Suresh Rattan, PhD, DSc, is a Research Professor of Biogerontology, at the Danish Centre for Molecular Gerontology, University of Åarhus, Denmark. His original research and areas of expertise include human cellular aging, gerontogenes, and aging intervention, prevention and therapies, including modulation through growth factors and mild stress (hormesis). He is the founding Editor-in-Chief of Biogerontology, a peer-reviewed international journal on the biology of aging. He has published over 150 articles and several books, including those for school children, general public and research scientists. Some of his research has demonstrated the anti-aging effects of kinetin, which is now a component of several anti-aging skin care products on the market.
Aging Intervention: prevention or therapy?
Biogerontologists are now in a position to construct general principles of aging and explore various possibilities of gerontomodulation using rational approaches. While not giving serious consideration to the claims made by charlatans, it should be recognized that several scientists are making genuine efforts to test and develop means of intervention in the process of aging and of treating age-related diseases. Whereas more effective, affordable and accessible treatments for diseases are urgently required, the focus of 'anti-aging' research is now shifting towards finding ways of slowing down or modifying the basic process of aging, which is the common cause behind a plethora of age-related diseases. The rationale for this preventive approach is our understanding of aging as a progressive failure of maintenance and repair, especially during the survival period beyond the essential lifespan required from an evolutionary point of view. Some of the means of intervention and prevention that have varying degrees of effectiveness include natural and synthetic antioxidants, hormonal preparations, bioextracts from animal and plant sources, enzyme mimetics and small bioactive molecules. Most commonly, these agents are used as nutritional supplements, nutriceuticals and cosmeceuticals with or without a combination with more drastic measures such as surgical interventions. Another approach, termed hormesis, involves challenging cells and organisms by mild stress that results in beneficial and health promoting effects. For example, in a series of experimental studies, we have reported that repeated mild heat stress has anti-aging hormetic effects on various cellular and biochemical characteristics of human skin fibroblasts undergoing aging in vitro. The beneficial effects of repeated mild heat shock include the maintenance of stress protein profile, reduction in the accumulation of oxidatively and glycoxidatively damaged proteins, stimulation of the proteasomal activities for the degradation of abnormal proteins, improved cellular resistance to oxidative and glycoxidative stress, and enhanced levels of cellular antioxidant ability. Other stresses which, while given at low doses, have been shown to have hormetic beneficial effects on the survival and longevity of various experimental organisms include irradiation, pro-oxidants, hypergravity, ethanol and food restriction. Human applications of hormesis include early intervention and modulation of the aging process for preventing and/or delaying the onset of age-related conditions, such as sarcopenia, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson’s disease, cataracts and osteoporosis.