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Tumor-suppressing Gene Contributes to Aging

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the growing-old dept.

145

Van Cutter Romney writes "Scientists have discovered a tumor suppressing gene which also leads to aging in stem cells. The gene also known as p16INK4a when removed from 'knockout' mice resulted in older mice having organs as healthy as younger ones. However they didn't live any longer than normal mice. The new study was confirmed by three independent researchers from Harvard, UNC Chapel Hill and University of Michigan."

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145 comments

Cancer, aging. (4, Informative)

sporkme (983186) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063646)

"I don't think aging is a random process - it's a program, an anti-cancer program,"
Cancer, then, is an anti-aging program.

The article basically states that when they turned off the flow of ink-4, embyyonic stem cells were free to divide without check. The mice without the ability to produce ink-4 developed cancer within a year and died. This behavior cannot be reliably reproduced in aged stem cells, and ink-4 production naturally increases exponentially with age.

The main news I see here is either a possible avenue for cancer research, or a good supporting argument to lift bans on exploiting new strains of embryonic stem cells (over adult stem cells). This does not represent a specific breakthrough, but yet another amazing revelation of stem cell capabilites has come to light.

I support the ban on cloning, I disagree with the ban on new stem cells, I am relatively opposed to mass abortion, but banning it would be stupid. I think this story's new information supports these views.

Principle of Hardy-Heisenberg-Jagger (2, Funny)

mosel-saar-ruwer (732341) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063734)



The article basically states that when they turned off the flow of ink-4, embyyonic stem cells were free to divide without check. The mice without the ability to produce ink-4 developed cancer within a year and died.

There's a famous principle in Mathematics & Quantum Mechanics, first discovered by the British mathematician GH Hardy, and then refined by Heisenberg, which states that both a function & its Fourier transform cannot decay too rapidly [otherwise the function is identically zero].

Or, as Mic Jagger put it: You can't always get what you want [loudeye.com].

So it sounds like The Designer of the Universe [a pretty intelligent Fellow, from what I hear] may have placed the very same restrictions on the stuff He created on Day 5 [bartleby.com] as He did on the stuff He created way back on Day 1.

Re:Principle of Hardy-Heisenberg-Jagger (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16063956)

:::So it sounds like The Designer of the Universe [a pretty intelligent Fellow, from what I hear] may have placed the very same restrictions on the stuff He created on Day 5 as He did on the stuff He created way back on Day 1.:::

Creationism isn't science. Never was, never will be. Common descent explains this exact phenomenon more completely than "intelligent design" does anyway. This is exactly the type of thing we would expect to see given common sense, while it is possible for an intelligent designer to use the same gene in all of the species or a very different gene that still performs the same function. This offers no evidence for intelligent design, and you are a deluded religious shitstain.

Is this a flame? Yes.

Does the attitude of my post affect the validity of the reasoning therein? No.

Re:Principle of Hardy-Heisenberg-Jagger (1)

Fordiman (689627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16065549)

Actually there really was no point to that, man. I mean, I'm one of the first to say, 'Science takes precedence over religion', but if this guy wants to frame hard science in terms of his imaginary friend, that's fine - so long as he's not refuting the science, science has still taken precedence.

Sure, he can use it as a further argument for ID. And the rest of the world can, as they always have, either ignore his dumb ass, or feed the academic troll (which is where I feel it best to place IDers in the forum heirarchy of life).

Re:Principle of Hardy-Heisenberg-Jagger (3, Funny)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063978)

So it sounds like The Designer of the Universe [a pretty intelligent Fellow, from what I hear] may have placed the very same restrictions on the stuff He created on Day 5 as He did on the stuff He created way back on Day 1.

I forget, was it spaghetti or ramen he created on Day 5?

Re:Principle of Hardy-Heisenberg-Jagger (3, Interesting)

Xichekolas (908635) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064422)

Who the hell modded the parent down? That was totally on topic... just because your creator is a vengeful old dude in white robes and mine is the divine embodiment of my favorite meal doesn't mean it was off topic!

Republicans don't care. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16063746)

You are correct. These sort of discoveries do tend to suggest that embryonic stem cell research is an avenue that will offer nearly unlimited potential.

It's unfortunate for the economy of the United States that Republicans will likely do their best to block such research. What's even more disappointing, however, is that many of these Republicans have barely a high school education. And even then, they may not have taken even the most basic high school-level introductory classes to biology. So in effect, we have people who know absolutely nothing about biology making decisions that affect scientists who may very well be able to find a cure for those Republicans' cancerous tumors.

Science as a whole, however, has little to fear. This research will no doubt take place. But it will happen in places like India and China. America will have a limited ability to take advantage of the upcoming developments and discoveries. The main problem will be that American academic institutions and laboratories have been unable to perform such research, and as such the American researchers and academics will not have significant background in these fields deemed "unsuitable" by Republicans. The best situation Americans can hope for under such a scenario is that the Chinese and Indian scientists are willing to share their knowledge. Of course, that would seem unlikely at this point.

Re:Republicans don't care. (1)

sporkme (983186) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063797)

Support, with data, that Republicans "have barely a high school education" or "may not have taken even the most basic high school-level introductory classes to biology.

You will find that the distribution of ignorance, indifference, stupidity, pandering, sloth, envy, ambition, hatred, disgust, and pretty much any adjective--positive or negative--can be applied universally to any politician or political person regardless of affiliation.... PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't let (force) a really good discussion that THE WHOLE WORLD WILL READ degrade into US partisan politics, you [explicative].

Re:Republicans don't care. (2, Interesting)

deltacephei (842219) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064042)

I agree that it is unnecessary to call out one political group and to globally label members of that group inept and incompetent. It is a separate question entirely to judge the education of all members of government and the extent to which this informs their decision making.

But, it has been partisan politics that has interfered greatly with science for quite some time now. In particular, politicians have been bent to the will of religious groups. Yet these same groups daily depend on the fruits of science, engineering and technology for their existance. It's a cafeteria approach - they want to be able to lord over science as they see fit and coerce politicians to force a policy consistent with *their* views. This is not the way of science. Science is secular and depends crucially on adherence to the scientific method.

