Better Than An Anti-Aging Drug: Your Own Genetics

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We’ve spent many research dollars looking for anti-aging drugs that work.

For millennia, humans have been interested in anything that could slow down the aging process or even turn it around entirely. Mythology is full of stories of magical beings that could grant a wish to never die, and the hunt for the Fountain of Youth has been going on for centuries.

But increasingly, research is pointing to one thing as the ultimate answer to our aging problem: our own genes.

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In this article:

  1. What Causes Aging?
  2. Understanding Gene Expression
  3. DNA Methylation
  4. Better Than an Anti-Aging Drug: Your Genes
  5. The Progress so Far
  6. Understanding Cancers
  7. Understanding Lifestyle Influence
  8. The Next Steps

Your Genes as the One Answer Against Aging

What Causes Aging?

Aging is characterized by many unwanted physical changes.

Our skin becomes less elastic and more wrinkled. We find it harder to keep muscle and easier to put on weight.

We don’t sleep as well, feel tired more often, can’t remember things, and start having issues with joints and blood pressure. Many people develop cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.

We generally accept that these are normal parts of the aging process.

But what’s behind them all?

It turns out that every one of the issues we associate with aging is caused by some kind of modification in our DNA. In fact, a recent study published in the Impact Journal on Aging identified several thousand genes associated with the aging process in people between the age of 70 and 76, either by increased or decreased gene expression.

Understanding Gene Expression

The genetic information our cells use to function is encoded in our DNA, but not every bit of that coding gets used.

Some DNA sequences are not active until something affects them. Others are trying to express but are blocked by something.

Sometimes, genes produce a characteristic only sporadically or weakly. Gene expression refers to whether or not a gene’s code is actually being used.

Many things can block or facilitate our gene expression. Most commonly, they’re affected by hormones, growth factors, or enzymes our bodies create themselves, but they can also be affected by outside environmental factors.

Some of the diseases and disorders associated with aging are caused when a block stops our genes from expressing what we need. Other times, they are caused when something turns a gene “on,” and it begins creating what we don’t want.

DNA Methylation

What is DNA Methylation? The addition of a methyl group to DNA, modifying DNA expression and function

DNA methylation is a key factor in gene expression. For a gene to activate a process, it must make a transcription of itself and send it on to the relevant cells, who will use this transcripted code to build a particular protein.

For this process to start, a transcription protein must attach to the DNA sequence in question. In DNA methylation, enzymes are attaching methyl groups to DNA molecules where the transcription protein is meant to go, blocking transcription entirely.

DNA methylation is something we can measure, and the volume of methylation in a person is an excellent indicator of biological age.

Methylation itself is controlled by DNA transcription, but while other genetic regulation processes often get lost in the shuffle when you copy DNA, methylation patterns tend to replicate very well in the copies. That means DNA methylation patterns are easy for parents to pass on to their children.

DNA methylation is also very responsive to diet, stress, exposure to pollution and toxins, radiation, and other environmental factors.

Better Than an Anti-Aging Drug: Your Genes

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Anti-aging drugs are about fighting back against the symptoms of aging. While that can make things better for some people in some ways, what if we could actually control the source of those symptoms: our genes?

As we learn better which genes are responsible for the various aspects of aging, we’re learning that it may be possible to turn them on, shut them off, or modify their expression. If we can do that, we can truly control the aging process.

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The Progress so Far

The science of epigenetics is still in its early stages in many ways, but there’s already been significant progress in understanding how to modify gene expression to promote longevity and better health.

What is Epigenetics? The study of gene regulation and expression

Understanding Cancers

When a tumor develops, it does so because certain cells are experiencing uncontrolled growth. That’s because something has turned off the tumor suppression genes while leaving on the oncogenes, or genes that promote cell division.

Normally, these two genes keep one another in balance, but when cells start dividing out of control, tumor growth is the result.

In many cases, this happens because a person inherits a particular DNA methylation pattern that could affect tumor suppression and gene expression. This puts them at greater risk for cancer than their peers.

We’re now aggressively researching the connection in an attempt to understand better how to change this gene expression, and studies in animal models show promise.

Understanding Lifestyle Influence

We’ve long known that factors like diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices like nicotine use affect DNA expression. In general, people who eat well, exercise regularly, and avoid nicotine, environmental toxins, and excess alcohol tend to live longer and healthier lives; but our understanding is now going even deeper.

Studies have found that rats with caring mothers—mothers who paid close attention to their offspring—were calmer as adults than other rats. Brain tissue analysis showed that the rats cared for by their mothers had undergone DNA methylation changes in their brain cells, indicating that even as simple an environmental factor as to how attentive a mother is to her offspring can have long-term epigenetic effects.

Studies of pregnant women who have endured famine show DNA methylation in their children that causes them to be more likely to be obese and develop coronary diseases than the children of well-fed mothers. These studies and more are building the foundation of epigenetic research and showing that controlling our genetic expression will have more powerful effects than any drugs.

The Next Steps

Scientific revolution always begins with information, and in many ways, we are still in the information-gathering stage. But the future is promising, and there are already treatments, like NR supplementation, that have been shown to be effective in promoting healthier gene expression.

Stick with TruDiagnostic and keep up with all the latest news and science in the exciting field of epigenetics.

What do you think of this anti-aging drug? What steps are you taking to age gracefully? Share it with us in the comments section below.