Listen to article
Scientists may have discovered the secret of anti-aging. To simply put it, Alphaville’s wish to be “Forever Young” seems to have more chances of coming true, according to research.
It is always great to look 25 at 52. Most people want to say their age in a room and watch eyes bulge in a mixture of disbelief and shock. Dermatologists have come up with a handful of remedies. Keep your skin moisturized, remember your sun screens, drink lots of water, do routine exfoliation, eat vegetables and fruits, etc. They have a long list of anti-aging tips that succeed in keeping the wrinkles out but not halting senescence (deterioration of cells, leading to weaker organs and the frailty associated with old age) completely.
The cosmetic and beauty industry seemed to have monetized our desire to remain young. In 2020, a study reported that about 62% of Americans use anti-aging skin care products. In fact, the anti-aging market which was valued at about $38 billion in 2018, will be worth over $60 billion in 2026. Between 2020 and 2025, the African longevity market is projected to grow at 2% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate). Quite obviously, while we pray to age ‘gracefully’ on every birth anniversary, there is a silent yearning to never age in the first place. It is that silent yearning that keeps L’Oreal, Unilever, and others in business.
However, according to Mordor Intelligence, “… aging is a complex biological process, influenced by a combination of endogenous or intrinsic and exogenous or extrinsic factors.” In other words, to slow down aging, there are both internal and external factors to put into consideration.
This does not mean you have been scammed by your dermatologist, neither does it suggest that your box of skin care products should be trashed. It only seeks to establish that, while that dietary and dermatological advice are important to push back on senility, they are not hundred percent efficient.
A group of researchers from Pennsylvania State University and Northeastern Illinois University carried out what is said to be the largest study on longevity in reptiles and amphibians. Their findings are interesting as they debunk and provide evidence for some of the longest beliefs about anti-aging. A total of 114 scientists carried out the research, drawing data from the wild. They studied 107 populations of 77 species of reptiles and amphibians worldwide and the findings are quite interesting. They give insights to why 190 year old Jonathan of Seychelles, the longest living tortoise (animal) in the world, has lived for 19 decades
One of the researchers, David Miller, senior author and associate professor of wildlife population ecology at Pennsylvania State University stated that the study was necessary to help demystify longevity and support efforts at conservation especially for threatened species. In his words; “If we can understand what allows some animals to age more slowly, we can better understand aging in humans, and we can also inform conservation strategies for reptiles and amphibians, many of which are threatened or endangered.” Employing a research methodology known as comparative phylogenetic, the researchers captured animals from their natural habitat, tagged and released them back into the wild, but monitored them closely.
The international team of researchers were able to establish that, the long-held belief that cold blooded animals were better adapted for longevity due to their lower metabolic activities, does not hold true for all animals. They further went on to discover that turtles, salamanders, and crocodiles lived longer because of their phenotype. The possession of phenotypic structures such as spines, shells, venoms, and armors played an important role in their long lifespan.
Although turtles provided the strongest evidence for phenotypic protection as effective for anti-aging, frogs and toads were also noted to experience negligible aging. This means that, after the age of reproduction, if the probability of dying is 0.8% in a frog, it doesn’t increase with time. It remains constant throughout their lifetime. Whereas, in humans, the probability for mortality increases with age, making it difficult to live as long as turtles and toads.
You might be wondering, “why turtles and toads? Why not humans?” Well, researcher Bronikowski explains that; “understanding the comparative landscape of aging across animals can reveal flexible traits that may prove worthy targets for biomedical study related to human aging.”
From hair loss to dimming eyesight, to weaker bones, to loss of hearing, and the other attendant health hassles of aging, scientists are working tirelessly to help people stay young. Interestingly, Babraham Institute recently discovered that through reprogramming of cells, they can be made 30 years younger. Since aging is a consequence of declining cells, reversing its age is a bold step in the anti-aging fight. So, keep the dream to be “forever young” alive. With these recent research findings, we are definitely closer than you know.
Ehi-kowoicho Ogwiji is a science writer and agriculturist who is given to advocacy for a science literate Africa. She aspires to be a renowned science communicator and STEM thought leader in Africa and beyond. Ehi tweets @ogwijiehi and can be reached by email via [email protected]. She writes from Abuja, Nigeria.