Pre-thinking:

Youth is wasted on the young, a saying that many empathize with as they get older and gather the means of achieving goals they so desperately want to accomplish but no longer have the time to do so. What if youth wasn’t so fleeting?  What if you could extend your life with a simple pill, giving you more time and the energy of youth to accomplish your goals?  In this segment Cynthia Kenyon, biochemist, talks about new innovative studies with test animals that show with a little gene manipulation, we could lengthen life spans along while offsetting many age related diseases

Why you should listen:

Cynthia Kenyon is revolutionizing our understanding of aging. As an expert in biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California at San Francisco, she is particularly interested in the influence that genetics have on age-related diseases (from cancer to heart failure) in living things.

Her biggest breakthrough was figuring out that there’s a “universal hormonal control for aging”: carbohydrate intake, which can have a dramatic effect on how two critical genes behave, reducing insulin production and boosting repair and renovation activities. So far, her theory has proved true for worms, mice, rats, and monkeys — and she suspects it applies to humans, too.

By studying aging, Kenyon believes that she and other scientists (many of whom have successfully duplicated her experiments) will be able to pinpoint the molecules responsible for the onset of age-related diseases in people and prevent them. She’s co-founded a drug-development company called Elixir Pharmaceuticals to do just that.

She says: “The link between aging and age-related disease suggests an entirely new way to combat many diseases all at once; namely, by going after their greatest risk factor: aging itself.”

Who is she:

Cynthia Kenyon graduated valedictorian in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of Georgia in 1976. She received her PhD in 1981 from MIT where, in Graham Walker’s laboratory, she was the first to look for genes on the basis of their activity profiles, discovering that DNA -damaging agents activate a battery of DNA-repair genes in E. coli. (Wikipedia)

Questions:

  1. Population is already a concern in our modern world. With a drug or treatment that could theoretically double someone’s lifetime, how could we deal with population issues in our ever growing society?
  1. If a drug were created, what kind of societal impact would it have on low SES people who may not be able to afford the treatment? Would our class system evolve into those who could afford the treatment and those who could not?
  1. What issues could stem from religious institutions claiming that this treatment is interfering with gods will?
  1. Should this treatment be made as a way to combat age related diseases or to be administered early as a way to extend people’s lives?
  1. Should we be focusing on prolonging peoples life’s or should we focus in improving the quality of life people live?
  1. Could this research be applied to other areas besides humans? Could we make dairy cows that are milk viable longer? Could we lengthen the time of food bearing plants live and produce?

Experiments that hint of longer lives with Cynthia Kenyon

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