Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ruminations of a young aging mind....

Today's , (Sept 22, 2014 ) Times of  India, highlights an article titled  "Can menopause be erased in 20 years ? "...........

It has been a while since I have crossed the peak and started on the downward descent characterized by a big morcha of cells in my body, marching and/or swimming around (as the case may be) ,   carrying banners saying "Estrogen, Go back!".

 For a long time , it looked like the cells were losing badly.  I suffered immeasurably in the bloody skirmishes. You could call these the First and Second Endometrial Wars of Independence.  Energy loss, anaemia , all coinciding with the busiest part of life as we know it in middle class India.

At some point, the endometrium, like the British, gave up. And I celebrated Independence.  Menopause. 

Which is why, when I read the above article in the newspaper, I gulped.  It was like being colonized once again. 

The article refers to research being done at the SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Research Foundation, in Northern California. Senescence is a posh word for Aging. And the work is about finding a gap between when metabolic damage happens in our bodies , and the subsequent permanent pathologies, so that some re-engineering can be done with , say, stem cell therapies .

Stem cells , to put it simply, are "trained" cells, that carry algorhythms for a type of growth. Some offer a wide range of applicability and are called pluripotent stem cells. And some, are special purpose. Like, for example, stem cells, that when injected in a cardiac patient, will help to regenerate the heart muscle, and get things pumping normal once again. 

I do not understand this obsession with aging. 

And the obsession with having a world class uterus, ovary, and tubes like that of your twenties, when you are sixty. I actually know of someone who swore by HRT(hormone replacement therapy) to avoid the perils of menopause, and exulted in  sense of youngness, lesser grey hair et al. True, acquiring a suddenly new set of functioning ovaries, means child bearing then will have no age limit. With your reproductive hormones in full flow, women will presumably age slower.  And with no menopause, women will clearly have the various built in protections  related to cholesterol and osteoporosis and so on.

But I have a question. 

Unlike minds that are obsessed with opposing ageing in an individual, the organs of our body, are part of a set. The members of the set, the various other body organs, are all linked via arteries, veins, nerves, muscles and lymph. Even if you give a new lease of life to the ovaries, and thus the reproductive system, what happens to the rest of the body?  How do aging muscles handle an abnormally young uterus?  How do you handle old blocks in arteries that have built up over the years  and aging walls of the blood vessels? Will this sudden emphasis on one system, get compensated by afflictions to some other part of the body, which is still in original form, and not the new and improved version ? 

Like the human body, we as a society and as a people, have a life span, where we live in interaction with those around us. Sometimes, we are kids, sometimes we are teenagers, , sometimes family people, and sometimes geriatric folks.  Life is all about interacting with those around us, in different roles.  No one really grows up  unconnected. No man is an island.  And it is all about building bridges.  Each stage of life is not always about individual perfection. Roles change and mind set-ups change  with age. Levels of patience change. There is learning. Sometimes fresh and new, and sometimes by doing something again and again.  

How much stem cell therapy can you do ?  It's like, how any parts of a car can you change and replace before you find out that it is cheaper to get a new car ?

And if you really want to rectify non functional, or malfunctioning entities, why not work on things like trying  solution for Down's syndrome, various life threatening allergies, cancers and handicaps ? I understand that extensive research is happening  in stem cell therapies for these afflictions. But using stem cell therapies to abolish menopause sounds a  bit narcissistic.

I sometimes like to think of stem cell therapy as something akin to grafting on a plant. You graft a new variety of something on to a branch of a tree, and at some point, the tree and the graft accept each other's good points, and learn to grow as if they belong.  The tree doesn't make an issue of where the graft came from, and the graft is only too happy to be part of a whole system.

There is much for us to learn from this as humans. We still place great emphasis on "my genes", "my blood", "my complexion",  "my DNA", "my chromosomes" etc , and are , disgustingly  for an evolved being, incapable of handling grafts.

What you really need is some stem cells you can implant in minds.  To clean, educate and improve them....

Minds that have gone haywire, minds that are sick, minds that are violent, rigidly selfish minds and so on.  So that all these can get back on track. 

See , there is nothing cosmetic about it. Throughout life, the mind evolves, by interacting and learning. Your thinking actually decides your age better than your biological age. 

And it wouldn't be terribly wrong to say that Aging, really , is a state of mind.....


  1. Agree entirely, Suranga. We do have the same opinions on ageing. And your question asking why those who are finding ways to keep people young can't find a cure for serious and incurable diseases, is most pertinent. If you ask me, it is all due to the cult of promoting youth as the best stage of one's life. We forget that it is more important to keep one's mind young despite ageing bones and sinews and of course greying hair :D

  2. Oh my
    this post
    hits home with me.
    For I know that this one
    still has a youthful mind
    but the body is acting in a way
    I truly do not like...
    Thank you

  3. Having come over, from the link to here, in "One Woman's Journey" blog..... I wish to thank you, for a thought provoking post.

    Being 77 myself, I appreciate any/all thoughts, to do with aging.

    Gentle hugs,
    "Here there be musing" blog

  4. I am not there yet, but I can quite understand what you meant. Too much of science is not good :) This is what happens...

  5. Yes, totally agree. I sometimes wonder why one is so preoccupied with staying young. As you say it is all in the mind. If you do accept that you are no longer young, but at the same time, have the energy to overcome some aches and pains, one will be at peace. How much of replacement can a body take ?

  6. "Algorhythms" is a psychedelic rap group, you're thinking of "algorithms."

    Per your line of thought here, I would recommend the work of "Constructal Theory" pioneer Adrian Bejan -- an important compliment to the remarkable mission of Aubrey de Grey.

  7. Yes, Ugich beautifully written post. We are obsessed with youth which amazes me when soon there will be so many older people in the world. We all have our turn and we are the lucky ones if we get to grow old. Sure, as my mother says, it is not for the faint hearted but It is what it is. If we spend all our time wishing we were something else we miss the moments we shoulx be living. As for surgery and things, no thanks. People who get plastic surgery just look like old people who have had surgery. I think it is time to publicise and admire senior people and stop adoring youth so much. Hope you and your family are well.