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The Body's "Fountain of Youth" Could Lie In the Brain 118

Zothecula writes "Instead of traipsing through Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León might have been better off turning his search inwards. More specifically, he should have turned his attention to a region of the brain called the hypothalamus. At least that's what research carried out on mice by scientists at New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University suggests. They found that the hypothalamus controls many aspects of aging, opening up the potential to slow down the aging process by altering signal pathways within that part of the brain."
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The Body's "Fountain of Youth" Could Lie In the Brain

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  • Yeesh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Monday May 06, 2013 @12:16PM (#43643455)
    I wish you guys would restrict the posts to the scientific claim itself and not to metaphysical ooga-booga.
    • Could it be that people figured a lot of shit out threw intuition and transmitted it around through symbolism well before your purely right brained attack on the universe developed?

      • Re:Yeesh (Score:4, Informative)

        by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Monday May 06, 2013 @03:39PM (#43646023)

        Sure. There are lots of good examples of that. There are also good examples of people making up stories to explain things and, later on, specific details in specific stories happening to coincide with a bit of truth, by coincidence.

        There are a LOT of pseudoscientific traditions that all make a lot of (usually very fuzzy) claims. Every once in a while one of them (in this case yoga, or a specific sub-tradition of yoga, more likely) managed to agree (in a very fuzzy way) with the general location and possible function of something noted in a Nature paper, then proceeded to get everything else wrong.

        • Agreed, But I find it ignorant when people discount the previous unscientific work done by humanity out of hand because it is not science. Does it have a specific place in the scientific process of discovering things itself? No, but its a great start.

          That's like saying it's completely worthless to apply a method of testing the myriad folk remedies in use before modern chemistry and pharmaceuticals. This has actually been a lucrative means of discovering possible medicines.

          Prejudice is bad when applied so un

          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

            It's quite logical to discount the previous, unscientific, improperly tested work done by humanity. Billions have been spent testing herbal and other alternative remedies. The result is that the vast majority that weren't investigated scientifically a long time ago are placebos. A notable exception is ginger, which really does help nausea.

            Yes, it's worth running some studies on stuff like that to see if there's anything real there. That gets done ALL the time. But for the end user, if it hasn't been sh

            • Hehe, yes, according to science ;p But you can let people keep pretending...

              Is yoga more effective or less effective when you don't pretend about your chakra's. That could be tested maybe.

              Placebo's do work though and that has been tested scientifically =)

              • * that also doesn't count that meditating about chakra's as real constructs does not have an effect in the mind as a specific form of meditation... meaning no real chakras but the mind has the power to make such a belief real enough to be measurable, maybe in a scientific way. Through health, were not talking about magical electrical fields or anything.

                So define real... science has it's own definitions of "real" and the rest of us do too =)

                • ** There's a lot of debate about the virtual nature of consciousness. Cant say how scientific it all is or not though. Some of it does look pretty scientific.

              • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

                The scientific definition of real is "works consistently." "Consistently" includes specifying all the factors that must be kept the same, and omitting all the ones that don't matter. "Necessary and sufficient" if you prefer. That is, the scientific definition of real agrees pretty closely with our common sense definition. What's different is the method of testing whether something is real or not. If you're superstitious you make up stories about things that seem real. If you're scientific you first te

                • I will certainly agree that there is no scientific basis for needing to meditate on chakras to gain the benifits of better aging through some mechanism of the hypothalamus. Or it could be said thusly: Religion remains unsupported by science and the science remains separate from religion in this case.

                  I'm probably stumbling around in the dark here. But I hope that might be a legitimate start to understanding what your talking about.

                  Another thought I had was that scientific methodology could be used to determi

                  • Thanks I actually understand what you mean. Sciences claim a different method then what religion claims. Sciences method is now much more consistently provable while religious method is based entirely in faith.

                    Now I understand why people want to hear about that scientific method vs the mumbo jumbo. Becuase thats whats on the table to discuss.

