Each organelle within the cell has a specific function to ensure that the cell functions optimally. The ribosome's synthesize proteins, lyposome's help to digest waste material, the golgi apparatus alters molecules and packs them into sacs for membrane transport, the endoplasmic reticulum acts as a transport system and the mitochondria are the sites of aerobic respiration.
In studying the function and purpose of the cell itself we can understand that aging begins on a cellular level. If we can create an optimal environment for the cell to thrive and replicate without disease and gene altering conditions, then we can slow the effects of aging both on an intrinsic and extrinsic level. Aging is a combination of factors and cannot be attributed to just one thing. In this article we will visit the main contributing factors to cellular aging.
Telomeres and Cellular Senescence
Scientists have speculated a theory that each cell is genetically pre-disposed to a state of senescence. Telomeres are repeating sequences of DNA located at the end of each chromosome and are believed to function as a counting mechanism for cellular aging. After a finite number of cell divisions - when telomeres become short - the cells stop dividing.
When it reaches this point of senescence, the cell will stop dividing and reach apoptosis, another name for programmed cell death. However a study done in 2000 performed by researchers from The Scripps Institute of Research and the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, both of San Diego, Calif. have proven that miotic division continues to occur with aged cells. The scientists analyzed genes from a young, middle aged, and elderly control group, and those of children that suffered from progeria, a disease that causes premature aging. They studied the fibroblast cells from each group and found that 61 genes were altered with age. The challenge is that these older cells through a variety of intrinsic and extrinsic aging factors; have an accumulation of genetic damage and thus proliferate damaged cells that contribute to the aging process. This lends us to believe that aging is not a disease in which cells stop dividing, but suggests that aging is a disease of controlling the manufacturing of new cells confirming that as we age, through altered gene expression we experience a diminished function of cellular activities.
Mitochondrial Aging and Impaired ATP Synthesis
The study and function of mitochondria as it relates to aging are becoming of great importance as the mitochondria produce all the energy used by the body. As mentioned earlier, the mitochondria are the key organelles responsible for cellular respiration. This dual membrane bound organelle contains its own DNA. Each membrane is separated by a space. The inner membrane contains a matrix in which we find the DNA and ribosome's. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. Its main work is to convert food into molecular energy or Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP). Before we can use food for energy, it must be broken down into a chemical component that the cell can utilize. Energy supplying foods usually contain sugar or carbohydrates. Once we eat these foods, the enzymes in the body break them down further into a simple sugar called glucose. The glucose molecule is transported through the cell membrane and once inside the cell it is further broken down to make ATP by following two paths. Anaerobic metabolism requires no oxygen. In this way the body uses glucose for energy and there are specialized enzymes in the body that help to metabolize sugar by the process of glycolysis. The second pathway, also known as the Krebs Cycle utilizes oxygen to increase ATP.
ATP is used for all biological functions. It is used every minute of the day and must constantly be recycled as its main source comes from the food that we eat. As mitochondrial activity is the foundation for enhanced cellular function anything that interferes with mitochondrial activity can be viewed as a detriment and cause of age related disease and disorders. The more ATP we can produce the more effective our cell will be able to function and the healthier we will be. As we age, all cellular functions are minimized, including ATP synthesis. If we can raise ATP levels inside the cell, we can maintain a more youthful integrity of the skin. There is technology available to the skin therapist that supports cellular activity of the mitochondria and ATP synthesis. LED and microcurrent both have the proven ability to increase ATP synthesis thus allowing us to treat the skin on a cellular level.
Research on mitochondrial aging has scientists focusing on many areas of study including how to minimize the production of chemicals that are toxic to the mitochondria, repairing mitochondrial damage once it has happened and neutralizing oxidation.
Oxidative stress has been scientifically proven to alter the genetic coding and communication between cells. It is a medical term for damage to an animal or plant by the reactive oxygen species (ROS), another name for free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules with an imbalance of electrons. Oxidative stress is a major contributing factor to tissue injury, apoptosis and aging. It can effect the whole organism or specific cells. ROS is mainly created as a byproduct of our normal metabolic functions such as breathing and the energy generation from the mitochondria. Other environmental factors include consumption of fried foods, cigarette smoking, excessive exercise, infection, excessive alcohol consumption and pollution. In extreme cases ROS can cause cell death, however all cells have intracellular antioxidants (such as superoxide dismutase and glutathione) which work to protect all cells from oxidative stress at all times.
DNA Repair Enzymes
Nuclear DNA has the astonishing ability to repair itself. DNA repair is a complex process that works by minimizing cell death, mutations, errors with replication and transcription, and genomic instability. The body's natural repair enzymes constantly scan, proofread and correct the mistakes and repair gaps in the nucleic acid sequence. This entire process helps to maintain the integrity of the cell. During the scanning process, if the DNA proteins are normal then the enzyme moves on. However if it detects an abnormality in the code, or a mutation; the repair enzyme will remove the damaged part and other enzymes will trail behind and build in a replacement.
At a fundamental level, oxidative stress can lead to cell death, alterations in genetic coding and the formation of malignant cells. If the damaged DNA is not fixed, then it can lead to debilitating circumstances within the genetic code. In the end, damaged DNA will lead to disease and aging.
It was once believed that mitochondria did not possess the ability for self repair, but new research indicates that they do in fact have the ability to repair some errors in their DNA sequence.
Advancements in skin care technology and state of the art product development are opening new doors and allowing the skin care professional to treat the skin at its core, the cell. Functional skin care services and high-performance ingredients are providing us with the ability to truly affect the structure of the skin and not only correct but prevent cellular damage. And with skin health, prevention is the key to success.
Jennifer McDaniel is the Education Development Director for Bio-Therapeutic, Inc. Her responsibilities include developing curriculum for the Bio-Therapeutic Institute of Technology, developing technology protocols for Bio-Therapeutic related technology, and training all of the Bio-Therapeutic Corporate Educator's worldwide.