It’s taken many years of research, but scientists now have a grasp on the physical processes that make our bodies degenerate with age – molecular inflammation
What makes us age? Simply “getting older” or “being around for a longer time” are just not scientific answers, especially since our bodies regenerate (new cells constantly replace old ones) all the time. And something that regenerates should, technically, never age.
But we do age. And it is because every time a new cell replaces an old cell, “something” changes it slightly at the molecular level. It’s a snowball effect from there: each new cell is slightly different/weaker from the previous, and this accumulation of damaging changes at the molecular level is what causes us to age progressively.
But, what causes these tiny little changes?
Molecular (chronic) inflammation
For many years, scientists have known that there’s a link between ageing and a process called chronic inflammation (more on that later). But we never understood the link properly, until now.
Through series after series of studies and tests, which we’ve summed up for you at the bottom of this post science has now discovered the true nature of ageing:
- ageing is not a disease or a condition by itself
- instead, it is an accumulation of damaging alterations to new cells over time
- and science believes that chronic inflammation is the actual cause of this
Most scientists now agree that chronic inflammation is the true cause of ageing. In fact, the process has its own catchy name: inflammaging.
What is chronic inflammation exactly?
Chronic inflammation is not the normal inflammation we know. Normal inflammation is one of the body’s most important natural defence mechanisms, like when you get a skin injury and it swells a little and turns red while your body heals it. In this case, the inflammation is your body releasing special healing enzymes. It’s short-term. It appears, heals you and then disappears again and everything goes back to normal.
With chronic inflammation, on the other hand, nothing ever goes back to normal. Chronic inflammation is a very small-scale (at the molecular level) immune response that stays for years and years, or your entire life. It’s a damaging type of inflammation that you can’t see or feel. It’s just there inside you, ageing you.
In her Discovery Medicine article ‘Inflammation in Aging: Cause, Effect, or Both?’ Dr Nancy S Jenny writes that the same evolutionary immune and inflammatory systems that allowed early humans to live long enough to reach sexual maturity may now be working against us in an age where we are living for much, much longer.
Can anything stop inflammaging?
Yes, in fact, Dr Bradley Wagemaker and his team at Lamelle Research Laboratories are working on it right now. And we hope to make announcements about revolutionary new products very soon – so check back regularly.
“We know that the body’s natural regulators for any inflammation are proteins called cytokines,” said Dr Bradley Wagemaker recently, “and what we are doing now is figuring out which ones to use to control chronic inflammation.
“After that, we want to isolate the cytokines that produce the desired effect and use them to counteract the ageing process.”
It seems that cytokines can actually switch inflammation in the body “on” or “off”. So, logic follows that, by using it to switch chronic inflammation “off”, we might soon be able to switch off ageing itself.
The scientific journey to discovering inflammaging:
Scientists have long noted that there seems to be a link between ageing and chronic inflammation (microscopic inflammation in the body, on the molecular level), as Jeffrey Woods et al. noted in the medical article ‘Exercise, Inflammation and Aging’ back in 2011.
In the same year, Drs Singh and Newman from Pittsburgh, USA, noted the “elevated markers in older adults” and suggested that inflammation may be causing most age-related conditions, though further study was needed.
It’s unclear whether the Americans were aware that a group of South Korean doctors under Dr Chung from the Pusan National University described molecular inflammation as “an underlying mechanism of ageing” already in 2009. But the real breakthrough came when Diana Jurk et al. first proved in 2013 that chronic inflammation directly accelerated ageing in mice (published in Nature in 2014).
This changed the scientific community’s thinking entirely: What if inflammation was not a symptom of ageing? What if chronic inflammation is actually causing the ageing?
Most scientists now agree that it appears that chronic inflammation physically causes ageing.