                  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

                    There are actually quite a few studies looking at various aspects of religion (and other pseudoscientific beliefs). For example, I have several studies that show praying (to whomever) has no effect on the recovery of sick people, unless the sick person knows they are being prayed for. In that case, the sick person is likely to experience a poorer recovery. The hypothesis advanced by the researchers was that knowing you're being prayed for is likely to cause more stress than it alleviates - you feel like

      • I claim nothing is false, just that we cannot say so-and-so is objectively true given the available information without resorting to magical thinking to bridge the gaps in knowledge.
  • Your cells can only divide so many times before those little barbell-shaped molecule thingies get too short so really you need the mental control over processes, the cognitive capability breakdown problem in the brain, and the cell division problems all solved or it's not going to go so well.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Damn it. I already named the hippo in my brain Thaddeus instead of Thalamus. Better luck next reincarnation.

  • Unfortunately... (Score:5, Informative)

    by dentin ( 2175 ) on Monday May 06, 2013 @12:34PM (#43643701) Homepage

    ... it's not quite that simple. There are many mechanisms which impact and cause aging, and while regulation of the hypothalmus may allow the body to more easily compensate for or reduce the impact of some aging symptoms, many other unaffected systems continue to go wrong and grow old. For a better description and more thorough analysis, see:


    While this information is interesting from a research standpoint, it's likely to be near-useless in the long term. The only real strategies to properly handle aging are the repair and maintenance approach. Currently, the SENS foundation is one of the biggest funders of research into repair mechanisms, and they could certainly use more support.



    • by bkaul01 ( 619795 )

      While this information is interesting from a research standpoint, it's likely to be near-useless in the long term.

      They demonstrated an ability to slow or halt age-associated cognitive decline in the mice; that could potentially have real long-term utility in dealing with age-related phenomena such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

      • by dentin ( 2175 )

        That depends very much on your definition of long term. Assuming it even works in humans (which isn't very likely given past experience with mouse models), will it gain a year or two? Five? Ten at the outside, before some other factor overwhelms it? Will using this mechanism have unacceptable side effects? Even if it violates everything we know about aging and happens to be a perfect cure for this class of problem, it still gains us at best 50 years: at age 120, the remainder of the body will fail due

        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

          Hey, even with repair you're doomed sometime in the few trillion years from the heat death of the universe so that's not a long term solution either. Wait, your "long term" isn't measured in quadrillions of years?

          It's too bad you had to take a reasonably informative post and ruin it with some silly arbitrary limits. No, fiddling with your hypothalamus isn't going to make you live forever. Nobody claimed any such thing, least of all the summary or article. An extra fifty healthy years would be pretty awe

        • An extra 10 years gives you time to use the other anti-aging techniques that are discovered in that period. Are you going to turn down 10 years because it's not enough for you?
          • by dentin ( 2175 )

            Of course not; don't be silly. However, it's an extreme stretch to say that you'll actually get ten years out of this. As I said, this is a useful piece of information, but I'd hardly consider it an important one, and I'd be surprised if it was worth even a month of extra time over what we already know.

            Personally, I'd rather we focus on things like the 7kc lysosome enzyme project. That's far more likely to give us 'an extra ten years' than this.


  • The worst part of this kind of scientific research is all the quacks who'll use it to make a quick buck, and possibly even do some harm along the way. Reminds me of a recent M. Curie special and all the products they put Radium in after the discovery, and how little things have changed in the rush to capitalize on anything "discovered".

    For some odd reason (probably since I only signed up to watch the new pilots and had no history) recently Amazon "recommended" that I buy a diet book called How to Heal your Pineal Gland to facilitate Enlightenment optimize Melatonin and Live Longer [amazon.com] which claims to do everything imaginable and quite a few things that are impossible for you or your health. Just reading the description out loud had my M.D. girl and myself rolling in laughter, with one amazing claim after another... enjoy.

