How do Genetics Influence Aging?


As you probably know by now, most of your appearance, health, genetic makeup, and behavioral patterns can all be traced back to your genetics. But did you know that researchers believe that your longevity may also be influenced by genetics? In this article, we will discuss how exactly genetics impact aging, whether or not you can reverse aging, and what genetic treatment options are on the horizon. 

Is Aging Mostly Genetic?

Just like every other aspect of human health, the process of aging - how quickly it happens, how harsh its side-effects, and how reversible it is - is greatly impacted by our genes. For years researchers have known about the connection between genetics and aging. Still, it’s been difficult to pinpoint exactly how large that connection is and where exactly it exists. 

A recent study found that those who suffer from a common age-related skin disorder typically share similar genes. Does that mean that our genetics is the only thing that matters? Of course, not. Lifestyle choices, dietary habits, exercise levels, and environmental factors also play a part. However, researchers have yet to discover what the exact split is. 

How Do Genetics Affect Aging?

Again, genetic and environmental factors will both play a role in the aging process. Several genetic factors are implicated in aging, however, There are several different gene combinations that researchers believe can determine lifespan. Certain genotypes can also slow down the rate at which DNA can be repaired, thus leading to age-related diseases. 

Two main classes have been described of lifespan-extension mutants in Caenorhabditis elegans. The first consists of genes with activity in the mitochondrial electron transport chain, such as CLK-1 and ISP-1, whose mutation reduces oxidative phosphorylation capacity and prolongs life in worms. The second mutant class is related to hormone mechanisms of the insulin/IGF-I signaling (IIS) pathway, such as DAF-2 and AGE-1 mutants, which extend lifespan in worms, flies, and mice.

What are the Theories of Aging?

There are several different major theories of aging, but some are more accepted by the research community than others. Each of these theories has sub-theories. Here are some of the most popular theories of aging:

  • The programmed theory - This theory states that aging is the result of a sequential switching on and off of certain genes
  • The damage or error theory - This theory states that vital parts in your cells and tissues wear out resulting in aging
  • Endocrine theory - A biological clock controls hormones and the pace of aging
  • Immunological theory - This theory states that the immune system is programmed to decline over time

All of these theories share similar beliefs. At some point, our bodies will inevitably break down. Where these theories differ is how aging comes about. 

Which Gene is Responsible for Aging?

First and foremost, there is no magical gene that is purely responsible for aging. With that being said, research in recent years has led experts to believe that there are genes responsible for aging that play a big role in our longevity. SIRT6 is often referred to as the “longevity gene” because it plays an important role in organizing proteins and recruiting enzymes that repair broken DNA. 

Research into this gene is still in its infancy and more information is required to make a definitive statement as to whether or not this gene is directly responsible for aging. However, studies have found that species that lack SIRT6 seem to have much shorter lifespans than those who have strong SIRT6. As for humans, experts believe that we have already reached our SIRT6. The next step for researchers is determining what longer living species have that humans do not. 

Can you Reverse Aging?

One of the most common side-effects of aging is muscle loss. While it can be difficult to reverse aging and muscle loss caused by aging, it is possible. The best way to reverse muscle loss is by implementing healthy lifestyle choices and practicing healthy lifestyle choices. Perhaps the best way to reverse muscle loss is to understand some of the factors that help accelerate muscle loss with age. Here are four key factors:

  • Immobility and a sedentary lifestyle - Disuse of muscle is one of the strongest triggers of sarcopenia, leading to faster muscle loss and increasing weakness. Poor sleep and immobilization after an injury or illness can also lead to a rapid loss of muscle
  • Unbalanced diet - Your diet is perhaps the most important part of muscle loss or muscle growth. Any diet lacking in calories and protein results in weight loss and diminished muscle mass. Unfortunately, low-calorie and low-protein diets become more common with aging, due to changes in sense of taste, problems with the teeth, gums, and swallowing, or increased difficulty shopping and cooking
  • Inflammation - Your body works to tear down and rebuild after suffering from an injury or illness. Chronic or long-term diseases can result in inflammation that disrupts the normal balance of teardown and healing
  • Severe stress - Sarcopenia is also more common in a number of other health conditions that increase stress on the body. There are ways for you to reduce the amount of stress you’re going through

By preventing some of these things from happening, you can help slow the effects of sarcopenia and muscle loss. Consult with a doctor to find out how you can implement a healthy lifestyle. 

Can Gene Therapy Reverse Aging?

The idea of gene therapy is very complex and it can be even more complex to implement efficiently. The gene-based therapy modulates the genome architecture using both direct and indirect approaches. These approaches include gene editing and viral or non-viral vectors. 

As of right now, it can be very difficult, if not impossible to find these practices. This is because it can be a long process that is often limited by its side-effects. Recent advancements call for optimism, but additional translational research is needed to address the challenges gene therapy faces. 

Supplements Can Help

Taking care of your body with a proper diet, exercise routine, and supplement regimen can help you increase your longevity. Supplements, such as a spermidine supplement, can help you live a longer life by inducing autophagy throughout your body. Autophagy is the body’s process of replacing older, potentially damaged cell parts, with newer healthier ones. 

This process becomes increasingly important as you get older and your cells become more and more worn down. Supplements can be beneficial because it can be difficult to get your recommended daily intake of spermidine through your diet alone. By taking a spermidine capsule with your dinner, you ensure that you always get your daily dose of spermidine.

  • Don Moxley - Director of Applied Science

    Don Moxley is the Director of Applied Science at Longevity Labs. Moxley draws upon his career as an athlete, a sports scientist, and an instructor to lead and educate on the science of autophagy and longevity.