There’s currently a fair amount of controversy around what exactly aging, biologically speaking is, is it the damage accumated through out the lifetime of an organism gradually reducing its tissue/cellular functions or is it some pre-programmed mechanism to limit cell division to reduce the risk of Cancer.
While, that controversy seems unlikely to get resolved any time soon, at least one piece of that puzzle has become clearer. Researcher’s at the Salk Institute have discovered a major key to how human and other animal cells age, shortening of the protective tips of the chromosomes (where a cells DNA is held) causes damage to the structure of the chromosome itself, Chromatin which is made of a combination of DNA and Histones) is damaged by the production of defective histones which increase with the shortening of the chromosome end caps (telomeres).
Not only is this an extremely important finding but it may also have future potential in the development of treatments to reverse, at least partially, cellular aging in humans as the Salk institute scientists were partially able to reverse this cellular damage in the laboratory! Does this mean we’ll soon have therapeutics to reverse the aging process, not likely. However, I wouldn’t bet against a Robert Heinlein type anti-aging clinic sometime in the future… a sci fi nerd can hope :)