What is one thing that all humans want in their lives? A few things that come to mind are money and fame. Sure, those are great desires for some people. Another common pursuit of the human person is happiness. Wouldn’t we all like to be eternally happy? Or even better, we would like to share that happiness with our kids, grand children, and great grand children. This is impossible for most; humans do not have the life span for everyone to live and play with their great grand children. Actually, life expectancy in the United States reached an all-time high level for Americans at 77.5 years (Shrestha).
However this is still not long enough. Humans want to live longer. What if we discovered something that could help us live longer? A group of researchers have discovered substances that could create a gene. This is no ordinary gene that they are pursuing. This gene could lead to making drugs that enhance longevity. This research has sparked a debate between a couple different groups of researchers on whether or not this could truly work on humans. This dispute revolves around genes that produce sirtuins. Sirtuins are proteins that regulate biological pathways and control metabolism. But what does this have to do with increasing lifespan?
In a popular news article from the New York Times published by Nicholas Wade, “Longevity Gene Debate Opens Trans-Atlantic Rift”, he discusses both sides of the argument surrounding the longevity gene. He uses various sources to support his information, including the original research performed by the Department of Biology at MIT in 2001. He starts by discussing the role of sirtuins. “Because of their metabolic role, the sirtuins may mediate the 40-percent-longer life enjoyed by laboratory rats and mice put on a very low-calorie diet” (Wade).
Is there any meaning to human life? After listening to the first two lectures I gathered what I felt to be Professor Amrbosio’s definitions of the hero and the saint. I took notes and after going back through and reading them it helped me to put a few things together. He asks the question about whether or not human existence is meaningful or absurd. We live in a hostile and deadly environment so ...
Obviously, human’s cant match the same diet as a laboratory rat. This is why we are looking for certain genes that could possibly stimulate sirtuin activity. This way, we would obtain a much less painful way to add years onto the human life. This whole idea began when we discovered resveratrol. A common little factoid that people love to share in the US is that drinking wine makes you live longer. This is because research has in fact been done with wine; it has been found that resveratrol is a chemical found in the skin of grapes and in red wine. So what does it do? Resveratrol is reported to activate sirtuin. This goes along with the French paradox that the French enjoy a high-fat diet yet suffer less heart disease than Americans (Higdon).
This is why more recently our scientists have been researching whether resveratrol can extend lifespan as well. Pharmaceutical companies became tremendously interested in this idea. Back in 2008, a company called “Sirtris” was started with the goal to create drugs that mimic resveratrol to activate sirtuins. This was so appealing that GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical company, paid $720 million for the company (Wade).
The hope that this could actually work sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, for another group of researchers at University College London, it is.
These scientists have once again studied the experiments with the roundworms and flies, where after results were reported to have a longer life. The experiments, according to David Gems and Linda Partridge of UCL, were completely flawed. In their re-evaluation and attack, they note, “the worms and flies used as a control were not genetically identical to the test organisms” (Wade).
David Gems analyzes the test results further. “This problem can be partly addressed by freezing strains that are not in use, to minimize divergence, but this is a major weakness of using Drosophila, for which attempted methods of cryo-preservation have been largely unsuccessful” (Gems).
These researchers not only provide proof of their findings and a detailed explanation of their reports, they throw in little comments to help the reader to sway in agreement. One example is found in their caption of a picture of lab rats: “Like humans? Lab mice have abundant food, take little exercise and are safe from most infectious diseases.” After looking at the variance in strains and the external variation in mutations, Gems and Partridge conclude that there must be much more evidence to ever make a claim that this could work with humans. A featured quote in their original research says it best: “Ultimately, the findings of ageing research need confirmation in humans.” So why was this experiment so convincing to researchers who conducted it at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology back in 2001? The answer can be found by asking the original conductors and authors of the experiment.
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Leonard Guarente, who published the experiment that is now under heavy attack, defends himself by saying that the experiment was originally conducted with the best techniques available (Wade).
Unfortunately for Guarente, it was later found that the strain of worms used has picked up an extra mutation that also has the same effect of extending life span. When the mutated gene was removed, the worms with extra sirtuin do not live longer (Gems).
Guarente decided to do a more updated experiment in 2009, and “he was able to arrange that genes for extra sirtuin were switched on only when the flies were given a drug. The test and control flies were genetically identical, and differed only in whether they got the drug. Those with the drug lived longer, he reported” (Wade).
However, the same mutation was found in this experiment as well, thus disproving a clear-cut conclusion about longevity with humans.