    In this book nutritionist Joel Blanchard cheerfully offers information and tools designed specifically to help us create a reality of health, happiness and enlightenment for ourselves. He alerts us to the fact that our pineal glands have almost certainly become damaged by environmental conditions on this industrialized planet. Your pineal gland is responsible for making the majority of your melatonin, which is much more than just a neurohormone or sleep aid. According to the studies cited in this book, the melatonin molecule, which is found in every plant and animal on this planet, may very well be the most powerful cell-protecting molecule in existence. Unlike normal hormones, melatonin is welcome inside every cell of your body, where some scientists believe that it communicates with and protects your DNA. Research studies have demonstrated that melatonin can help keep your cardiovascular system healthy, help protect your cells and organs from damage, help to prevent macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma, help to increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, dramatically increase your body’s ability to make antibodies, help people lose weight and lower elevated blood sugar levels, help counteract many, if not all, forms of cancer and ultimately may determine how long you are going to live! In addition to all of these profound health benefits of optimal melatonin levels, Joel discusses your pineal gland’s role in perception, intuition, self-mastery, and insight. There are reasons why Rene Descartes stated "In man, soul and body touch each other only at a single point, the pineal gland in the head." This gland is considered by many spiritual practitioners, philosophers, cultures, religions and researchers to be either the center of your “third eye” chakra or an information receiver, or both. Joel explains how to restore the health of this gland and get your melatonin levels to where you want them to be, and relates some of the amazing experiences he had after he got his pineal gland functioning properly again. These experiences ranged from being able to “receive” the contents of an email message without using any electronic device to resuming a conversation with an off-world being that he had not been able to speak with, while awake, for 13 years. Joel also discusses the role cannabis (marijuana) and dimethyltryptamine (DMT) can play in creativity, melatonin production and personal epiphanies. Are you ready to turn your pineal gland back on and start receiving the kind of creativity and body energy you had as a child, before your pineal gland became calcified? Are you ready to use your built-in Enlightenment App?

    • While reading that book sinopsis I didn't find anything really impossible until it says:

      "These experiences ranged from being able to “receive” the contents of an email message without using any electronic device to resuming a conversation with an off-world being that he had not been able to speak with, while awake, for 13 years."

      I mean... it's still not impossible(tm) but really, how the hell does this help an otherwise "science"-based book?


  • by mrbester ( 200927 ) on Monday May 06, 2013 @12:43PM (#43643851) Homepage

    Why else do zombies eat brains? There's plenty more nutritive parts of the human body. They want to delay the aging process (decay in their case) just like anybody else...

  • I will withhold my faith in scientific advancements! How can I believe any progress is being made in science and medicine, while that shining area above my forehead keeps growing? How hard can it be scientists?! *** Lazy bums! ***
  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Monday May 06, 2013 @12:52PM (#43644009) Homepage

    the next breakthrough would be to work out a categorical and undeniable way to demonstrate what those thought processes *are* that make a difference, i.e. what *kinds* of thoughts result in slowing down of ageing.

    the very very unfortunate thing for those people who like to bash religion, meditation *and* science by sitting on one side of the fence or other and slinging mud [cue down-moderation of this post as an example, because i dared to link science and meditation *shock horror*], will be that it will be found that deep restful states of meditation are the way to gain the kind of control over the hypothalamus that is being described, here.

    this link between thoughts and "physical effect" really isn't that hard to imagine. examples are as follows:

    * "i'm hungry". if you're a dog, you automatically salivate at the sight of food.
    * "i'm angry". you release chemicals into your bloodstream, such as adrenaline.
    * "i hate you". your body releases chemicals that are similar to SNAKE VENOM. hatred *literally* poisions you.
    * "i love you". all sorts of wonderful endorphins released. and a hell of a lot of hormones.
    * fulfilment of vengeance (revenge) releases a chemical that *literally* tastes "sweet". hence the phrase "revenge is sweet".

    thought. chemicals. thought. chemicals. thought. chemicals. the chain is *really* clear.

