Monday, December 18, 2017 1:36

Why Do We Grow Old

Posted by on Saturday, January 9, 2010, 14:07
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Why do we grow old? On the surface, this question might seem more appropriate for philosophers to answer than physicians or scientists. Quite apart from its far reaching moral and spiritual aspects, however, this question can be considered from a strictly  biological  perspective as well .

According to an old and widely accepted theory, we age and finally die in order to make room on this planet for the next generation of human beings to live and thrive.

Should the mortality rate fall if fewer people die than are born the Earth could become overpopulated (something some scientists believe has already occurred), which would strain natural resources and thus put the entire ecosystem and all its life forms at risk.

This same general process takes place on a molecular level as well: When certain individual cells within an organism wither and perish, they are replaced by new cells able to function with vitality and health.

In fact, each cell has information about its life cycle encoded within its DNA, the genetic blueprint found in the cell nucleus. When cells do not mature, reproduces and then die according to this plan, the overall health of the organism may be comprised.

An example of such a disruption in a cell’s life cycle is the disease we know of as cancer. For reasons not yet fully understood, cancer cells no longer have, or no longer heed, correct genetic messages about reproduction and death.

They grow indiscriminately, using up nutrients meant to nourish healthy cells, which then shrivel and die before their time. If left unchecked, cancer cells grow and spread until the organism as a whole is unable to function.

Biologically speaking, then, aging and death are essential and quite natural aspects of all living things. And yet, because of our very “humanness’ the deep emotional and intellectual ties that bind us so intimately to earth and to each other we continue to look for ways to circumvent this seemingly inevitable process.

And the more we learn about the human body and its aging cycle on a molecular level, the more possible such a goal appears to become.

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