Sunday, August 29, 2010

Methuselah's nemesis

I recently watched the movie 'Paa' which introduced to me the affliction known as 'Progeria'

The disease is known to be caused by a mutation in the genes, and has the consequence of causing premature/rapid aging of body of the person afflicted by it. Those so afflicted do not live to age much more than 13 or 14 years. Although the body and various organs age rapidly, the affliction does not afflict brain cells. In a sense, the disease steals the childhood of little ones by making it impossible for them to indulge in the rough and tumble they would be up to if not for such fears as brittle bones, asthma/exertion/heart trouble...most of the ailments that go with old age.

As bad as the disease is, the fact that we know why how it happens is reason for good cheer. The immediate reason, of course, is the fact that if we (I mean, our scientists :) )know how it happens we can probably figure out what to do to cure it. The less immediate reason is because the ... knowledge of how our bodies control aging might be applied elsewhere too.

I'm not a doctor or geneticist, but I wonder whether this knowledge might be applied ( for instance ) to

  • Grow a clone to physical maturity at an accelerated rate, and then revert the accelerated rate to normal?

  • With all this debate in progress about the Synthetic Self-replicating cell created by J Craig Venter Institute could the knowledge of aging be used to ensure the cell, and it's progeny age prematurely as a built-in damage control mechanism

Sort-of like a biological switch marked 'Aging Rate 2x', except that a biological switch is more complex than a mechanical/electrical one, and probably works differently too!

Thoughts, people?