Mitochondrial Aging

The majority of energy that is produced in the cells is done by the mitochondria. Cell function is subject to the mitochondria providing energy to the rest of the system. Mitochondria are also the main factor behind free radical damage. The mitochondrial fuel cycle produces free radicals as a common by product. As free radical damage and lower levels of energy production are signs of aging it is can be assumed that mitochondria play a vital role in the aging process.
As mitochondria are central to cellular function, each cell has multiple copies of the mitochondria. Additionally mitochondria can divide themselves in order to repair some types of free radical damage. Mitochondria have design flaws and certain vulnerabilities which make them one of the weakest factors in the defense systems of the anti aging process.

DNA damage plays a large role in the process of aging because some of it cannot be fixed. Some DNA lesions can be repaired while others cannot. There are two parts of the cell that contain DNA: the nucleus and the mitochondria. The nucleus has the bulk of the genetic material in its chromosomes. The mitochondria also have a small but significant portion of the cellular DNA. Free radical damage in DNA is much more common in the mitochondria than in the nucleus. The DNA that is resident in the mitochondria is liable to up to 10 times the amount of damage then the nuclear DNA. This is because the majority of free radicals are formed in the mitochondria. The increased vulnerability of mitochondrial DNA is increased because it is not as well protected by proteins.

Over time, the ability of the mitochondria to produce energy decreases. The first cellular system to slow down with age is the mitochondria. This is known as mitochondrial burnout. Cells show less metabolic activity which in turn leads to the lowered functionality of organs and a faster onset of degenerative diseases.

Stress has been shown to be a key accelerating force in mitochondrial burnout. The byproducts of stress are higher demands for energy which make the mitochondria work harder. This can lead to a higher level of oxidative by-products meaning more free radicals. In a long term or intensive stress situation, the mitochondrial membranes get to the point where they leak. This leakage is caused by free radical attack and can interrupt the cells energy and chemical balances. Severe oxidative damage can speed up the aging process and promote disease.

The primary role of the mitochondria as a power source and their vulnerability to free radical damage makes them an important target for anti-stress and anti-aging intercession. Some of the most promising research on the prolonging of the lifespan has been done on the idea of inhibiting mitochondrial burnout. Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC), coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and R-alpha lipoic acid (R-ALA) - all important nutrients have been proven to be active in mitochondria and can improve mitochondrial function.

Mitochondria contain ALC which is a key part of the mechanism for transporting fatty acids. ALC can be produced by the body but its rate of production drops with age. Taking ALC supplements increases the use of fats by the mitochondria thereby producing more energy. ALC has been shown to be useful in the treatment of some diseases that affect the cardiovascular and nervous systems.

CoQ10 is an essential part of the mitochondrial fuel process as well as an antioxidant. CoQ10 can raise the rate and efficiency of energy production as well as providing protection for the mitochondria from free radicals. While the body is able to produce its own stock of CoQ10 there are many reasons that the body will not produce enough CoQ10. Examples of these inhibitors are illness, age, malnutrition and as a side effect of cholesterol lowering drugs. CoQ10 is often referred to as a biomarker for aging as the body's level of CoQ10 is directly related to degenerative diseases and aging. Taking CoQ10 supplements has been shown to produce a modest increase in the life span of animals. A significant number of CoQ10 studies on humans have shown that it can be an effective healer for several different kinds of heart disease. Hypertension, muscular atrophy and lowered levels of immunity can also be helped by CoQ10.

R-alpha lipoic acid is also an important part of the mitochondrial energy system as well as being an antioxidant. Studies have shown that R-ALA supplements can reduce the number of free radicals in the mitochondria and increase energy production.

Despite the fact that ALC, CoQ10 and R-ALA have shown some promise for protecting and revitalizing mitochondria further research is need to understand if these or any other substances can really slow down the mitochondrial burnout in the long run

Aging is a complex set of processes that involve a diverse set of conditions and reactions. This is why the aging process has been very difficult to define; it is also why there are multiple theories on the process of aging. The processes of aging can be divided into two groups: the amassing of various degrees of damage to the cells and the genetically programmed process of aging.
Free radicals are the chemicals in the body that have an unpaired electron This means that they are very dangerous as they can behave in a erratic manner which can be very damaging to the effective functioning of the body.
DNA is the critical molecule of life: it is the blueprint of the creature encoded in the genes. DNA is an indispensable part of the cell. Other parts of the cells such as the proteins, lipids and RNA can be replaced if need be. DNA, if lost or damaged cannot be replaced.
Could aging be explained as what happens once cells have reached the Hayflick limit and are no longer able to divide? There is no conclusive answer to that question at this time. It seems that in certain tissues, including the skin and the lining of blood vessels the Hayflick limit may be a key to the aging process.
Is there a centralized aging clock in humans that dictates the pace at which all of the bodily systems run? Yes and No... Studies have not yet found a specific central mechanism that is solely responsible for aging. However, there is a system of development.
Certain substances that contribute to the aging process can be avoided. A good example of this is tobacco tar. Other contributory substances are not as easily avoided as they are key parts of the metabolism. The best example of this is glucose.
One of the most important defense mechanisms in the body is inflammation. It is a key to survival but at the same time appears to add to the pace of aging and the speed of the onset of degenerative diseases.
The body's metabolism produces waste on a regular basis. The majority of bodily waste is expelled through breathing, urine, feces and sweat. The most easily disposable waste is that which is composed of small molecules like urea, carbon dioxide and electrolytes.
Stress has been closely linked to the development of age related diseases and to the aging process as well. Stress response is basically a complicated adaptive reaction in the body.
There are two commonly asked questions about the lifespan of humans. The first is why does the rate of aging differ so dramatically among different species of animals? The second one is why are there more short lived species than long lived ones?
Research on the prolonging of life, studies of people over 100, historical records, and common sense all show us that to live a long life you need to do at least some of the steps in this article.
The greater our comprehension of the aging process the more ways that scientists find to try to extend the average life span. Ironically, the most effective means of anti-aging intervention has been the same for the past 50 years; eating less!!