Scientists, philosophers and theologians argued about this for thousands years now. We are not interested in getting into that kind of argument. We just want to know what effects the aging process has on living things; thus, we should only pay attention to four important life processes:
1. Morphogenesis -- How does a single cell grow into a very complicated life form from an identical cell replication process? This question holds the key to how an organ re-generates itself and why an organ de-generates.
2. Metabolism -- How does a life form know how much food to take in and how much body weight it should maintain?
3. Re-production -- Why does a life form reproduce? How does it go about reproduction? Why are there sexes? What is the price a life must pay for the reproduction?
4. Aging (death) process -- Why must a life form age? Where is the age clock located?
When we know about these four issues, we know about aging process, and we know how to fight against it. First, let's discover three facts about lives.
* Although there are millions different kinds of biological life on earth, there is only one set of molecules of life (amino acids, nucleotides, etc.).
* All lives speak the same language. DNA language has only four letters: A, Adenine; G, Guanine; T, Thymine; C, Cytosine. In other words, all lives are singing their own life song with four universal notes, or painting their self-portrait with four universal colors.
In addition to the DNA language, lives have an auxiliary language, the protein language, and it has only twenty-some letters. The DNA language controls the process of morphogenesis and of reproduction; the protein language controls the process of metabolism.
* Before 1995, no one knew that how and where the book of aging was written and with what kind of language.
The discovery of the aging language, the biological clock:
1. Force of death:
All known lives must die, and it is a fact of phenomena. This is a phenomenon that was understood only partially. For a complex life form, such as a mammal, it needs tremendous amount of energy to maintain its order (the orderly form) as the Second Law of Thermodynamics demands the degeneration of that order constantly and perpetually. When a life can no longer maintain its orderly form, it degenerates and easily becomes the prey of disease.
But, why is the life force able to fight against this force of death for 10 years, 100 years or even 1000 years, yet must lose the battle at the end?
2. A simpler question:
Can a simplest life form, such as a single "cell" organism replicates itself perpetually? If the answer is Yes, then death and aging is not a must or a given but is a problem which we must deal with. In 1930s, an experiment was designed for this question.
* Step one: A single cell organism was grown in a dish.
* Step two: When this single cell filled up the entire dish by replication, that dish was divided into two dishes. The first dish was called First Generation. The two new dishes were called Second Generation.
* Step three: When the two dishes were filled up, they were divided into 4 dishes. This becomes Third Generation.
* Step four: Repeats the step three to produce the Fourth, Fifth, ..., nth Generation.
The result of this very simple experiment bewildered the scientific community for 60 years. No cell of any kind was able to stay alive beyond 50 generations. Why? No one knew why before mid-1990s. However, with this experimental fact, scientists were able to calculate the upper limit of lifespan for many lives. If human cells can survive to 50 generations, a human's life span should reach 600 years. That is, most of us gets only 14% (about 80 years) of our potential.
Note: see appendix one for this calculation.
3. The discovery of Cell Age Marker:
In mid-1990s, a sheep "Dolly" was cloned from a cell of a six year old sheep. Much to the surprise of scientists, this new born baby Dolly showed many signs biologically of a six year old. That is, not only the mother donor was six years old, but her cell was also six years old. Cells have age too! But, how? How does a cell keep its age?
So, what is aging? What causes aging?
A system (such as, lung, heart, kidney, etc.) can degenerate. This degeneration causes aging, and it is understood.
But, a cell does not degenerate. It either lives or dies. The major portion of a cell is DNA. When DNA changes, it becomes a new kind of cell, such as a cancer cell.
If cell has age, it must carry an Age Marker. But, where? Obviously, it cannot be carried by DNA. Age Marker, by definition, must change with time, while DNA can never be changed in any way as its main function is to maintain the identity of that life form. A change of DNA creates a new life form. However, this Cell Age Marker cannot be outside the chromosome either, as only the chromosomes were precisely duplicated during the cell replication process while the other part of cell was randomly divided.
In 1970s, scientists discovered that a chromosome has a "Tail" which carries no DNA. Then, everyone thought that Tail was a useless baggage, an appendage.
Now, in 2000s, we know that that Tail is the cell Age Marker. It shortens a bit with each cell replication. That is, chromosome does change with each replication while DNA does not change. When that Tail shortens to a certain length, that cell can no longer replicate. When most cells of a live system can no longer replicate, that system will very soon cease to function.
Copyright © 2005 by Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong
Anti-aging and Body meridians