    why is it therefore so hard for people to understand that control over thoughts can result in significant life-prolonging benefits?

    perhaps it is because it's actually quite hard to keep control over our thoughts. or maybe we wish to deny the link, so that it's possible to continue to feel whatever-we-wish-to-feel without considering that there might be consequences [for ourselves]. that would be a *lot* easier, wouldn't it. i'll be interested to see if the "wisdom of crowds" a la "slashdot moderation" as a whole accepts these kinds of words. very interested indeed.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's actually very very easy. No thought, is the most effective meditation.
      However, breathing exercises, yoga, selfless work, will enhance the effects, and "training" should ideally be done over a significant amount of time (5-10 years).
      The effort should not be to gain something, but rather let go of stress and "follow your inner yearnings", whatever that may be, ie.: something you REALLY want to do, something you'd like to share with the world. Go for it, see where it leads you, what you learn about the wo

      • by foobsr ( 693224 )
        something you REALLY want to do

        You may perhaps call this "intention".

        gene expression
        As I think, especially gene expression within the ECM (which is heavily modified by practicing) is of relevance if you consider long term outcomes.


  • then dont be surprised if you never hear about it again, there are 7 billion+ people on earth and the population keeps growing, the power/elite in finance and politics that control the world wont let the general population have this, they will keep it for themselves
    • I hope to God you are right. Can you imagine what it would do to the planet if suddenly everyone lived, for example, 25% longer?

      • Start driving wooden stakes through their hearts? Or maybe the zombie approach, shots to the head?
      • Can you imagine what it would do to the planet if suddenly everyone lived, for example, 25% longer?

        Hopefully, after realizing that they would be here for that much longer, people would take better care of it.

        (scroll down when you're done laughing)

        Yeah, it sounds like we'd be screwed. But this doesn't account for people who die from accidents, non age-related diseases, or other causes. This would initially only benefit those who take care of their health, and are lucky. By the time the other leading causes of mortality are eradicated, we'll probably have enough other tech that this won't be a problem (

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        I doubt it would realistically have much effect. Assuming you have to start treatment before you get old, by the time this kicked in properly the world would probably be in the decreasing population mode that's expected in the future anyway. It might slow down that slide a bit. Also, the people who have the best health care also tend to be the ones whose population is already falling.

      • Can you imagine what it would do to the planet if suddenly everyone lived, for example, 25% longer?

        Please think through what you're posting. If "suddenly everyone lived 25% longer" that would mean that everyone who died recently would come back to life.

    • Remember FudRucker, the truth is out there.
  • It works if one also lived like the test animals - in a controlled dust and aerosol free environment on an optimized non-excessive diet. So in essence everybody should turn into nature lovers.

    I'm afraid this will just turn out to be one more pill...

  • Perhaps telomere shortening in the cells of the hypothalamus mediates the control of the aging process? Then again, all the genetic research [utah.edu] studies could have had it wrong!
    • Telomerase has been shown to regenerate the telomeres. Wikipedia has some good entries on the topic, I suggest reading them.
  • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Monday May 06, 2013 @01:38PM (#43644613)
    I'm all for living longer (as long as that time is worth living), but it would also guarantee nearly 100% of folk will encounter cancer (especially men), which probably won't help much with health care costs.

    And as harsh as it sounds, I don't think we want a bumper crop of folk living an extra 20 or 30 years with severe senility issues.
  • Aging is necessary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday May 06, 2013 @02:01PM (#43644889) Homepage

    I get the feeling that without a proper regulation of cellular growth and regeneration, we would end up with so many tumors that life wouldn't be worth living.

    Just spit-balling here, but I think we'd better understand aging before we start tinkering with it.

    There *ARE* natural things we can do to live longer, happier and healthier and we have done much of it already. But there are also some things we are doing which result in more miserable lives as well. We need to stop that but it's not a topic that works well with this one. I think, in the end, we need to plan to die.

