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Why do we age?

The human body consists of trillions of cells which provide structure for the body. Cells take in nutrients from food, convert nutrients into energy, and perform specialized functions.

DNA is part of every cell and is our unique genetic code that tells cells what to make. Like a recipe book it holds the instructions for making all the proteins in our bodies.

Our cells continuously regenerate & replicate in the body using this code and this continuous process of cell growth, repair and division is known as the cell cycle. Some cells take days to replace and other months. After 7-10 years the entire human body has replaced itself with a new set of cells and you have a completely new body.

The biological processes behind aging are complex, with the body including many biological pathways. A biological pathway is a series of biochemical interactions that results in changes in a cell. A pathway can trigger the assembly of new molecules, such as a fat or protein, turn genes on or off, or cause a cell to move.

Proteins also play many critical roles in the body. They do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body's tissues and organs.

As we age, our regeneration activity becomes less efficient due to chemical and biological issues affecting the entire process. These process issues have been identified by scientists as ‘The Hallmarks of Aging’, however they can be addressed resulting in a long and healthy life.

Optimizing these biological processes and providing your cells with the correct tools and fuel for efficient cell regeneration slows down aging, promoting longevity and wellness

"Old & age no longer exist"

Dr. Eve Wildman

Efficient cell function is the secret to healthy aging

What makes up a human cell

  • An organelle is a sub-cellular structure that has specific jobs to perform in the cell, much like an organ does in the body.

  • Among the more important cell organelles (sub-cellular structures) are the nuclei, which store genetic information (DNA); mitochondria, the powerhouses which produce chemical energy; and ribosomes, which assemble proteins.

  • DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid is a long molecule located in the nucleus of a cell that contains our unique genetic code used to tell cells what to make. Like a recipe book it holds the instructions for making all the proteins in our bodies.

The biological reasons why we age

There are nine biological reasons behind aging which are interconnected and separate into three categories:

  • Primary causes of aging - These are indisputably bad and are causes of damage and aging

  • Antagonistic reasons of aging - The damage caused by the primary hallmarks builds up resulting in antagonistic hallmark problems. At low levels, the antagonistic hallmarks have beneficial effects on longevity however at high levels (as a result of the primary causes), they cause damage and aging.

  • Integrative reasons of aging - These arise when the accumulated damage caused by the primary and antagonistic hallmarks cannot be compensated by internal rebalancing mechanisms in the body.

The 9 primary causes of aging

1.DNA damage

The accumulation of genetic damage throughout life plays a major role in the aging process and errors start to appear in our DNA. When DNA is replicated, its code may not always copy correctly with parts sometimes being misspelt and some sections may be accidentally deleted or inserted. These errors are not always identified by the body’s DNA repair mechanisms.

Oxidative stress has many negative health affects and damages cells, DNA and proteins in the body. Oxidative stress occurs from an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons and reactive oxygen species (ROS) is the most significant. ROS molecules are produced as a by product of the mitochondrial process and have the potential to cause dangerous events to cells.

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by giving up some of their own electrons without becoming dangerous themselves. This prevents the free radical chain reactions and prevents damage.

2. Telomere attrition (shortening)

Telomeres are parts of cells that protect the integrity of the DNA code throughout the cell cycle. They are essentially protective DNA caps like plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. With every cell replication, they get shorter until they no longer work leading to cellular senescence (preventing cell replication) or apoptosis (cell death). Telomerase is the enzyme responsible for keeping telomeres long.


3. Epigenetic gene expression errors

Specific parts of your DNA are read and translated into physical traits. A family of proteins in your cells controls which genes get expressed via chemical reactions which alters the instructions given by DNA in an individual cell. This process is called epigenetic alteration and is what ensures your brain cells are different from your skin cells even though they use the same set of DNA.

As we age, the proteins become less accurate preventing the correct expression resulting in information in cells not being used correctly. This results in some necessary proteins not being made and some harmful proteins are. For example, if a change results in the silencing of a gene that suppresses cancer, cancerous tumors could occur.

Sirtuins are a group of proteins that interact with NAD+ and they control DNA expression and stability in addition to enhancing metabolic efficiency. Sirtuins detect when energy levels are low by sensing the coinciding increase of NAD+. They also help control catabolic metabolism. Upregulating some sirtuins produces anti-aging or health-promoting effects.  

4. Loss of proteostasis (cellular protein balance)

Proteins are produced constantly in our cells and they play a fundamental role in the body for building and repair in the cell process. They control most functions in the cell where they move materials transmit signals, turn processes on and off and provide structural support. Proteins assist in the formation of new molecules by reading the genetic information stored in DNA.

Proteins need to be recycled regularly as their effectiveness is reduced as we age, and our bodies lose the ability to eliminate old proteins. Protein homeostasis or ‘proteostasis’ is the process that regulates protein balance within the cell in order to maintain cellular health.

 The system functions to restore structure in protein errors or to remove them thus preventing in accumulation of damaged components. Continued expression and cell replication which includes damaged proteins can result in diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and diabetes.

 Autophagy is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells (cellular housekeeping). It is a process by which the cells components (including proteins) are degraded and recycled. Autophagy can protect brain cells against accumulation of “bad” proteins that cause neurodegeneration.

Over time, our cells build up a collection of dead cell parts and damaged proteins that hinder the body’s internal workings. This accelerates the effects of aging and disease because cells can no longer divide and function normally. Supporting the autophagy process is therefore vital as we age.