The relevant point made in that post is that other countries will in fact not hold themselves back with stem cell research. The breakthroughs will happen outside US soil. US citizens with means will continue to travel outside their border to seek treatment not available in their own country. One also wonders if US trained scientists will become fed up with tightening scrutiny of their work and simply themselves immigrate elsewhere to continue research as well. Although this seems preposterous given the high caliber of the US university system and laboratory facilities, I don't see it out of the realm of possibility.

Re:Republicans don't care. (1)

DarkAxi0m (928088) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064135)

it is unnecessary to call out one political group and to globally label members of that group inept and incompetent.
How do you feel about if i call out all the political groups and to globally label members of the groups inept and incompetent? hehe

Re:Republicans don't care. (1)

edward2020 (985450) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063837)

I can agree with your statement that, "Republicans will likely do their best to block such research." However, from what source did you find "that many of these Republicans have barely a high school education." Surely Sen. Frist, the Senate majority leader who also has an M.D., had to have taken "basic high school-level introductory classes to biology." But as far as the Republicans limiting the US's "ability to take advantage of the upcoming developments and discoveries [in stem cell research]" - I find that unlikely. One, the states themselves in some cases have approved funding for stem-cell research. Two, I personally find it unlikely that the Republicans will control both the legislature and Presidency in the coming years.

Re:Republicans don't care. (1)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063970)

I think you are correct that the tides are turrning as far as I can see. State funding is still meager right now, not nearly enough for such a valuable, life-affirming effort as stem cell research. And in the past five years many many many millions of people have possibly had their terrible fate sealed by the current administration.

About the other point. I'm sure Frist was a wonderful heart-surgeon. But he's not the type of doctor that I want operating on my heart, considering he renders life or death medical decisions with scant evidence and apparently considering only the impact it will have on his preconceived, unscientific, political and religious "pro-life" agenda.

An M.D. doesn't mean much if you can't observe the clear difference between a person clearly in a persistent vegetative state and a person who still has high-level brain function - the Terri Shaivo case being the thing I have in mind.

So while the poster was exaggerating, it appears that there is a systemic problem with thinking, reasoning, and making objecive reasoning based on the facts - all skills that should have been learned in high school.

Re:Republicans don't care. (1)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063975)

"and making objective decisions" was the thing I meant there.

Perhaps I should have paid better attention in English class.

Re:Republicans don't care. (1)

Fordiman (689627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16065579)

"What's even more disappointing, however, is that many of these Republicans have barely a high school education."

Sorry, but when the subject of your point ('of these Republicans') can be easily replaced with an asterisk, your point suffers. For example, I could replace it with 'inteliigent designers', 'radio pundits', or 'of the citizens of pennsylvania', and it would still be true.

That doesn't make it a point. It makes it astroturfing.

Cancer, then, is an anti-aging program (3, Funny)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063823)

Cancer, then, is an anti-aging program

Yes, when cancer works, you stop getting older.

Q.E.D.

Re:Cancer, aging. (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063863)

"I don't think aging is a random process - it's a program, an anti-cancer program,"
Sounds to me like Planned obsolescence [wikipedia.org]... that is, if you believe in a higher power.
Cancer, then, is an anti-aging program.
Why is it that back in Biblical times, people like Abraham & Moses used to live several hundred years? Did they all have cancer? (Assuming that cancer is an anti-aging program)

Re:Cancer, aging. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16063906)

I'm curious as to what kind of answer you seem to be looking for in that question. Honesty? Attempt at humor? Don't take my analysis as offense, I'm merely trying to understand the perspective of someone who asks such a question.

Honestly: We can't really take the word of a 2000ish year old book as any sort of accurate, especially with what we know of borrowed pagan holidays and the different translations that the book went through.

That's not to say there isn't a higher power. What with quantum theory, probability and chaos being what they are, it would only make sense that we reach sort of a plateau where it simply ceases to be possible to understand anything more about the universe.

In jest: They probably had brain tumors, considering they kept hearing the voice of god all the time.

Re:Cancer, aging. (1)

sporkme (983186) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063920)

I was referring to the part of having cancer where you DIE, whereby aging ceases. Nice extrapolation though. Religious science is getting pretty keen nowadays. "Don't you worry Mrs. Smith. Moses had cancer too, and he lived nearly a thousand years!"

Re:Cancer, aging. (1)

bruno.fatia (989391) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064350)

Wrong, if you die you get older faster. Check out a 16 year old girl and a girl who died 16 years ago!

Biblical old dudes (1)

Descalzo (898339) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064335)

I think you're thinking of someone else. Abraham lived to be 175, and Moses lived to be 120, IIRC.

Perhaps you're thinking of the antediluvian patriarchs. Noah was one of the younger ones at like 600.

Re:Cancer, aging. (3, Interesting)

Fordiman (689627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16065622)

"Sounds to me like Planned obsolescence... that is, if you believe in a higher power."

You don't have to believe in a higher power for that. Sounds to me like a natural function of the balance between being able to repair yourself and exploding into a ball of disorganized meat (ie: developing cancer in every cell). Based on the amount of damage your body takes, it automatically determines how much it needs to be able to redivide its cells.

"Why is it that back in Biblical times, people like Abraham & Moses used to live several hundred years? Did they all have cancer? (Assuming that cancer is an anti-aging program)"

Nah. I would guess it's because of a trans-generational game of 'rumour' that happened before any of it got written down. Don't get me wrong; much of Exodus actually happened (the plagues, parting, etc, are easily explained by a volcano eruption that happened as moses returned to Egypt; I can't blame him for using it as a way to extort pharoh and reinforce judaism - we all have our agendas, after all, and they're almost always good in our eyes). But Genesis... it all sounds a bit like stories passed from father to son that eventually got written out.

Re:Cancer, aging. (3, Funny)

Explodicle (818405) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063877)

I support the ban on cloning...
Hey, the average Slashotter isn't reproducing the normal way... why you gotta be stomping on our only hope?

Re:Cancer, aging. (mistake) (3, Informative)

not-enough-info (526586) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064031)

One key mistake in the parent's summary: Ink-4 limits the ability of adult stem cells to divide. The article suggests a theory that because damaged adult stem cells are prevented from dividing by Ink-4, unchecked tumor growth (cancer) is averted later in life.