Wade ends his article by discussing the fact that amongst scientists, it is imperative to correct flawed experiments. They may not appear to be flawed originally, but further cross-experimentation and variable examination must be conducted. There are various opinions among scientists on how exactly the flawed experiments should be handled. The London researchers note that the ageing field has plenty of inaccurate research. They take a shot at US research by claiming that American researchers are more interested in publicity than in excluding the factors that taint the accuracy of the experiment. Wade points out that, “The American sirtuin researchers under criticism believe the London group has gone beyond simple correction into “gotcha” science that is not collegial. Usually, they say, if a scientist cannot repeat another’s experiment, he will call up first to find out why instead of putting his objections into print first” (Wade).
As a participant in Milgram’s (1963) study I would be tormented at the thought of inflicting pain to another person, I also would at least think about whether what I am doing is right and whether the experiment was really genuine or it was some macabre experiment bent on torturing other people. I would probably be one of the few in Milgram’s (1963) study who refused raising the voltage of electric ...
Much like citizens of the United States, England, and the rest of the world, the scientists that are not involved in the argument remain very interested in sirtuins and their effects with longevity.
Wade’s article, “Longevity Gene Debate Opens Trans-Atlantic Rift”, is very both interesting and informative. His approach to the article appears to be very unbiased. He presents the research done by the American researchers and by the British researchers, and provides links and cites to every bit of scientific information that he brings up. The introduction, the body of his information, and his conclusion all seem to take a very unbiased identity. Regarding the overall accuracy of the article, a good way to discover Wade’s intentions in his article is by analyzing both his personal background and his background as a scientific reporter. Nicholas Wade was born in Aylesbury, England and for years held the responsibility as deputy editor of the journal “Nature”—a popular journal based in London. Being a British-born writer, his unbiased rhetoric may be subject to serious questioning; as the premise of his article outlined the debate of researchers from the United States and London. However, following Wade’s stint with Nature, he reported from D.C. for Science Journal, which is an academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Since then, Wade has worked for the New York Times as an editorial writer in the science section, known as the “Science Times”.
So where is he showing bias? Initially, it could be assumed that Wade would bend facts or even present them in a way that would make British researchers appear to be more accountable than the Americans. After checking each bit of information, all of the important findings found in original research like “Benchmarks for Ageing Studies” (2001), and “Regulation of Caenorhabditis elegans lifespan by Sir2.1 transgenes” (2001), were included in Wade’s report. He used this research and inserted it into his report accurately. However, the slander in Wade’s report is neither found in the actual content given nor his own opinions in his statements. Rather, a great bias can be found in his organization and presentation of the article. When analyzing the overall delivery of this content, Wade (in a subtle way) sets up the reader to be more trustworthy in the research done by the British scientists. In his first three paragraphs, his attention-getter is the establishment that sirtuin could extend human life. If this wasn’t interesting enough, he presents the fact that it is under heavy dispute, which increases the curiosity in the reader. Every time that Wade brings up the findings of American researchers, smoothly creates a Segway into the disproval by British research.
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In both sides of the argument, there is extensive research and documentation of all of the run tests and lab results. Wade is accurate in his report, but he clearly is in disagreement with every American hypothesis and attacks it. He attacks it with the findings of Dr. Gems and Dr. Partridge being utilized as his weapon. “I think the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot”. These are words from Dr. Guarente (the original American researcher on the topic), talking about the argument as a whole. Wade gives this quote its own paragraph, and for good reason. After discussing the disproval by Gems and Partridge and citing the article of their research conduction (in Nature) four years ago, he chooses a quote by Guarente that makes him look nervous and small-minded. Saying that the issue was blown out of proportion was not Guarente’s defense to Gem’s attack, although he set it up to appear that way. At the end of the article, Wade talks about Guarente’s updated experiment that was conducted in 2009. Guarente reported, even with the new technology that Gem’s said was the primary issue in the 2001 experiment, which concludes that the flies given the drug still lived longer. Following this, Wade says that, “Dr. Gems said at first that he had not cited Dr. Helfand’s 2009 experiment because it was ‘redundant’, and then he said that Nature had limited the number of papers he could cite.” He then moves on to his conclusion. In no way does Wade attempt to show an adequate defense for the 2009 experiment results done by American researchers. Furthermore, if the article is looked upon in an entirely objective manner, it can be found that the mere fact that Wade published this article shows his bias. After all, the theme of the report as a whole is that we still have not found any conclusive evidence that sirtuins can have any effect in human longevity. How coincidental that this is the exact argument that the British researchers are trying to make.
Carl Gustav Jung Carl Gustav Jung was born in Kesswil, Switzerland in the year 1875 and died 86 years later in 1961. He studied at Basel from 1895-1900 and then at Zrich where he received his M. D. in 1902. He worked at the University Psychiatric Clinic there in Zrich and afterwards worked for Eugen Bl euler at the Burgholzli Clinic where he wrote his book on the psychology of dementia praecox in ...
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Guarente, L. “Increased Dosage of a Sir-2 Gene Extends Lifespan in Caenorhabditis
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