Current Aging Science

Prof. Debomoy K. Lahiri
Department of Psychiatry Indiana University School of Medicine
Indianapolis, IN


Does Aging Need Its Own Program, or Is the Program of Development Quite Sufficient for It? Stationary Cell Cultures as a Tool to Search for Anti-Aging Factors

Author(s): Alexander N. Khokhlov.


According to our conception, the aging process is caused by cell proliferation restriction-induced accumulation of various macromolecular defects (mainly DNA damage) in cells of a mature organism or in a cell population. In the case of cell cultures, the proliferation restriction is related to so-called contact inhibition and to the Hayflick's limit, while in the case of multicellular organisms, it is related to the appearance, in the process of differentiation, of organs and tissues consisting of postmitotic and very slowly dividing cells. It is assumed that the proliferation of intact cells prevents accumulation of various errors in a cell population. However, the continuous propagation of all the cells in a multicellular organism is absolutely incompatible with its normal functioning. Thus, the program of development, when it generates postmitotic or slowly dividing cells, automatically leads also to the onset of the aging process (mortality increase with age). Therefore, any additional special program for aging simply becomes unnecessary. This, however, doesn't reject, for some organisms, the reasonability of programmed death, which makes possible the elimination of harmful, from the species point of view, individuals. It is also very important to emphasize that increase or decrease of an organism's lifespan under the effects of various external factors is not always necessarily related to modification of the aging process, though the experimental results in the field are usually interpreted in just this way. I called the experimental-gerontological models similar to the Hayflick’s model "correlative", since they are based on some correlations only and not related necessarily to the gist of the aging phenomenon. So, for the Hayflick's model, it is the relationship between population doubling level and donor age, between population doubling potential and species lifespan, between some cell changes in vivo and in vitro, and so forth. If the rationale of the "Hayflick phenomenon" is used, we can't explain why we age. Nevertheless, many authors virtually put a sign of equality between aging in vitro and aging in vivo, which generates conclusions that are of quite doubtful accuracy. A classic illustration of this is the telomere concept of aging. Originally, the principle of shortening end-segments of DNA (telomeres) during each cell division was formulated at the beginning of seventies by the Russian scientist Aleksey Olovnikov and used by him to explain the limited "proliferative" lifespan in vitro of normal cells. Subsequently, the existence of this phenomenon was confirmed by the results of many research reports, the culmination of which was a publication in which the authors demonstrated the possibility of increasing the proliferative potential of normal cells by introducing the enzyme telomerase to them, thus restoring the lost telomere segments. At the moment it looks like the telomere shortening contributes to aging in vitro only, but not to aging in vivo because an organism never realizes the full proliferative potential of its cells. Besides, the most "responsive to aging" are the organs and tissues consisting of postmitotic cells, for which the concept of proliferative potential loses any meaning in practical terms. We developed another "correlative" model–a model for testing of geroprotectors and geropromoters – the "cell kinetics model." It is based on the well-known correlation between the "age" of cultured cells (age of their donor) and their saturation density. The model allowed us to perform preliminary testing of a lot of different compounds and factors that are interesting from a gerontological point of view, but it revealed no information about the real mechanisms of aging. However, the second model we use in our studies – the "stationary phase aging" model – obviously, is a "gist" model. It is based on the assumption that in the cells of stationary cultures various intracellular changes similar to those of an aging organism can be observed. The proliferation restriction in the case is provided, as a rule, just by contact inhibition. Many experimental results confirming this assumption were obtained. "Age-related" changes that are well known from organismal studies were shown to really occur in our experimental stationary cell culture model. Besides, such experiments can be carried out on nearly any type of cells from various biological species. Thus, the evolutionary approach to analysis of the data is provided. Moreover, the changes in the stationary cell cultures become detectable very soon – as a rule, in 2 to 3 weeks after beginning the experiment. All this allows us to suppose that the "stationary phase aging" model should provide a very effective approach to testing of different substances and their cocktails on their activities in terms of accelerating or retarding aging – of course, if their effect is realized on the cell level only.

Keywords: Aging, cytogerontology, DNA damage, germ line immortality, program, stationary cell cultures.

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Article Details

Year: 2013
Page: [14 - 20]
Pages: 7
DOI: 10.2174/18746098112059990009