomena like mild  exercise or Yoga, consuming fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins C and E which might lead to healthier and longer life.

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