How this supports embryonic stem cell research is: we now have evidence that adult stem cells will not be effective when used as treatment because they will be naturally suppressed. Thus to get stem cells that will divide and provide therapy, we must use embryonic cells.

Re:Cancer, aging. (1)

TwelveInches (976724) | more than 7 years ago | (#16065466)

"I don't think aging is a random process - it's a program, an anti-cancer program," Cancer, then, is an anti-aging program. Cancer is not programmed to do anything. "Ageing" ,however, is. Rubbish. Cancer doesn't know the first thing about ageing; nor does it care. Cancer is about cell DNA gradually becoming damaged. These guys are saying that "ageing" is a process caused by gradually restricting cell division, because mutations that accumulate over time increase the liklihood of cancer. This new understanding is amazing.

Re:Cancer, aging. (1)

LiENUS (207736) | more than 7 years ago | (#16065618)

One of the key things behind cancer is your cancerous cells begin producing telosomes which repair the telomeres in your genome. Telomeres are a repeating sequence at the end of your dna that gets chopped off 3 at a time every time your cells divide. Telosomes naturally occur in certain places where constant cell division is a requirement (such as in your bone marrow for red blood cells). When you begin running short of telomeres is when you begin to become "old".

Old news... (2, Interesting)

elysian1 (533581) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063662)

Isn't this talking about the same thing as this article: http://science.slashdot.org/science/05/04/06/23302 49.shtml?tid=191&tid=14 [slashdot.org] which was posted here over a year ago? I guess this is pretty good for slashdot to go over a year without reposting a similar story.

Re:Old news... (5, Informative)

juushin (632556) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063726)

No, it is different. In the story a year ago, a korean group found that if you suppress telomerase in cancer cells--an enzyme that makes cells 'immortal' by continually adding repeats of bases on to the ends of chromosomes--the cells die. the summary on the slashdot page is not exactly correct--telomerase is not an enzyme specific to cancer cells. In this present work, it is a gene that, in a way, computes a differential equation--weighing the importance of replacing cells using stem cells from its cache against the risk that the replication of cells will result in a cancerous cell. "To offset the increasing risk of cancer as a person ages, the gene gradually reduces the ability of stem cells to proliferate." it is a fundamentally different story and is interesting.

Slight mischaractarization (4, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064123)

In this present work, it is a gene that, in a way, computes a differential equation--weighing the importance of replacing cells using stem cells from its cache against the risk that the replication of cells will result in a cancerous cell. "To offset the increasing risk of cancer as a person ages, the gene gradually reduces the ability of stem cells to proliferate."

If I understand it correctly, this is a SLIGHT mischaracterization. It's not about risk of creation of cancer cells so much as it is about limiting tumor size - generally in malfunctioning differentiated cells - and limiting stem cells is an undesirable side-effect of how it's done (though it WOULD also limit a stem-cell tumor, if such exist).

The mechanism (or set of mechanisms) is a limit on how many times a non-gamette cell may replicate. Thus when a cell mutates so that it, and its progeny, continue to replicate (ignoring their normal limits), the resulting tumor reaches a maximum size (say-pea sized) and stops growing. (It may even die off, as cells die TRYING to replicate with an "expired meter", or are no longer replaced fast enough to stay ahead of immune-system attacks).

The smaller the tumor when it hits the limit, the better (and the less likely some cell within it will acquire the ADDITIONAL mutations necessary to escape this limit, founding an "immortalized" tumor cell line). But there's the downside that the limit also results in cellular senescence - inability of the body to replace tissue in late age, because the "counter" in the otherwise-fine cells is running out.

So the limit apparently evolves with the typical lifespan of the population, allowing enough replication that cellular senescence doesn't begin to occur in normal inividuals until virtually all of them would be dead (or otherwise no longer an asset to the species) due to other causes. (I vuagely recall reports of research suggesting the typicall setting is something like twice as many cell replications as are necessary to avoid senescence by the age where about 95% of the population would be dead.)

Meanwhile other protective mechanisms (such as the metabolically-expensive production of antioxidant enzymes) co-evolve to trade off keeping the cancer rate down against resource consumption, given the typical lifespan due to risks and the cell-reproductive limit setting. (THESE are the "twiddle settings" that trade off CREATION of a cancer cell against other life-shortening factors.)

The settigs of these protective mechanisms apparently evolve quite rapidly, so they tend to closely track the lifespan-due-to-circumstances of most species that have been in their niche for a while. But the human lifespan has been drastically extended in a period that is evolutionarilly VERY short, thanks to weapons (protection against predation and improved hunting success), agriculture, animal domesitication, lore transmission, medicine, and other technological and cultural improvements in lifestyle. So plenty of people live to the "threescore and ten" or so years when the current setting of the cell replication limit tends to cause fatal system failures.

Research such as this, identifying the details of the mechanisms, should lead to interventions to compensate for the now incorrectly-low setting of this "tuning knob" in the human genome.

Re:Slight mischaractarization (2, Interesting)

wulfhound (614369) | more than 7 years ago | (#16065136)

Interesting point of view, but perhaps a bit optimistic:- human lifespan is already up at the top of the range for mammals -- even if the 'turning knob' can be fixed (double or triple the maximum cell division count, and suitably increase the metabolic / nutritional budget for tumor suppression to compensate), our evolutionary line has had an upper limit of a hundred years or so since the earliest mammals evolved 100m years ago -- nothing that we've evolved in that time has built for multi-century endurance. I'd wager that it'd be substantially easier to extend the life of a rat to 20 years, or a dog to 50, than to get a human being to 200.

Re:Old news... (1)

Fordiman (689627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16065655)

Ok, so how difficult would it be to suppress all the ink-4 (stopping the cancerous property) and increasing the telomerase output of cells? Would that not make effectively immortal, noncancerous cells?

Possibly. But they'd also be completely unable to repair themselves. You'd get a population much like the late Brunnen'gee.

Re:Old news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16064093)

Actually this is very old news. I remember seeing a pbs program on this over 5 years ago.

What springs to mind... (5, Interesting)

Meccanica (980734) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063672)

although it does not follow directly from this discovery, is the question: If you could change the balance at any point, what would it mean to be able to choose between heightened risk of cancer and some of the worse effects of old age? What a choice to have to make. (AFAIK, this is not even an issue, just something I thought of after hearing of it. I did not RTFA, but I heard this same discovery reported on the news recently.)