    And isn't that one of the great things about humanity? That we die? No one jackass can dominate the world or a region forever. "Families" can do that for a bit longer and so can groups, but it requires a collection of like-minded individuals which is something pretty hard to maintain if history is any indication. And I think that is it precisely because we know we will die that we can give up on this notion that we much control and dominate everyone and everything. Many people haven't gotten the memo yet, but it is my hope that one day they will... just as soon as they give up on religion and using religion as a tool to control others.

    • by Alejux ( 2800513 )
      Curing aging is not about making people immortal. People will die eventually, even if by boredom. Curing aging is about making people healthy and young looking for an indefinite amount of time. It's about being 60 years old, and going to college again to pursue a new career. It's about being 85, and instead of being a senile old man who can't go across the room without feeling pain, being a strong and healthy enough to go to the beach and play volleyball. You say that it's a great thing we die. I coul
      • It's mostly about being a rich bastard and keeping it because you can't take it with you.

        And frankly, the richer the few get, the more miserable the many get and it's a matter of simple economics and of human history. The defense of the rich must always come from the power of or permission of the government. And when that becomes the norm, you end up with what we have today.

        • by Alejux ( 2800513 )
          You speak as though only the rich would benefit from this. As if it's in the interest of the wealthy and the governments to have millions of unproductive elderly people living off pension and social security, not to mention the cost of medical treatments related to old age (alzheimers, parkinsons, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, etc...) which is an ever increasing cost to all the nations, when they could be young and productive. You also fail to realize the good probability we'll eventually reach an age
          • And aren't you speaking as if all people would have equal access to immortality? I'm pretty sure we wouldn't.

            • by Alejux ( 2800513 )
              Eventually, yes. Like all technologies, it starts expensive then becomes cheap. Think of it this way, if a reasonably priced treatment could keep people young, what government wouldn't prefer to sponsor it for it's population, so they could be productive and not incur in the absurd cost that comes from having millions of sickly, retired old people?
              • ...and then we all die of lack of resources... eventually resorting to soylent green.

                It seems no matter how you imagine it, things come to a head somewhere, somehow. Resources, population, space... it's all quite finite. And even if somewhere along the way, we overcome space, population and resources problem, what will we have become? Space bacteria?

                Man's ability to overcome predators enabled his numbers to grow at enormous rates. Even when man kills man for sport, religion or just plain domination, we

                • by Alejux ( 2800513 )
                  Resources are not finite as it seems. By the second half of this century, we will have cheap abundant renewable energy, asteroid mining, vertical farming, engineered meat and other food types. With better information technologies and things like VR/AR/Telepresence, we will see a decrease in the need for urbanization and transportation since many people will opt to move away from big cities. About population, as it is, it's predicted to stagnate in 2050 at 10 billion. Curing aging, would only affect us
        • Your pseudonym says it all, "erroneus". Human production is not a zero sum game; both history and theory show that in free countries those who earn riches do so by making possible better lives for others. Producing televisions does not make the lives of others worse.
  • by arobatino ( 46791 ) on Monday May 06, 2013 @02:06PM (#43644929)

    The legendary Fountain of Youth [wikipedia.org] was supposed to actually reverse aging. This would only slow it down.

    • The legendary Fountain of Youth was supposed to actually reverse aging.

      The real fountain of youth is to have kids. That reverses aging of your genetic material by resetting it to zero years old

      Alas for most slashdotters, this goal will be as unattainable as the legendary Fountain of Youth.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I saw this in a movie and it ended badly for some of the test subjects.....

    But it would be cool to regrow an arm or melt a iron girder with my bare hands...

    Until I 'sploded....

  • Wow, way to go, scientists. What were the other targets for research: the duodenum? the uvula? the "taint" (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=taint [urbandictionary.com])? the clitoris?

  • I know that the writer was just trying (unsuccessfully) to make a joke, but I suspect that investigating the hypothalamus with 16th-century technology and 16th-century medical theory would probably not have helped much.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun