Anti-ageing ‘mathematically impossible’, researchers say
30 Oct 2017
It is “mathematically impossible” to stop ageing in multicellular organisms like humans, according to new research by the University of Arizona (UA).
UA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, Joanna Masel, said “there's logically, theoretically, and mathematically no way out” [of the ageing process].
She said: “Ageing is mathematically inevitable – like, seriously inevitable.”
Masel and UA postdoctoral researcher Paul Nelson outlined their findings in a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
According to the researchers, two things happen to the body on a cellular level as it ages. First, the cells slow down and start to lose function, such as when your hair cells stop making pigment. Second, some cells increase their growth rate, which can cause cancer cells to form.
Nelson said: “As you age, most of your cells are losing function, and they stop growing. But some of your cells are growing like crazy. What we show is that this forms a double bind – a catch-22. If you get rid of those poorly functioning, sluggish cells, then that allows cancer cells to proliferate, and if you get rid of, or slow down, those cancer cells, then that allows sluggish cells to accumulate.
“So you’re stuck between allowing these sluggish cells to accumulate or allowing cancer cells to proliferate, and if you do one you can’t do the other. You can’t do them both at the same time.”
While Masel conceded that you can technically ‘slow down’ ageing – she says it cannot be stopped.
“Things will get worse over time, in one of these two ways or both: either all of your cells will continue to get more sluggish, or you'll get cancer. And the basic reason is that things break. It doesn't matter how much you try and stop them from breaking, you can’t.”
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