Re:What springs to mind... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16063894)

If there was a type of incommunicable retro/virus that could mitigate the effects of ink-4 and its friends, I think the age to start such treatment would be retirement age. I bet the life insurance folks would have a thing or two to say about this, but if I were sixty-five, I would sign up for such a study. Worst case scenario: I have a few years of youthful vigor before I blow my brains out to avoid a cancer death.

Re:What springs to mind... (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063952)

It is my understanding that the effect is somewhat like TTL in TCP packets. Obviously turning it off would have detrimental effects, but I've oft wondered what would happen if you could just reset the clock every so often.

Re:What springs to mind... (1)

EonBlueTooL (974478) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064303)

If you have ever had a relative with alzheimers the answer is pretty clear. They slowly decay to a point where they don't even remember who you are (My grandpa has to ask who I am). If cancer is at one end and loss of mental capacity/ability to remember is at the other then I'll take cancer please.

Re:What springs to mind... (2, Insightful)

zCyl (14362) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064594)

If you could change the balance at any point, what would it mean to be able to choose between heightened risk of cancer and some of the worse effects of old age? What a choice to have to make.

Ideally, you would be able to turn it on and off at will. Turn off aging when you reach a certain age. Then if you contract cancer, turn it on really quick to help kill off the cancer, and then when you recover from cancer, turn the "aging" process back off.

Not that we could do anything of the sort anytime soon, but hey, it could work on Star Trek.

Re:What springs to mind... (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#16065032)

With all the women using high dose of anti-age hormones since the age of 30, we will soon have enough data on that point.
Personally, I would prefer the normal slow physical degradation over the risk of enduring one of the worst kind of agony ever just to stay, well, not that pretty anyway.

Hmm. (3, Interesting)

Lord Aurora (969557) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063728)

If the organs in the older mice were just as healthy as those in younger mice, how did they not live longer? It would seem to me that if your organs are perfectly healthy, you'll live. Wonder what the catch is.

Re:Hmm. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16063750)

The mice didn't live longer because they had to kill the mice to check if the organs were as healthy. :-)

You say flawed methodology, I say.... progress!

Re:Hmm. (1)

Lord Aurora (969557) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063765)

Clarification: Yes, the mice in TFA all got cancer and died because of the whole risk-increase thing, but "What if they HADN'T gotten cancer?" was my line of thought. Failed to mention that critical detail. =D

Re:Hmm. (5, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063812)

Wonder what the catch is.

There is only one catch and that is Catch-22, which specifies that turning off p16INK4a for one's safety of your organs in the face of dangers that are real and immediate will cause cancer. Giving yourself cancer is not the process of a rational mind.

The trick might be to turn off the expression of the gene temporarily to rejuvenate aging organs, then switch it back in again to suppress cancer. That way, maybe Yossarian can have is cake and eat it too...

Re:Hmm. (1)

Lord Aurora (969557) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063821)

And if they can rejuvenate aging organs consistently, maybe the dead man in his tent can be brought back to life.

Re:Hmm. (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064092)

The trick might be to turn off the expression of the gene temporarily to rejuvenate aging organs, then switch it back in again to suppress cancer.

Only to be killed at a zebra crossing right after the procedure.

Re:Hmm. (3, Insightful)

Grym (725290) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064107)

he trick might be to turn off the expression of the gene temporarily to rejuvenate aging organs, then switch it back in again to suppress cancer. That way, maybe Yossarian can have is cake and eat it too...

Wishful thinking. As much as people would love to blame the cause of aging on one particular gene or process, the truth of the matter is that aging is a complex and multi-factorial phenomenon that can't be addressed that easily.

Sure, stopping this particular gene might allow for more somatic cell repair but what does that do for the damaged mDNA due to free radicals in the mitohondria [nature.com]? And what about the telomeres protecting the ends of your chromosomes which would decrease with every replication [utah.edu]? And what about damaged cells whose replication could cause the very cancer this gene was probably "designed" to prevent?

Not to be discouraging of this kind of research, but really it is just pie-in-the-sky type of stuff and should be regarded as such; the science just isn't there yet. And the irony of it all is that immortality most certainly won't be obtained in our lifetimes. Joseph Heller has to be smiling somewhere about that one.

-Grym

Re:Hmm. (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064257)

And the irony of it all is that immortality most certainly won't be obtained in our lifetimes.

Speak for yourself, it's going very well for me so far.

Sorry to hear it hasn't worked out for you though. Better luck next time.

Re:Hmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16064569)

> Giving yourself cancer is not the process of a rational mind.

Isn't it? I heard it on good authority (Ballmer) that Open Source causes cancer.;-)

Re:Hmm. (1)

UltimApe (991552) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064824)

Maybe that is what happens during a female's menstruation cycle and thats why they live longer! If you added up the average time of menstruation for a female in her life cycle, i wonder if the days would equal the extra years women average over men. *me wonders* (PS. I think that instead of saying turning INK4 off would "cause cancer", i would say, it "ceases to limit cancer growth"... having INK4 is a symptom of cancer, not a cause. our body is constantly creating cancer, and INK4 is one of hte ways our immune system prevents it.)

I think they're just hyping this with that title (1)

Desolator144 (999643) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063781)

From what I know about cancer, which isn't a whole lot, the immune system is supposed to be a supressor of tumors. It doesn't make any sense for just a gene to do it if it isn't one related to white blood cell manufacturing. To make a long story short, the "cancer supressing" powers of the gene are barely noteworthy, like putting on a spring jacket to stop frostbite at -40 F, and they wrote it in that biased way so it makes a dramatic headline that implies you may have to choose between living longer and an increased risk of cancer.

Re:I think they're just hyping this with that titl (2, Insightful)

Twanfox (185252) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063800)

I think you fail to understand the possibilities of having multiple avenues for the body to prevent unchecked cellular reproduction. Built into each cell should be the codings to tell it how and how often to divide, and at what stages of life. When those checks fail due to any number of circumstances (mutations due to environment or flawed genes), a secondary check, the immune system, responds to a threat of unchecked cellular reproduction by destroying it if possible.

