The quest to slow down and finally stop aging is as old as human culture. However, according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, aging is inevitable and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Confirmed by mathematics.
Aging something is natural: human, fruit fly or lion. But that does not mean that we should like it. In fact, most consider aging undesirable, which is why scientists have been busy for centuries investigating methods to interfere with this process and keep us young for longer.
To investigate the possibility of this Holy Grail, several scientists put their mathematical minds to work and left the question: “Is it mathematically possible to prevent aging?”
With regard to our current understanding of the aging process, there is hope that we can, one day, lessen the negative cellular effects of time. One theoretical approach would be to somehow eliminate the “inactive” cells that are linked to aging while maintaining normal cells.
In theory, this sounds good. But as the experts explain, it’s not that simple. As we get older, some cells stop working; the hair cells soften, for example, causing hearing loss.
But at the other end of the scale of activity, some cells start working overtime. These unnecessarily occupied cells can become cancerous. And almost all of us, at some point in our lives, will develop cancer cells as we get older, even if they do not cause any problems.
“As you get older, most of your cells shrink and lose function, and they also stop growing, but some of your cells are growing crazy, what we show is that if you get rid of those inactive cells that are malfunctioning, then that allows the cancer cells to proliferate, and if you get rid of those cancer cells or slow them down, that allows the inactive cells to accumulate, “explains Paul Nelson, co-author of the work.
“We are caught between allowing these inactive cells to accumulate or allowing cancer cells to proliferate, and if you do one, you cannot do the other, you cannot do both at the same time,” says Nelson.
Thus, aging is an “incontrovertible truth” and “an intrinsic property of the multicellular being”.
The authors believe that evolution has not been able to overcome aging for the same reason that humans do not have lasers coming out of their eyeballs or the ability to cross walls: it simply is not possible.
According to mathematics, we can end up making things worse if we try to solve the problem of aging: “We have a mathematical proof of why it is impossible to solve both problems,” says Joanna Massel, co-author of the study.
As a result, science can slow down aging, but not stop it. “It’s something you have to deal with if you want to be a multicellular organism,” Nelson concludes.