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Borrowed time : the science of how and why we age
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The question of how and why organisms age has teased scientists for centuries. There are myriad competing theories, from the idea that aging is a simple wear and tear process, like the rusting of a car, to the belief that aging and death are genetically programmed and controlled. In fact, there is no clearly defined limit to life, and no single, predictable program playing itself out: different things are happening within and between tissues, and each system or organ accumulates damage at its own pace, according to the kind of insults imposed on it by daily living.

Sometime before 2020, the number of people over sixty-five worldwide will, for the first time, be greater than the number of 0-4 year olds; and by 2050 there are likely to be 2.5 times as many older people in the world as toddlers. Sue Armstrong tells the story of society's quest to understand aging through the eyes of the scientists themselves, as well as through the "ordinary" people who exemplify the mysteries of ageing--from those who suffer from the premature aging condition, Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome, to people still running marathons in their 80s.

Borrowed Time will investigate such mind-boggling experiments as transfusing young blood into old rodents, and research into transplanting the first human head, among many others. It will explore where science is taking us and what issues are being raised from a psychological, philosophical and ethical perspective, through interviews with, and profiles of, key scientists in the field and the people who represent interesting and important aspects of aging.

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Some animals possess remarkable longevity. A cold-water clam and a species of shark can live about 400 years. Yet the average human life expectancy worldwide in 2016 was 72 years. The verified oldest-ever human reached 122. What makes the difference in attaining extremely old age? Science-writer Armstrong (The Gene That Cracked the Cancer Code, 2014) adeptly distills contemporary gerontology research. There are many theories on aging but no consensus as to why we grow old and frail and how it happens. Some popular explanations include accumulated wear and tear on the body, built-in obsolescence, progressive shortening of the telomeres of dividing cells, genetically programmed cellular death, and the pay later theory (genetic mutations that might be helpful at an early age become detrimental later on in life). Armstrong scrutinizes extreme calorie-restricted diets, the body's nutrient-sensing network, epigenetics, hypotheses about the cause of Alzheimer's disease, and an intriguing clinical study of metformin (the most prescribed medication for type 2 diabetes) as a possible life-extending treatment. Although a cure for aging remains unlikely, Armstrong's deft discussion of the topic is invigorating.--Tony Miksanek Copyright 2019 Booklist
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Table of Contents
Prefacep. 9
Chapter 1What is ageing?p. 15
Chapter 2Wear and tear?p. 29
Chapter 3Telomeres - measuring the lifetime of cellsp. 39
Chapter 4Cell senescence - down but not outp. 51
Chapter 5Old before their timep. 65
Chapter 6Ming the Mollusc and other modelsp. 77
Chapter 7It's in the genesp. 91
Chapter 8Eat less, live longer?p. 107
Chapter 9The immune system - first respondersp. 119
Chapter 10The immune system - the specialists take overp. 127
Chapter 11The bugs fight backp. 133
Chapter 12HIV/AIDS - adding insult to injuryp. 139
Chapter 13Epigenetics and chronology - the two faces of timep. 149
Chapter 14Stem cells - back to fundamentalsp. 157
Chapter 15Something in the blood?p. 167
Chapter 16The broken brainp. 177
Chapter 17Alzheimer's disease - the family that led the wayp. 187
Chapter 18Alzheimer's disease - a challenge to amyloidp. 197
Chapter 19It's the environment, stupidp. 209
Chapter 20Treat the person, not the diseasep. 223
Chapter 21Ageing research - from the lab into our livesp. 233
Notes on sourcesp. 247
Acknowledgementsp. 263
Indexp. 265
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