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September 17, 1982 - Image 24

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1982-09-17

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

24 Friday, September 11, 1982

Music by

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Sam Barnett

Technion Researchers Seek Cause of Aging

]

By PAUL HIRSHHORN

Big or small, we custom
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(Copyright 1982, JTA, Inc.)

(Editor's note: Paul
Hirshhorn is the chief
staff writer for Technion -
Israel Institute of

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Technology.)
Israel may have more
than its share of disagree-
ments with the United Na-
tions. But when the UN de-
clares "the year of the
woman" or "the year of the
ehild," Israel's participation
is enthusiastic.
The UN's focus for this
new year, aging, is no ex-
ception. As scientists from
around the globe meet in
conferences to discuss ag-
ing, Israel will be well re-
presented.
And this Rosh Hashana,
the year of the aging, Israeli
researchers are hard at
work in their laboratories,
studying aging, in hopes of
improving the quality-of-
life in the later years.
This research is espe-
cially important these
days, when we all have at
least a fighting chance of
living a bit longer, on av-
erage, than earlier gen-
erations. The average life
span has increased from
about 47 to 70 years. In
the U.S. and in Israel,
more than 11 percent of
the population can ex-
pect to live past 65 — a
figure that is expected to
rise to 15 percent by 2000.
In order to make old age
more comfortable and prod-
uctive, scientists must first
unravel the secrets of the
process of growing old.
What is aging? Prof.
David Gershon, head of the
department of biology of the
Technion - Israel Institute
of Technology, and its lab-
oratory on aging, has
studied the problem for
years:
"Biological aging, in my
definition, is the process of
diminished capacity to
environmental conditions,
which means, really, di-
minished capacity to endure
stress," explains Gershon.
"For _ example, the
capacity to adapt to low
temperatures is very much
impaired with aging, as is
the ability to adjust to blood
loss, lack of food, infection.
All the mechanisms that
enable the body to rapidly
adapt to challenges to its
well-being, deteriorate with
age."
For more than 16 years,
Prof. Gershon and his
colleagues in the Techn-
ion Aging Laboratory,
have been searching lo
find the reasons why this
deterioration occurs.
"If we find the
mechanisms of aging, we
could slow down the proc-
esses and could devise
means of keeping people in
a functional state much
longer," he explains.
"Now that medical de-
velopments have managed
to keep people alive longer,
the next stage is to improve
their health in later years."
Prof. Gershon said he be-
lieves that the key factor in
aging is damage caused by
oxygen. "We consume oxy-
gen to produce energy in the
body. This is obligatory. But
oxygen also has damaging
forms, called 'oxygen free
radicals,' a form of oxygen
containing an extra elec-
tron.
"This electron attacks

other components, start-
ing a chain of electron
transfer which causes
chemical damage to
biological molecules.
These free-radicals are
caused in the normal
processes of respiration
and by other body
mechanism, radiation in
the environment, X-rays,
etc.
"This damage accumu-
lates with age. Our research
has shown, in recent years,
that enzymatic mechanisms
in the body, designated to
protect against such dam-
age, have a reduced
capacity in aging.
"The body has several
ways to prevent free-radical
damage: first, to remove
them before they do dam-
age, and second, by replac-
ing damaged components.
But both these protective
devices are themselves
damaged with age.
The body also has the
ability to dismutate, or
change back the altered
oxygen. A Technion team
has established in the lab-
oratory for the first time,
that the enzyme responsible
for this dismutation also
wears out.
Prof. Gershon has re-

cently been invited to pre-
sent the results of their
studies at an international
conference in New York.

Zionist Congress

The World Zionist Con-
gress is a unique gathering
of Jews from all over the
world who meet, generally
every four years, to set pol-
icy for the World Zionist
Organization and elect offi-
cers to run it.
The next congress will
open in Jerusalem on Dec. 7.

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