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Aging: Do Cells Get Smarter Or Sicker?

Update Date: Feb 06, 2017 08:20 AM EST

Aging is viewed as a phase when cells begin to malfunction and people starts to get sick. However, a biochemistry professor found a protein aggregate in aging cells that make them function better.

The normal aging process includes more than gray hair and wrinkles. It can affect a person's bones, heart and even reproductive organs.

An aging person's heart rate can become slightly slower and the size might become bigger according to Mayo Clinic. The blood vessels and arteries become stiff, making the heart pump harder which can cause hypertension and other cardiovascular problems.

Bones tend to shrink in size and density among aging people. They are now more susceptible to fracture. The muscles will lose strength and flexibility, thus older people are less coordinated and will have trouble balancing.

Constipation is also common among the aging population. This may be due to low fiber diet, medications and other medical conditions such as diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome. Loss of bladder control is also common especially for menopausal women and for men with enlarged prostate.

Loss of memory is one of the dreaded conditions among the aging people. A number of diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are common, too.

However, Yves Barral, a biochemist at ETH Zurich who studies yeast cells, said that flawed cell causing people to age and get sick is too narrow. He and his team have recently found a new type of protein aggregate that appears as the cells get older.

The yeast cells with those specific protein aggregate functions even better. One of the researchers, Juha Saarikangas, said that they help the cells cope with physiological changes caused by aging. Barra and his colleagues believe that the prion-like proteins accumulated in the cell should not be referred to as malfunction, but a positive effect of aging.

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