When it comes to genes and aging, it has the ability to spur a lot of debate. There are some families where people tend to age without any health issues and therefore, live long, while there are other families where members tend to get health related problems as they age and this had a negative effect on the longevity. This often raises a question whether aging is part of a person’s genes. Or, it is because members of a family tend to have similar habits, lifestyle choices and behaviors?
Studying aging and genes is actually quite difficult due to different variables. Furthermore, such a study will take too long to compile relevant data. However, the aging process has been studied in worms, nematodes to be more precise. Researchers like to use nematodes to study the connection between genes and the aging process because these worms do not have a long life span. Hence, they can easily see the connection, if any.
When it comes to research on aging, researchers tend to study both chronological age and physiological age. So a person can be older in terms of chronological age, and the physiological age of the body or the way the body functions could be like that of a younger person or an older person. Trying to understand the process of physiological aging in humans is difficult, but that of nematodes is quite simple.
Aging and Genes in Nematodes
In order to collect information on the aging process in nematodes, researchers put the worms in different situations to get a response. Based on the response, researchers were able to measure the speed, dexterity and other behavioral responses. Over time, researchers had sufficient data which was able to tell them how older and elderly nematodes reacted in various situations that were not always the safest. Thereafter, researchers spent time studying the DNA of the nematodes and correlated it with the responses. After some time, just by looking at the genes, researchers were able to predict the chronological as well as physiological age of nematodes; and 70 percent of the times they were right.
Are Genes Responsible for Aging In Humans Too?
The nematodes that were studies were grown in controlled environment in a lab and they are also extremely simple organisms that lack complexities that human genes and DNA have. So, if the same process would have to be used on humans, people would have to be kept in a controlled environment and based on the way they age, researchers would be able to determine which are the best genes to slow the aging process for that particular environment. However, this is not possible in reality.
Humans live in a varied environment and this has an effect on their longevity and aging process. Some people can have genes for cholesterol or heart disease, but they are not exposed to poor diet and lifestyle habits, they will not develop the disease. On the other hand, if they are exposed, they will end up developing the disease and this will have an effect on the aging process and longevity.
Humans and the Genetics of Aging
Humans have to understand that if they are genetically predisposed to diseases and age-related problems, they should try to make adjustments in the lifestyle habits and environment, so that the diseases do not manifest themselves. Basically, humans can just take steps to minimize their risk by making adjustments for the bad genes they have inherited. This involves making major lifestyle changes, eating healthily and doing regular exercise. We can change the environment we live in, but we cannot alter our genes. So making lifestyle changes is the best solution to slow down the aging process and reduce the chances of getting age-related ailments when you are genetically predisposed to them.
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