Think of it like social behavior. Ideally, all pro-social behavior is internalized and you operate within the guidelines of the law. However, when you fail to (speeding, for instance), law enforcement is there to step you back into the proper action.

Re:I think they're just hyping this with that titl (1)

Desolator144 (999643) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063842)

okay, I'll explain it a bit more. What I'm 99% sure they're referring to is a gene that affects how much of a certain mollecule (or maybe group of mollecules) is chopped off when a cell splits. It's a little barbel shaped thingy and every time a cell divides, it loses a little bit of it. Once it's out, the cell can't divide anymore and it dies. Cancer cells are defined by having unlimited barbels. They never run out so it divides over and over and never stops. Remove this gene and your cells can split significantly more times before the barbel runs out, thus the extended life. But, they say that this gene can sometimes inhibit cancer cells from growing out of control. The chance that this gene would be powerful enough to reduce the barbel on a cancer cell are astronomical. If it was really even close to an immunity to cancer, you'd practically have progeria because it would take so much barbel limiting power that regular cells would have a very low diving limit.
Btw I lied when I said I didn't know much about this cuz I've seen a show and science class movie about it.

Re:I think they're just hyping this with that titl (2, Informative)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064232)

No, this has nothing to do with telomeres, which is what I think you're talking about. The product of the gene p16-Ink4a is a protein which inhibits an enzyme called a cyclin-dependent kinase. What this cyclin-dependent kinase does is control a "checkpoint" between two stages in a cell's life cycle. A cell at this checkpoint can either be told to go ahead and replicate its own DNA, or it can be told to just sort of "pause." Due in large part to the action of this gene, p16-Ink4a, most of your adult cells are stuck in "pause."

Your body maintains enough cell division activity to do upkeep, but obviously, there are limits to that- the slow deteriorations of age, as well as the inability to make certain repairs. If p16-Ink4a is not there to inhibit its target, the kinase it inhibits will give the "go-ahead" to the cell to replicate its chromosomes, divide, return to that checkpoint, replicate, divide, and so on. If the several cell systems whose function it is to notice this alarming occurence fail in their task (your cells have genes which try to initiate suicide in the cell if an error is detected), then the cell divides out of control- cancer. This is at the very beginning of a cancer, and all happening inside the tumor cell- the rest of your body is not on alert yet. Basically, if p16-Ink4a is working correctly, it prevents cells from ever becoming cancer in the first place. The relationship to stem cells is quite interesting as well- through the action of this gene, your body essentially makes the decision that as you age, keeping around active stem cells to maintain your tissues is not worth the increased risk of cancer they represent.

Re:I think they're just hyping this with that titl (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063801)

The gene probably slows metabolism. Slower metabolism means fewer chances of cell replication errors, reducing the risk and spread of cancer. It has been speculated for about the last 10 years or so that there is a trade-off between slowing of aging and cancer risk.

This is probably why a handful of humans had deseases causing them to age far too prematurely, but NEVER the opposite (at least not on a signif scale). Thus, entropy is innevitable it appears. Errors happen. Either we slow down to death or get innundated by cell replication errors to death. Same end.
           

Re:I think they're just hyping this with that titl (1)

docyahoo (864256) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064022)

Sorry, have to point out a few things, though I'll generalize just a little bit: at the cellular level, metabolism references the processing of energy which is almost wholly seperate (and outside of the nucleus) from the machinery that engages in the correction of dna replication errors. All cells die, whether it's by "old age" or apoptosis (programmed, organized cell death brought on by problems detected at checkpoints during the cell cycle--as opposed to necrosis due to an injury which we'll ignore for this discussion) and these are actually good things for the organism (us humans in this case). Replication errors happen, but our cells are VERY good at detecting and correcting it...it actually takes much more to go from an error in the cell to a cancer within a human (6 things actually): self-sufficiency in growth signals, insensitivity to anti-growth signals, evasion of the aforementioned apoptosis, unlimited replicatability, sustained angiogenesis, tissue invasion and metastasis. It is these that a potential tumor cell must overcome in order become cancer as we commonly know it.

To tie all this into TFA, they were dealing with one aspect of avoiding anti-growth signals; beating aging through this route while still keeping a lid on uncontrolled (cancerous) growth is not necessarily impossible. As for the knockout mouse model used, just look at them wrong and a tumor pops up...

Re:I think they're just hyping this with that titl (1)

sporkme (983186) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063814)

It's all the unremarkable things that will eventually add up to a tool to fight against, or a cure for cancer. DNA FTW.

Re:I think they're just hyping this with that titl (4, Interesting)

RsG (809189) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063815)

Actually, genetic safeguards are potentially more important than immune response in many ways.

The immune system is handicapped by the fact that with at least some types of cancer, there is comparatively little difference between the malignant and healthy cells. If it can't tell them apart, it can't stop the cancer from developing or spreading. You're right in that the immune system can sometimes stop cancer, but from a survival standpoint it's better not to get it in the first place.

So we have genes in place to limit cell replication. It's been suggested that aging is an inevitable side effect of these limits (take a look at telomeres for instance). Just the immune system by itself, or just the genetic protections by themselves, isn't enough; you really want both defenses.

Oversimplified, the genetic element is why some cancers run in family lines, and the immune element accounts for why some cancers develop when the immune system is weakened (like KS in AIDS patients).

Genetic Safeguards are way more important... (5, Informative)

tempest69 (572798) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063997)

Higher organisms have genetic safeguards that are stopping cancer ALL THE TIME. Generally multiple systems in a cell need to fail before cancer can begin.

The first thing that needs to fail is the proofreading enzymes, so that a gene or two are damaged without being repaired.

Then the "self destruct" needs to fail to activate in a cell, The self destruct is almost always armed and ready to go, unless it gets knocked out by a "lucky" mutation.

Even if the self destruct fails, the cell sensing needs to fail in order to grow beyond a few cells. Then the telemorase halting needs to fail in order for the cancer to reach something larger than a mole.

The immune system is a last resort, and not a very good one in comparison.

Storm

Re:I think they're just hyping this with that titl (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063824)

"Tumor suppressor" is the term for genes that act as inhibitors in growth pathways. It's a somewhat misleading term, at least in the way it's used nowadays, but they're not claiming that this gene has some magical anti-cancer properties. (the submitter probbaly didn't realize that, though.)

