The quest for ageless beauty – it’s a driving force in Western culture giving rise to a trillion dollar a year industry.
In the not so recent past, however, most anti-aging treatments have been “skin deep” - topical treatments, cosmetic in nature, consisting potions and lotions, ointments and balms - not to mention the more invasive anti-aging therapies, like Botox injections and collagen implants - even plastic surgery.
But doctors say while those treatments may help you look, and even feel younger, the aging process continues non-stop. They say it’s all part of a natural process which has seemed irreversible, until now.
The Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Robert Caselli is an expert in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. He says recent discoveries involving chromosomes in mice offer a tantalizing glimpse at a future where the aging process is slowed, or perhaps, one day, even reversed.
That day is still a long way off, but by understanding how mice age, humans surely stand to benefit.
“The hope of longevity studies is to try and find a way to prolong healthy years, so we push our age limits up,” Dr. Caselli says. He believes the recent discoveries will pave the way for even greater understanding that will hopefully achieve that goal.
The discovery in mice involves tiny genetic structures known as telomeres. Dr. Caselli says telomeres look like tiny caps at the tip of the chromosome. In young people, the telomeres appear long and healthy, but as we grow older the telomeres become frayed and damaged. As they begin to unravel, the aging process accelerates, resulting in things like hearing and memory loss.
Researchers studying mice discovered an enzyme called telomerase. It seems to reverse that process. When introduced to the mice’s telomere sites, the genetic structures appear revitalized. Mice which were once decrepit and doddering suddenly experienced a return in muscle tone and overall agility. Even their fur, which was gray and balding, began to grow back and returned to is normal, dark brown color.
Perhaps most dramatic, however, was an increase in the mice’s brain size. Once the telomeres were switched back on, mice suffering from a form of dementia had their brain function return to normal. The aging process had been reversed.
So, now the big question. What does this mean for human health? Doctors aren’t the only ones anxious to find out. Since the dramatic discovery the cosmetic industry has scrambled to develop new therapies. Untold millions have been spent in the creation of new product lines, designed to enhance, protect and lengthen telomeres.
To what degree they work is the subject of debate, but the newly designed treatments are growing in popularity. Those who research, manufacture and sell the products, say their clients often see striking results.
Dannielle Marcelino is a Senior Medical Aesthetician for the Suddenly Slimmer Med Spa and Salon in Phoenix. She says new skin treatments utilizing “telomere therapies” appear to be turning back the clock for many of her clients.
“They have tighter, firmer skin, a reduction of lines and wrinkles and overall softer skin,” Marcellino said. She also says the results take weeks rather than months. “With some telomere based treatments, you can see a difference after just two weeks. It’s a matter of getting in there and stimulating the telomere.”
In Glendale, at the Athena Salon and Day Spa, the story is much the same. Owner Natasha Wallace says treatments designed to protect the DNA in skin cells work “hand-in-hand” with more conventional anti-aging therapies and that as new treatments evolve, so will the services they provide their clients.
While doctors say the verdict is still out on whether or not these health and beauty products have a lasting effect, social media is loaded with discussions about the telomere research.
One thing researchers have discovered is that traditional anti-aging regimens involving healthful diets and exercise have a direct impact on telomere length and also roll back the aging process.
And while some researchers say they expect human life span to significantly increase due to telomere studies, Dr. Caselli says not only should people embrace the aesthetics of growing old, they should also realize, the older you get, the more that goes wrong.
In short, no one here gets out alive.
“If the thunder doesn’t get you, the lightning will.”
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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