For hundreds and hundreds of years people have tried to stop the aging process. However, their efforts have never yielded any positive results – there is no youth elixir. Even with the latest scientific advancement we cannot stop the damage that time does on our bodies. But now scientists from Saarland University have figured out one of the factors that contributes to aging.
Inflammation is one of the major contributors to aging, but that is actually not news to scientists. For some reason immune cells become overactive as we age, causing inflammation when it is absolutely not needed.
This causes cell damage, which accelerates aging. This is particularly evident as chronic inflammatory diseases, such as atherosclerosis or arthritis, are much more common among older people. For a long time we didn’t know what causes this, but scientists now think that they have the answer.
It appears that so-called stress hormones cortisol and its inactive form cortisone is a major contributor to aging. In fact, body’s cortisol decreases as we age, which disrupts a bunch of processes in the body. Typically cortisol and cortisone are produced by the adrenal gland, but macrophages can convert the inactive cortisone into active cortisol, but this ability also decreases with age.
Even though it is called a stress hormone, cortisol is actually a very important biochemical signaling molecule, involved in numerous metabolic processes in the body. Deficiencies of cortisol lead to inflammatory processes in the body, which also damage macrophages. This causes an accumulated effect, which eventually results in rapid aging.
Scientists took a deeper look into the mechanism of inflammation and pieces of this puzzle. They found that GILZ (glucocorticoid-induced leucine zipper) protein, which plays a critical role in many important processes in the human body, becomes affected by the reduced cortisol and damaged macrophages. It is able to switch off the macrophage inflammatory response, which would reduce the inflammation and the damage that it does.
However, as we age, the levels of GILZ drop significantly, further accelerating cell damage and aging. When macrophages produce less GILZ proteins, simply continue to release inflammatory signaling molecules. Not only this contributes to aging, but it also causes inflammatory diseases that are more common among older people. And there is no easy solution.
Scientists are looking for medicine that could restore healthy levels of GILZ, but so far we don’t have anything. They are trying to restore macrophage damage and restore cortisol levels, but this is a tremendous task, which is not going to be accomplished in the nearest years.
Source: Saarland University