That has very little to do with the immune respose issue you mention, which comes in significantly later, when tumors have actually started to form. The oncogene / tumor suppressor interactions are part of the balance that allows normal, but not abnormal, growth.

Re:I think they're just hyping this with that titl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16063990)

And what exactly are your credentials to make such a judgement? Are you a cancer researcher? A doctor? A secretary at a cancer treatment center? Or are you just pulling stuff out of your ass?

WHat you are saying is "I dont know a thing about cancer, but from what I have heard from random gossip, these highly trained profesionals who have staked thier careers on their published findings in a reputable medical journal have no idea what they are talking about."

informativ3 shit5hit (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16063903)

Raym0nD in his

Age mutations versus cell division mutations (4, Insightful)

qaffle (264280) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063929)

As organisms get older the chance that they will have a mutation that leads to some form of cancer grows (in a if every day you have the chance of something happening, after enough days go by you're likely to have had it happening sense).

Does the same thing apply to a cell?

In other words, as a cell ages is it more likely to have a cancerous mutation? And how does this likeliness compare to the chance of having a cancerous mutation through a cell's reproduction process? (these are for the biologists out there)

If you have a greater chance to have the mutation a cell reproduces then you'd want cells to live along time so they have to reproduce less. If you have a greater chance as the cell sticks around (ages) then you'd want more reproduction and a shorter life span (even though this would be less energy and resource efficient, but maybe more efficient than fixing/killing cancerous cells).

Re:Age mutations versus cell division mutations (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16064142)

The assumption that you made incorrectly was that the probability for a mutation is constant. It is infact cumulative. While the chance that any one healthy cell will mutate is constant, a mutated cell will always produce another mutated cell. Thus the total number of expected mutations goes up everytime a cell divides.

Look at this statistically.

Everytime a cell divides there is probablitly P that the cell mutates.
Everytime a cell ages 1 day there is a probability Q that the cell is damaged.
Since we must maintain a constant number of cells we assume that everytime a cell divides the "Old" cell dies.

If we make the simplified assumption that all cells must divide at the same time then we must choose to either (1)let the cells divide or (2)let the cells age one more day.

There is an obvious strategy to keeping the greatest ratio of healthy cells in the body. We will choose whichever action results in the least expected number of unhealthy cells.

If P Q (which it should be) the strategy would be to divide every chance you get until the probability of getting a mutation is greater then the probability of having cell damage. You will then alow the cell to age and the ballence will swing back in the other direction.

As you continue this pattern you will find that it is optimum to have cells divide less and less frequently. Eventually the probability of mutation will be so high that the best strategy is to simply stop cell division all together although it is unlikey that anything will live long enough to reach thsi point.

This is an oversimplification but the point is still valid. The best strategy for survival changes constantly.

the gambler's folly (1)

Skadet (528657) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064420)

(in a if every day you have the chance of something happening, after enough days go by you're likely to have had it happening sense).
Perhaps OT, but your example doesn't accurately characterize what I think it is you're saying. Consider a coinflip. Assume the chance of the coin landing heads-up is 1:2, as is the chance of it landing tails up. Assume you're going to flip the coin once. What are the chances of a heads-side-up landing? 1:2, of course. What about if you flip 700 times? 1:2, still. The fallacy that a random event can be predicted by a past event is often called the Gambler's Fallacy or Folly ("the roulette wheel just landed 20 reds in a row, black MUST be next!").

Anyway, it's an important distinction to make; a cell's chance of mutation doesn't always just stay at [arbitrary %], rather, the odds increase with time.

Re:the gambler's folly (2, Insightful)

CTachyon (412849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064579)

No, your parent post deliberately sidestepped the Gambler's Fallacy. He clearly indicated that he meant "more likely" in the sense of "the odds of at least one tails after one flip is 50%; the odds of at least one tails after 8 flips is 99.6%", since the total number of tails/mutations accumulates. After a very long time, the probability of one or more mutations is nearly certain, even if the probability of each mutation occuring is constant.

aging / tumor (1)

omeomi (675045) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063964)

I heard this on NPR today...I was wondering why they didn't say "Aging gene surpresses tumors"...

You can be young forever (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#16063977)

Imagine youthful looks and good health almost all your life, then dying of cancer before you hit 80.

Anti-ageing research is selfish (1, Insightful)

Profound (50789) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064083)

In the western world old people are sitting in their big houses with backyards while young families with children are crowded into small apartments.

Once the old people can no longer look after themselves, they will be put into a care home, and kept alive for decades using modern technology. I visited old folks homes for a while, and me playing chess with an old man for 1 hour a week was the highlight of his life, the highlight for another man was me rolling a ball back and forth on a table to his arthritic hands - it made me incredibly depressed.

It seems that living longer, no matter at what quality of life, is regarded unquestioningly as a good thing. People can and do suffer when they are old, and if they want to die, the state will not allow them that choice.

Old person: "I don't want to live, I am in immense pain"
Government: "You are not allowed to end your suffering, we will force you to stay alive and in pain"

Keeping people alive has a cost. Every old person living in a semi-comatose state in a nursing home has costs to the person, the country and the world, the same amount of money could probably save 5-10 dying children in a developing country.

All I'm saying is, maybe we should think about quality of life rather than quantity.

Re:Anti-ageing research is selfish (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064111)

Anti-ageing research is selfish

Nobody will take you seriuosly unless you live by example. Will you willingly die before you hit `old age' and become a `burden on society'?

Re:Anti-ageing research is selfish (1)

Profound (50789) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064139)

>> live by example

I'm 26 - how should I do that? Take up smoking?

Re:Anti-ageing research is selfish (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16064382)

Okay. A few problems with your thinking:

1) Those old people are generally able to end their own lives if they really wanted to - but they don't. Your generalisation that old people "don't want to live" is inaccurate. Many studies (check on PubMed with a few salient keywords) have shown that elderly people are just as happy (if not more so) than younger people. There is also no magic point at which people suddenly decide that life is not worth living - the vast majority of people will always want to live longer.

