Ageing is a primary risk factor for major human pathologies; it is a process intimately related to the life span whose delay could help us to understand and combat diseases such as cancer, diabetes or Alzheimer’s. This is one of the conclusions of the study The Hallmarks of Aging -a review that describes for the first time all the molecular indicators of ageing in mammals- which has just been recognised as one of the best and more relevant scientific articles of 2013, according to the journal Cell: Spanish Scientist publish in "Cell" the Hallmarks of Aging.
It is a revision written by the Director of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), Maria Blasco, along with Manuel Serrano, one of the Centre’s researchers, Carlos López-Otín, from the University of Oviedo, Linda Partridge from the University College of London, and Guido Kroemer from the University of Paris Descartes.
In their article, the researchers define what they call “the primary causes of ageing”. There are four of them: genomic instability, the shortening of telomeres, epigenetic alterations and the imbalance between the rates of synthesis and degradation of proteins. The study also points out some of the factors on which we can act upon in order to prolong life, and discusses the myths related to antioxidants and ageing.
According to the publishers of the journal, the Best of Cell Collection is a look at the best moments of the year, and in the presentation it celebrates: “the increase in the number of published papers that have direct relevance on the different aspects of human biology.”
In this sense, the Hallmarks of Aging argues that understanding and fighting ageing also means fighting cancer and other diseases that have a higher incidence in the developed world. The relationship is clear: ageing is a result of the accumulation of different types of cell damage throughout life, and that process is also the origin of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular illness and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer.
“We have shown in mice that activating a single gene can be used to delay several diseases associated with ageing; this demonstrates that these diseases have a common molecular cause,” states Blasco.
With regard to the possibilities of extending longevity in humans, Serrano points out that "we are still far from slowing the ageing process in humans, but this is quite normal for researchers who work with other mammals, such as mice, which are not so different in their basic biological principles."
The Hallmarks of Aging. Carlos López Otín, Maria A. Blasco, Linda Partridge, Manuel Serrano, Guido Kroemer. Cell (2013). doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.039