Each and every one of billions of cells What is in our body changes over time. As we age, these structures they are accumulating damage. And this, in the long run, causes the loss of functions in organs and tissues, the appearance of diseases and, finally, death. «Aging is the cause of most diseases«, explained with a didactic spirit the researcher maria blasco, director of the National Cancer Research Center (CNIO). «There are more and more studies trying to understand the mechanisms behind this process in order to stop them, reverse them and delay them. Thanks to this, maybe one day we can ‘cure’ aging«, highlights the expert in an interview with EL PERIÓDICO.

Blasco is one of the scientists who, together with an international panel of experts, signs one of the most comprehensive analyzes to date about what we know (and what we don’t) about the molecular indicators of aging. The work, recently published in the precise journal ‘Cell’, summarizes the «spectacular advances» made in the last decade and which have given rise to more than 300,000 scientific publications. «Understand why cell damage occurs that we associate with aging opens the door to developing specific therapies for, for example, prevent the onset of degenerative diseases and improve the treatment of some pathologies», comments the researcher.

«Understanding why the cellular damage that we associate with aging occurs opens the door to developing specific therapies»

four triggers

The analysis identifies four «triggers» of aging. That is, the physiological mechanisms that lead our cells to accumulate damage. As explained by the experts who have led this analysis, these are processes that occur on a molecular scale and are strongly interconnected. This is the case, for example, of telomere shortening (Structures that protect the end of chromosomes). Or the accumulation of changes that occur when our cells multiply. «These processes occur in all of us, although not at the same speed«, Tint White.

The telomere shortening, for example, has been linked to the appearance and progression of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The same is true of genetic alterations and the other molecular imbalances associated with aging. «If we understand how to act on each of these molecular processes we can achieve spectacular advances for example, delay the onset of diseases, cure degenerative pathologies And till extend a person’s life expectancy«says the scientist.

At the moment, according to Blanco, laboratories around the world are trying to solve the puzzle that involves reversing each of these molecular processes. «Efforts are focused, above all, on degenerative diseases because after all they are a medical necessity. But advances in research could one day be applied to delay the onset of medical problems and ‘cure’ the causes of aging«adds the expert.

The keys to aging better

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Today, still There is not a magic formula that allows slow down (or delay) aging. What we do have are some clues about how to do as little damage to our cells as possible. «Harmful habits (such as a poor diet, smoking or exposure to pollution) expose our cells to a series of damages that, in the long run, can cause the deterioration of organs and tissues. So whatever Leading a healthy lifestyle will help minimize this risk.«, says Blasco. «This does not mean that eating well will prevent you from getting sick, because no diet can promote that, but it does help to reduce some risks,» the scientist qualifies.

«Harmful habits (such as a bad diet, smoking or exposure to pollution) expose our cells to a series of damages»

In the more or less near future, Blasco hopes that there will be à la carte treatments to ‘cure’ the causes of aging. «There will be no pill that will make you immortalbut maybe there is one that can be given to people who, for example, have a high probability of developing lung cancer to prevent or delay the onset of disease«, envisions the scientist. Achieving this goal could become a key to a future in which, according to experts, there will be more and more aging population (and more burden of diseases associated with age).