2) Health and medical inequities. These will always exist, but that isn't a reason to suddenly stop with progression of science and medicine. There is actually a trickle-down effect, where medical procedures that are pioneered and used in developed countries become available to poorer areas of the world. One major example is the use of antibiotics and vaccines which have done more to prevent childhood mortality across the world than any other technological advance. If we stopped research into new medical advances, it doesn't mean that all the money will suddenly be used to treat the poor and less fortunate. This is a false dichotomy.

3) Anti-ageing research will not result in infirm and sick people kept in that condition for decades. The whole point to anti-ageing research is to increase the health and quality of life of people as they age. We won't have a situation where people age to 70-80, are in poor condition and then stay like that for another 40-50 years. The aim is to have 80 year olds who are as healthy as 50 year olds (or less!), and centenarians who act like they are healthy 60 year-olds. With successful progress in anti-ageing research we will actually decrease the health cost of the elderly, freeing up more money in the health system to treat other medical problems.

In summary: This is a good thing, and it IS thinking about quality of life, as well as quantity - they are directly linked, there need not be a choice of one or the other.
(Disclaimer: I just submitted my PhD last month on ageing processes in rats, so I have a pretty informed opinion on this topic :)

Re:Anti-ageing research is selfish (1)

Profound (50789) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064732)

Other reasons: People become more invested in the status quo as they become older, and thus become more conservative.

Babyboomers make up a significant proportion of the population. Thus, when they were young, they were listened to, and lots of changes (equality of women/non-white etc) occured. Now that they are old, almost all countries in the English speaking (winners of WW2) world have become very conservative.

Evolution occurs when a new generation replaces the old. A society where the old outnumber the young will not evolve.

Re:Anti-ageing research is selfish (3, Insightful)

Bozdune (68800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16065094)

Actually, the majority is almost always conservative, no matter what generation you consider. We have had rather few progressive Presidents, wouldn't you say? Didn't matter whether the boomers were young or old. The Boomers were too young to vote for Kennedy. The choice in 1964 was between Goldwater, who wanted to expand the war in Vietnam, and Johnson, who claimed he didn't, but did. Johnson was a fluke. Nobody knew he had a liberal social policy agenda, he was a conservative Southern democrat who Kennedy put on the ticket in order to win Texas. After Johnson we elected Nixon, by landslides, just when the boomers started voting en mass. Then we chose Carter, a conservative, religious southern Democrat, over the half-dead Jerry Ford, hardly a progressive choice. Then 12 years of Reagan and Bush I -- our most conservative Presidents since Hoover -- during the prime years of 30-something Boomer voting! 8 years of Clinton, who cut welfare to the bone and accomplished nothing on any progressive agenda. Then 8 years of (gack) Bush II.

John Stuart Mill said, "I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it." Mill goes on to say that since there are undeniably a lot of stupid people, the Conservatives will always be a very powerful party. Perhaps this is closer to the explanation you are looking for.

Re:Anti-ageing research is selfish (1)

Peter Mork (951443) | more than 7 years ago | (#16065110)

This is an interesting hypothesis, but it is not supported by the data [people-press.org] concerning party affiliation. According to Pew Research data, there are more Democrats than Republicans in every age category except 30-49. In fact, the spread (in favor of more Democrats) increases with age.

Re:Anti-ageing research is selfish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16064688)

Parent poster after being hit by a 60-year time skip while standing in front of a social security office:
  "I DESERVE FREE MONEY!"

Re:Anti-aging research is selfish (1)

UltimApe (991552) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064846)

No. living longer != aging Aging is the deterioration of the body due to a lack of cell growth. anti-aging would therefore cause a better quality of life. Right now (as you put it), people are living longer, and are aging... It is this aging that is causing them to have poor quality of life. Granted, if they had a shorter life, they wouldn't age as much. But if we had anti-aging, people would live longer AND not age, thusly quality of life would be quite good. This study suggest that the aging process (or the lack of cell growth) is to combat the growth of cancerous tumors. by turning off ink4, the mice did not age... but coincidentally lived the same amount of time due to cancer. If the person

Re:Anti-ageing research is selfish (1)

Mycroft_VIII (572950) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064984)

How about BOTH quality and quantity.

Why is everything assumed to be a tradeoff, or subject to some sort of cosmic balance or fairness.
    Sometimes the very rich are also happy, smart, beautifull, wonderfull people.
Sometimes the poor are ugly idiot assholes who desrve worse than thier short miserable lives.
    Life aint fair and sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too.

Mycroft

Cancer cure == indefinite lifespan? (4, Interesting)

Slashdiddly (917720) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064191)

So, if I understand it correctly, if we were able to prevent cancer (by finding a root cause or otherwise), then that would change the risk equation balanced by this gene. This gene could then be turned off, the effect of which would be unabated rejuvenation of body organs, leading to indefinite lifespan.

Re:Cancer cure == indefinite lifespan? (1)

Descalzo (898339) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064354)

The human body breaks down, it doesn't wear out. That is to say, we don't die, cancer kills us. We don't die, our heart kills us. It reminds me of the deacon's one-hoss shay [williamson-labs.com]. We get rid of all the things that kill us, and then what will happen?

Re:Cancer cure == indefinite lifespan? (1)

Slashdiddly (917720) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064522)

The human body breaks down, it doesn't wear out.

You're right, of course. The tissues break down all the time, whether you're 1 or 100. The difference is that if you're 100, they break down and stay broken as opposed to being constantly regenerated. TFA suggests that this balance is controlled by the INK4 gene through the release of the protein to control cell division (gross simplification, i know). The gene is programmed to suppress cell division more and more heavily with age. On the upside that reduces risk of cancer, on the downside it also prevents regeneration of tissues which then break down and you die. The main question is can the good effects of cell division (regeneration) be separated from the bad ones (cancer). Evolution did not provide a good answer, because it didn't have to. Evolution does not "care" about individuals, only species as a whole (for which its solution is good enough). Once you have offspring, it doesn't matter what happens to you as far as evolution is concerned. In the age of genetic engineering, I don't see why it's a fundamentally unsolvable problem to ensure that cells reliably maintain and migrate the information that is "you". Cells, after all, is just a stroage medium.

Re:Cancer cure == indefinite lifespan? (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064869)

no indefinite lifespan. RTFA, or even TFS which states that "the knockout mice didn't live any longer than the normal mice." This isn't rejuvenation at any level, this is prevention.

