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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - February 14, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta Understanding aging and immortality By WALTER SULLIVAN New York Times Service NEW YORK - Jose David was born one year before Philip Henry Sheridan, the American Civil War General. Now 142 years old, he still tills his garden in the tranquil Vicabamba Valley of Ecuador. His friend Miguel Carpio is 123. They Jive in a community of 819 persons, and nine of thern are more than 100 years old, according to Dr. David Dav-ies, a specialist in aging at University College in London. Such longevity has long intrigued scientists for it defeats, if only for a finite time, the one ailment common to all mankind - aging. Medical science, while it has greatly increased the number of people vrho live to old age, has not apparently lengthened the human life span since biblical times. Indeed, what has struck the specialists who have examined pockets of great longevity in the world is that those who live longest seem to be those relatively remote from medical practice - as well as from other aspects of modern civilization. A conference of leading researchers in the field, held recently at Santa Barbara, Calif., summed up the progress made thus far. That aging is systematic process, with a cause or causes that should be identifiable rather than a random succession of accidents, is suggested by a number of discoveries. Each species seem to have its characteristic, and rather well defined, life span through which an individual can survive as long as it escapes premature death. Several years ago, Dr. Leonard Havflick, now at the Wis-tar Institute in Philadelphia, discovered that a limited lifespan is "programmed" into the subdivided cells of the body just as the lifespan of the body itself is limited. When such cells are removed and cultured in glass flasks, they go through a certain nam' ber of cell divisions and then the cell lines die out, as though of "old age." When the cells are those taken from a fetus, the number of these divisions is about 50. Under certain circumstances the number may be greater. It has been found by various researchers that with increasing age of the donor the number of divisions steadily decreases. That is, when removed from the donor for laboratory culture, these cells seem to be as "old" as the individual himself and their life span is correspondingly prescribed. Yet when the cell line is infected with Simian Virus 40 (SV-40), which prouces a cancerlike transofr- malion in the cells, they continue, in the laboratory, to divide indefinitely. In a sense, therefore, they become "immortal." In 1907, Paul Ehrlich, the great German medical researcher began to culture tumor cells from a mouse. Known as Ehrlich Ascites Tumor Cells, they are still thriving in laboratories around the world. The same is true of cells obtained from the cervical cancer of a girl in 1951. They are known, from her name (Helen Lane), as Hela I Cells. ' Thus some researchers in the field believe, that cancer, in destroying the mechanism for control of normal cell growth, may also cancel the aging factor. This would mean that it confers a form of immortality on the individual cells while at the same time, causing the ultimate death of the individual. Many single-celled creatures that reproduce subdivision are not mortal in that the cells have no programmed life span. They continue to subdivide almost indefinitely, although some strains of a species may become altered or vulnerable to an environmental factor and die out. In multicellular organisms that reproduce sexually the only cells that seemingly do not age are the germ cells - these in man that produce the sperm and egg cells. Because a "programmed" life span is typical of sexually reproducing organisms, it has been said that mortality is the price we pay for ser;. The true explanation for mortality, however, would cast light on the nature of aging. There are two schools of thought. One argues that mortality became an intrinsic characteris-toc of higher organisms to make possible the rapid evolution necessary for their development. K they lived too long, crowding the environment, they could not reproduce rapidly and evolr ving sufficiently fast to cope with many challenges of the world around them. The effectiveness of current drugs retarding aging in man is controversial and it is unlikely that any will be approved for general use in this country until their effect is better documented. Meanwhile specialists in this field are clamoring for creation of a separate institute for aging studies within the national institute of health. Such research now comes under the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Creation of a separate institute was blocked last year by President Nixon's pocket veto, but a new bill to that effect was introduced recently by Senator Bagleton and Rep Paul G. Rogers. ; Light! Moderate Precipitation} Normal Precipitation Vancouver 4.7 Edmonton 0.8 Reg'rm 0.7 Winnipeg 0.8 Toronto 2.3 Ottawa 2.3 Montreal 3.0 Halifax 4.7 St. John's 6.2 Mixed weather bag Precipitation and temperatures will vary widely over Canada in the next 30 days according to the U.S. Weather Bureau. Precipitation will range from above normal in coastal region* while interior areas will be below normal. Temperatures will be above normal in west and below normal in eastern Canada. This is not a specific forecast and changes may occur. SIMPSONS hears We're serving you a saving in semi-annual our sale of Royal Albert Bone A long-awaited event! 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