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International Team at Newcastle University Discovers Why Living Cells Age

An international team of scientist made a major breakthrough regarding how and why living cells age. England's Newcastle University along with Germany's University of Ulm found the biochemical pathway that enables aging through a "systems biology" technique using computer modeling and cell cultured experiments with genetically modified mice. The team found aging cells send out "specific internal signals" when the cell "detects serious DNA damage caused by life."

The Journal of Molecular Systems Biology published the team's work. The team determined why damaged DNA causes cancer and found cell's mitochondria integral. A cell can either stop dividing or destroy itself when "distress signals" are identified. Tom Kirkwood, director of Newcastle's Institute of Aging and Health also determined blocking human DNA's telomere or the stabilizing protective region of repetitive DNA at the end of a chromosome, is "over promised" in terms of stopping cells from aging. "There has been a huge amount of speculation about how blocking telomere erosion might cure ageing and age-related diseases... the biology is more complicated.” Kirkwood went on to say “Our breakthrough means that we stand a very much better chance of making a successful attack on age-related diseases while at the same time avoiding the risk of unwanted side-effects like cancer.”

The next plan of the team is to cautiously "investigate ways to prevent cellular senescence [biological aging]" and alter the aging process without serious consequence. Kirkwood's colleague, Thomas von Zglinicki warns “It is absolutely essential to tread carefully in trying to alter processes that cause cells to age, because the last thing we want is to help age-damaged cells from breaking out to become malignant,” .

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