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Borrowed time : the science of how and why we age
2019
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Summary
As featured on BBC Radio 4's Start the Week 'A rich, timely study for the era of "global ageing"' Nature The ageing of the world population is one of the most important issues facing humanity in the 21st century - up there with climate change in its potential global impact. Sometime before 2020, the number of people over 65 worldwide will, for the first time, be greater than the number of 0-4 year olds, and it will keep on rising. The strains this is causing on society are already evident as health and social services everywhere struggle to cope with the care needs of the elderly. But why and how do we age? Scientists have been asking this question for centuries, yet there is still no agreement. There are a myriad competing theories, from the idea that our bodies simply wear out with the rough and tumble of living, like well-worn shoes or a rusting car, to the belief that ageing and death are genetically programmed and controlled. In Borrowed Time , Sue Armstrong tells the story of science's quest to understand ageing and to prevent or delay the crippling conditions so often associated with old age. She focusses inward - on what is going on in our bodies at the most basic level of the cells and genes as the years pass - to look for answers to why and how our skin wrinkles with age, our wounds take much longer to heal than they did when we were kids, and why words escape us at crucial moments in conversation.This book explores these questions and many others through interviews with key scientists in the field of gerontology and with people who have interesting and important stories to tell about their personal experiences of ageing.
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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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