Friday, December 14, 2007

Human beings, like every other type of living organism, have developed in response to their environment to succeed as a species. Certain adaptations, such as lungs and eyes, are obvious and their uses are evident. Others adaptations, such as the appendix, we are yet to find the use for. But going by past evolutionary trends, it is safe to say that every characteristic either has played or is currently playing a crucial role in our existence as a species.

Recently, an evolutionary theory has been validated by the discovery of a certain protein. The idea that ageing is an active process, rather than a passive one, has gained substantial credentials because of the discovery of the protein NF-kappa-B by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Scientists have found that the protein, found in mouse skin, appears to block certain gene activities, such as cell division. When researchers impeded the activities of the protein NF-kappa-B in the skin of a two year old mouse for two weeks, the gene activity began to resemble that of the skin of a newborn mouse. Tests have only been done on mouse skin, but it is believed that these genes occur throughout the body in most living organisms.

Since no other use for NF-kappa-B has been found, researchers believe its only use is to actively age body cells. If this is the case, this protein may have been developed by our ancestors as a mechanism to keep populations at a size that their food supply can support.

However, the tests at Stanford University were done as a search for a cure to ageing. Sure, on an individual basis finding a cure to wrinkles or the ageing of other body organs seems like a good idea. But to actively delay ageing is to undermine an evolutionary characteristic millions of years in the making. Evolution occurs to better of a population, not an individual, and as harsh as it may sound, it may not in the best interest of mankind to be pursuing such cures. Even today we are seeing the result of over-population in certain third world countries, and we need to understand that human beings, just like any other group of living organisms, will eventually be limited by the amount of food, water, and other resources in our environment.



Dominic B. said...

I think it is unfair to say that NF-KB has no other use than aging...NF-KB is a transcription factor that is used for many different processes...largely used in the immune system....

Dominic B. said...

NF-KB activities have been studied for a long time also (My thesis work and later post-doc involved detecting this important protein that derives from a precursor protein IkB)