Study: ‘Tickling’ could be the key in subverting the aging process

Shutterstock

Every year added to the global life expectancy is attended by a new biological riddle for experts to consider.

Although our genetic inheritance decides whether or not we do so with grace,  the aging process is one of those ineradicable molecular regimes, that refuses to be overthrown.  “Growing old” is defined by an ever-lengthening list of intrinsic adverse reactions to our environment. Everything from diet to sunlight, begin to perverse the internal functions and regenerative properties of our cells until our organs fail completely. This gradual decline is insured by nine key physiological hallmarks: Altered cellular communication, telomere attrition, cellular senescence, mitochondrial dysfunction, deregulated nutrient sensing, epigenetic alterations, stem cell exhaustion, loss of proteostasis and genetic instability. All of these contribute to an abundance of genetic and cellular changes that promise our deterioration. Every time our cells replicate the protective region decorating our chromosomes (telomeres) gets that much shorter until it depletes, causing cells to lose the ability to replicate altogether.

Mice, whose protein-coding regions are 85% identical to that of a human genome,  have endowed the bulk of our tactical maneuvers in the skirmish against mother nature, even if, thus far, the instruments intended to execute these would-be solutions require a few more years at the whetstone. While experts commit to the laborious investigation, laymen are consoled by what truthfully amounts to little more than cosmetic placebos.  Ethanolamine and plastic can only mend reflections.

It’s not in an ecosystem’s best interest to allow atrophied versions of its inhabitants to hang around, and doze off to The Outer Limits; overpopulation, a pervasion of degenerative illness, and a scarcity of resources endorse this mordant appraisal.  It’s on the shoulders of the academicians of the world to match these ineluctable concerns with practical means of keeping our rotting meat preserved in a natural system that is eager to evict its tenants as early as 40.

Effects of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation in individuals aged 55 years or above: potential benefits of daily stimulation

It was recently discovered that levels of a hormone called  Growth Differentiation Factor 11,  (GDF 11), plays a critical role in the subversion of the aging process. GDF 11 gradually decreases over time after we reach middle-age, which results in a series of somatic and cognitive complications.  After researchers from the University of Georgia administered the hormone to a crop of elderly mice, the subjects evidenced a reverse in heart, muscle and brain aging. Moreover, the higher the level of GDF 11, the longer the lifespan.  Still, the mechanics were not yet clear enough to apply to human trials.

The aim seems to address one side of the mortality prism at a time. The paper occasioned above honed on in cell rejuvenation in particular, while other researchers seek to locate the fountain of youth in the body’s autonomic nervous system. As we season the two branches that comprise the autonomic nervous system, parasympathetic and sympathetic, fall out of rhythm and the consequence welcomes a dramatic weathering.

A new study penned by researchers from the University of Leeds has developed a non-invasive, therapeutic rejoin to the mortality aberration problem.  The therapy, coined,  transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation, operates by sending a swarm of electric currents into a patient’s ear canal, which then settles in the nervous system.

“This does sound like a strange therapy but it is actually a painless procedure where we place custom-made clip electrodes on a part of your ear called the tragus,” Susan Deuchars, author of the study and director of research at the university’s School of Biomedical Sciences, explained to USA TODAY.

Over the course of two weeks, 26 participants over the age of 55 were conditioned to a daily 15-minute trial of the pioneering therapy, a therapy condensed to “Tickle therapy” on account of the tingling sensation consistently reported by the study pool. Following pursuant lab testing, the authors found that a re-balanced autonomic nervous system wrought a metabolic anti-aging effect.

The study concludes, “For the first time, we have shown that age-related autonomic, QoL, mood and sleep changes may be improved with tVNS administered every day for two weeks. Importantly, the findings point to the influence of initial values in determining magnitude and direction of change following tVNS: high initial sympathetic prevalence, tension, depression, anger and confusion and low energy and sleep quality were associated with greater improvements. With further work, it may, therefore, be possible to identify which individuals will most benefit from daily tVNS in terms of their autonomic function and overall well-being.”