Re:Cancer cure == indefinite lifespan? (1)

orielbean (936271) | more than 7 years ago | (#16065635)

But I think the point is that they did not live longer b/c we are unable to control the cancers they might develop or the other factors that might contribute. If we are able to prevent more cancers and viruses from weakening our systems, the gene might be able to reproduce the cells indefinitely.

Re:Cancer cure == indefinite lifespan? (1)

archen (447353) | more than 7 years ago | (#16065473)

Keep in mind that MICE didn't live any longer. Mice live around 2 years, and I believe that one mouse developed cancer and died a year later so it probably wasn't even a year old. This might be a cool option if humans only lived say, 10 years or so - but I am willing to bet that this would be a huge problem for humans since we tend to live around 65 years. Not to meantion the viruses we accumulate over our life, arteries clogging, etc., being major contributors to death.

Re:Cancer cure == indefinite lifespan? (2, Insightful)

Peaker (72084) | more than 7 years ago | (#16065568)

Cancer is not a disease.

It is a whole class of diseases. There are many many types of cancer, each with its own causes, mutations or cell environment changes.

If there is a "cure for cancer" its going to be a hell of a lot of cures.

Article quoted the caloric-restriction bogosity (2, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064221)

"There is no free lunch -- we are all doomed," Dr. Sharpless said. But he quickly modified his comment by noting that a calorically restricted diet is one intervention that is known to increase lifespan and reduce cancer, at least in laboratory mice.

Unfortunately, caloric restriction only raises the life expectancy of rodents in the laboratory, not when exposed to natural conditions. While it reduces risk of cancer, it also drastically reduces the effectiveness of the immune system at fighting off infection (and the resulting stresses which, in turn, re-raise the cancer risk.)

This has been known for decades by those educated in food & nutrition science. Unfortunately, the news has apparently not spread widely in other fields.

So while there is a strategy that reduces both of these TWO problems, it does it at the cost of creating a third. Again no free lunch.

Though there may be useful insights from the lab results, life extention strategies based on caloric restriction in the real world seem unlikely to be successful.

Re:Article quoted the caloric-restriction bogosity (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064233)

... it also drastically reduces the effectiveness of the immune system at fighting off infection (and the resulting stresses which, in turn, re-raise the cancer risk.)

(Note that the main problem, of course, is death and disability from the infections, not the marginal cancer re-increase.)

Re:Article quoted the caloric-restriction bogosity (2, Funny)

zCyl (14362) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064599)

Unfortunately, caloric restriction only raises the life expectancy of rodents in the laboratory, not when exposed to natural conditions.

Well I know plenty of people who spend all day in the lab and barely take any time off to eat. But I'm guessing this will not increase their lifespan much. :)

It depends on your diet (2, Interesting)

Steeltoe (98226) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064803)

Unfortunately, caloric restriction only raises the life expectancy of rodents in the laboratory, not when exposed to natural conditions. While it reduces risk of cancer, it also drastically reduces the effectiveness of the immune system at fighting off infection (and the resulting stresses which, in turn, re-raise the cancer risk.)

This has been known for decades by those educated in food & nutrition science. Unfortunately, the news has apparently not spread widely in other fields.


It all depends how you do it:

http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/2004/07/ 09/calorierestriction.php [genomenewsnetwork.org]

I am following a lakto-ovo vegetarian lifestyle myself, and can't really say that I'm missing flesh at all. Combine it with drinking lots of water, and your body will become VERY healthy. You will notice the difference within weeks.

However, key to a good diet is enough proteins. Too many young girls start eating only pizza, salads, pasta, etc. and get malnutrition as a result from going "veggie". A veggie-diet without enough proteins and variation is no veggie-diet in my book. Correct veggie recepees have been used for thousands of years in the East, based on the Vedic Science of Ayur-veda (knowledge about life).

Btw, what is the point of extending your lifetime, if you're miserable? Quality time, living here and now, is much more important than the length of your life - which is only fear of something so natural as death.

Obligatory (1)

frickendevil (977786) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064730)

Research now shows that tumors and cancers help stop the aging process altogether, unfortunate side effect is death.

Living at the edge of chaos. (1)

UltimApe (991552) | more than 7 years ago | (#16064870)

So, it is not that there is a gene that causes cancer, its that some people are lacking genes which prevent cancer... But, what if there was a gene that causes cancer, and a one that prevents it. Could there perhaps be a darwininesque situation within the gene pool itself, with genes fighing amongst genes. With each generation, not only are we evolving, the genes themselves are having mini evo battles, whose micro-turbulence causes macro-turbulence within the species. It would be a system set up so that genes evolved a way for genes to evolve quicker than normal. So perhaps cancer is itself both a blessing and a curse, it helps thin out the species only to allow more room for the speices to grow. Oh the beauty that is the edge of chaos. we could win the battle, but lose the war, so to speak.

Related Articles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16065330)

This article is actually related to this article [slashdot.org].

The scientists in the article I linked to were using this guy's findings to test ways to engineer controls on this particular gene that would allow it to be used to attack cells that overproduce and shut them off.

Basically, they can't just shut it off to stop aging in the sense of the inevitable march toward death, but they can do two other things:

1) Engineer the cells so that as you get older chronologically you do not get older biologically (ie you won't live any longer, but you'll live a lot better).

2) Engineer a sort of "antibody cell" specific to each cancer patient that can be used to target problem cell divisions specifically while also eradicating the more general problem it has created in the surrounding area using current chemo techniques.

Annoying Journalist (1)

jpietrzak (143114) | more than 7 years ago | (#16065502)

Sigh. I hear ideas like this from lots of people, even when it's obviously false. From the article:

The critical gene, already well known for its role in suppressing tumors, seems to mediate a profound balance between life and death. It weighs the generation of new replacement cells, required for continued life, against the risk of death from cancer, which is the inevitable outcome of letting cells divide.

If this were true, every baby born would be one huge cancer tumor. You can't create a sperm or egg without "letting cells divide"; if that inevitably led to cancer, the human race would die out in just a handful of generations.

Personally, I don't believe "immortality" is possible for people; but all life on earth depends upon cellular immortality.
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