Molecular mishaps and aging … We were researching what science thought of some of the odd aspects of Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten. (You know, the “first monotheist.”) Questions such as whether Akhenaten’s unique features were “programmed” or the result of damage to DNA. All this led us to “biogerontology” — i.e. aging science. Talk about “the deep end of the pool.”
The bad news: people over 65 years of age, now outnumber those less than 5 years old.
No need to point fingers, but if you think about that factoid, it is shocking. Of course, as science improves, life spans get longer so maybe that data is inevitable. But still… The good news 1) University of Texas scientists stored the entire Wizard of Oz on DNA strands; 2) places like the University of Copenhagen are looking seriously at aging and making some progress. On the molecular level, DNA, and more, the Danish are working hard. Molecular aging research is however yielding results that not everyone wants to hear. Like if you are male, decay starts at 30 and basically accelerates. Ooowee…
Much research on aging concentrates on older persons. But aging begins in a period where people are quite vibrant, and in fact, studies have relevance throughout the age spectrum. Molecular mishaps and aging play a role in entropy, which is an even bigger topic. — But science is more concerned about specific particle-level decay, molecular mishaps, DNA damage, how these work, and what can be done about them.
Wildsam Field Guides review in Wharf 21.
So this is where these studies get interesting. It’s not just “molecular aging.” And, we don’t know whether pathologies and cell failure occur because of toxins and other damage (“mishaps”), are more central than more programmatic biological degradation.
In general, the biochemical and physics-level degradation, entropy, and disordering act to disrupt. Motor proteins such as helicases are biologically prominent. Enzymatic and dynamic, helicases effect DNA-level production. They appear essential to the biochemical model on which humans are built.
Helicases are enzymes that unpack DNA — they are the moving crew. It is very precise and very specific. Because the task and the enzyme act this way, they attract attention in labs and studies…
We want to learn more about the molecular basis of aging, but in the meantime, here are some books on Egypt and Akhenaton.