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A growing number of scientists say this damage is what causes aging. They also think they may one day be able to fend off oxygen’s ill effects and help us live a lot longer. Scientists have long known that oxygen is capricious. As molecules go, it gets around, reacting with all kinds of things. Mostly, that’s good. Oxygen combines with fats and carbohydrates, in a part of cells known as the mitochondrion, to churn out the energy that gets you through the day. But the conversion isn’t perfect. A small amount of oxygen is regenerated in a nasty form called a free radical, or oxidant—the very critter that causes metal to rust.

The reason? A life- tinue to look for the latest shortcut to the ever elusive time spent breathing in the air around all those maidens. fountain of youth. H. EAST PHOTO/ROMPRES I THE QUEST TO BEAT AGING 36 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN PRESENTS Copyright 2000 Scientific American, Inc. the battle VOULGAROPOULOS Liaison Agency against aging viding again, in some cases continuing to multiply indefinitely. Scientists still have no idea whether any of these cellular changes will ultimately translate into a longer life span for humans, but some researchers are optimistic that manipulating telomeres may serve as a treatment for reviving tired tissue.

This would suppress appetite, but a healthy unsatisfied appetite may be a necessary factor in convincing an organism that famine has arrived and thus stimulate the beneficial effects. “That this might lengthen life is real speculation, and it goes far beyond any data,” Allison observes. ” At the NIA, George S. Roth, Donald K. Ingram and Mark P. Mattson are trying another tack—fooling cells into thinking they’ve been fed when they haven’t. THE QUEST TO BEAT AGING They’re using a compound called 2deoxy-D-glucose, which is virtually identical to glucose but lacks two oxygen atoms.

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