5. Deregulated nutrient sensing & imbalanced metabolism

Cells have to adjust to the level of nutrients available. Problems occur when there is an imbalance with a cells ability to sense or process nutrients. Nutrient sensing in the body and it’s four pathways have been shown to regulate metabolism and influence aging. Four associated key protein groups have been identified (IGF-1, mTOR, sirtuins, and AMPK) and these proteins are considered “nutrient sensing” because nutrient levels influence their activity.

The cell signaling pathway of IGF-1 is the same as that brought about by insulin which informs cells of the presence of glucose sugar. Reduction in the IGF-1/insulin pathways has been shown to improve longevity and wellness. Additionally, FOXO proteins have been shown to play a very positive role in the pathway to promote health and enhance lifespan.

The mTOR protein group is a master regulator of anabolic metabolism which is the process of building new proteins and tissues. A good analogy for mTOR is the phrase “live fast, die young”, because too much activity is good for growth but bad for lifespan. The IGF-1 and insulin pathways when stimulated result in mTOR. Downregulation of mTOR appears to extend longevity.

 AMPK and Sirtuins act in the opposite direction to insulin, IGF-1 and mTOR meaning that they signal nutrient scarcity and catabolism instead of nutrient abundance and growth. AMPK has multiple effects on metabolism, senses low energy states and shuts off mTOR. Higher activity of AMPK has increases longevity. Calorie restriction also increase the activity of AMPK. Conversely, less AMPK sensitivity due to cellular stress results in oxidative stress, reduced autophagy, metabolic syndrome, more fat disposition, and inflammation.

The balance between molecules with antiaging properties, emphasized by nutrient scarcity (FOXO, AMPK, Sirtuins and PTEN) against those that support the aging process (GH, IGF-1, Akt, and mTOR), is fundamental to longevity and antiaging. This is similar to the benefits of calorie restriction.

6. Mitochondrial dysfunction

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell and they produce 90% of your body's energy needs. With the use of oxygen in the cell, they help turn energy from food (fat and glucose) into energy that cells can use to fuel the cell cycle process through a chain of chemical reactions (oxidative phosphorylation).

NAD, a critical coenzyme, is used by enzymes embedded in the mitochondria to generate the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP fuels cellular processes in the body and is required to power our muscles.

Mitochondria also play a role in cell signalling and apoptosis, which is a process in the body to manage the death of a cell to avoid damaged cells replicating.

Other functions of mitochondria include:

  • Free radical production and detoxification
  • Oxidization of fats, carbs and proteins
  • Estrogen and testosterone creation
  • Cholesterol metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter metabolism
  • Ammonia detoxification

As we age, the efficiency of mitochondria reduces resulting in adverse health effects and age-related diseases.


7. Cellular senescence

When cells become old or damaged, they normally destroy themselves (via apoptosis) and are replaced with new cells. However, some cells refuse to die. These death-resistant cells, called “senescent cells,” build up in your organs and can lead to premature aging and disease.

Senescent cells contribute to many negative health consequences including inflammation, aging, cancer, arthritis and cognitive decline. Removing them enhances lifespan and improves overall cellular performance. Senescent cells are ‘zombie cells’: they die, but don’t disappear like regular cells do. Senescent cells no longer divide or operate properly. They block up your system, affect nearby cells and trigger inflammation.

As we age, the immune system weakens, and an increasing number of senescent cells escape apoptosis or removal by the immune system, and they accumulate. The good news is that there are ways to clear out built-up senescent cells and reverse aging. A group of drugs called senolytics target senescent cells and reduces them in the body.

8. Stem cell exhaustion

Stem cells are cells with the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body. The decline in the regenerative potential of tissues is an obvious sign of aging. The reduction in regenerative power has subsequent impacts that contribute to aging.

Consider the body not as a single object but as a dynamic mass of cells growing, changing, dying, and being born. These cells make up and replace the bodies’ tissues and organs, acting in concert and communicating to keep the body in good working order. In many tissues, adult stem cells are the cause of this process, tasked with supplying cells to maintain healthy tissue function and assisting regeneration in response to injury. The capabilities of our stem cells decline as our bodies grow older and our organs begin to degenerate.

A lot of research has gone into understanding what happens to stem cells as we age. For example, hematopoietic stem cells, which produce all the cells of the blood and immune system, actually increase in number in aging adults. Unfortunately, the growth in cell numbers is to offset their overall loss in functionality. Ultimately, fewer white blood cells are produced, which contributes to a weaker immune system and reduced resistance to disease and infections in the elderly.

This decline correlates with accumulation of DNA damage and over expression of cell cycle arrest proteins (cellular senescence). Telomere shortening is also a cause of stem cell decline.

9. Altered cell communication

Aging involves changes in cell communication. Signalling from hormones produced by nerve cells declines with aging through an increase in inflammation and a deterioration of the immune system which results in a reduced ability to fight infection.

Inflammation is prominent in aging and accumulates over time. Inflammaging is defined as low grade chronic systematic inflammation established through aging. This causes alterations in the intercellular communications (e.g. IGF-1 signaling) and enhanced activation of pro-inflammatory pathways which result in increased production of tumor necrosis factor and interferons (proteins released in response to viruses).

The gut plays an important communication role in shaping the function of the immune system and the intestinal ecosystem. It therefore has an important role to play in health, wellness and antiaging.


Addressing the identified reasons of why we age is vital to combat aging and enhance longevity and wellness. Without intervention, the impact of the negative features will build up creating the signs of aging and ultimately the development of age-related diseases that eventually kill us.

Wellology creates products with a science-based approach that attempt to delaying aging through the strategies identified to counter the effects of the hallmarks of aging.