Scientists are starting to reconsider our major preconception about aging. Is it really a natural phenomenon or a disease that could be treated?
It may be helpful to remember that under this question are a lot of factors. For instance, is aging really just a natural process that we should recognize? Why then are we so focused on creating technologies that will reverse its effects?
Philosophers have regarded aging as one of the reasons why we are afraid of death, and it has led to quite a lot of lessons about “cherishing life” and “making every moment count.”
However, the biomedical community seems to be on the verge of rethinking their stance on the matter.
Cambridge University’s Aubrey de Grey has pondered the question for a while. A trained computer scientist and a self-taught biologist and gerontologist, de Grey has been trying to reframe our mentality about aging.
In an article by Scientist, De Grey said it may be time to consider aging as a pathologic process, as in one like cancer and diabetes that can be “treated.”
It is important to remember that “aging” is the term we use to describe the changes our bodies undergo over time. The early changes are good as we develop stronger muscles and better reflexes. However, our problems begin when we start getting thinner hair and weaker resistances. Not to mention, the human body has different parts that develop at different paces.
Any wrong move in the pacing of the growth of our body results to diseases. For instance, while lipids are a natural part of our diet, too much of it will make our blood vessels harden and narrow, leading to heart attacks.
De Grey said we can (and we should) view aging as something that could be prevented. A team of scientists also share this belief.
In their paper published in Frontiers in Genetics, scientists Sven Bulterijs, Raphaella Hull, Victor Bjork, and Avi Roy believe that a lot of diseases that affect us over time are caused by aging.
Diseases such as the Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria syndrome, Werner syndrome, and Dyskeratosis Congenita are considered diseases that affect teenagers and young adults. However, they are considered normal and unworthy of attention when they are seen in older people.
Interestingly, common bodily afflictions that come with aging such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, dementia, and sarcopenia are all considered “diseases.” What makes aging different?
And while some consider the debate as something purely semantic, as in the way in which we define certain terms, there are “benefits” for such a label.
For instance, labeling aging as a disease will better help physicians make more medical efforts to remove and treat conditions associated with aging that we normally ignore. Calling something a disease will merit some form of commitment to medical intervention.