JULY 23, 2016
SOCIETY FOR SCIENCE & THE PUBLIC
SCIENCE NEWS MAGAZINE
New insights into life’s
battle against time
JULY 23, 2016
In Science News’ special report on aging
(SN: 7/23/16, p. 16), writers Laura
Sanders, Tina Hesman Saey and Susan
Milius explored the latest research — from
the evolution of aging in the animal
kingdom to scientists’ quest to delay the
process in humans’ bodies and minds.
“I would very much like to know how
research into aging may benefit people
who are middle-aged or elderly now?”
asked leftysrule200 in a Reddit Ask
Me Anything about the special report.
“Is there any research that can result
in treatments in the very near future,
or are the real-world applications
only going to be visible in the distant
Middle-aged and elderly people
will be the first to benefit from aging
research, Saey says. “A clinical trial
using the diabetes drug metformin as
an antiaging therapy will begin soon.
That drug will be tested on healthy
people aged 60 and older,” she says.
Sanders cautions that most antiaging treatments are still a long way
off. But various studies in rodents and
humans provide potential clues to
aging’s secrets. Blood from young rats,
for instance, has been shown to rejuvenate the bodies and brains of old
rats. Based on those findings, a clinical study in humans is now under way
that is looking at the effects of plasma
from young donors on the brains of
people with Alzheimer’s. “If scientists
could pinpoint the compounds that
give young blood its power, then they
could presumably develop drugs that
mimic that process,” Sanders says.
In the meantime, people may be
able to slow the effects of aging by
leading a healthy lifestyle. Sanders
points to a long-term study of middle-aged women in Australia. Women
who were more physically active had
sharper memories 20 years later, the
researchers found. Until proven antiaging treatments are available, “it
seems that keeping the body physically active and strong is one of the
best ways to keep your brain sharp as
you age,” she says.
Join the conversation
MAIL Attn: Feedback
1719 N St., NW
Washington, DC 20036
Connect with us
Tiny tracks discovered in the blackened
stomach contents of a 77-million-year-
old duck-billed dinosaur fossil suggest
gut parasites infected dinosaurs, Meghan
Rosen reported in “Parasites wormed way
into dino’s gut” (SN: 7/23/16, p. 14).
Online reader Jim Stangle Dvm
thought the worms may not have been
parasites at all. “It is more likely that
the tunnels were formed by a scavenger worm [after the dino had died].
Still I think the findings are way cool!”
It’s hard to say definitively whether
the burrows were made by parasites
or not, says paleontologist Justin
Tweet. Scavenger worms could have
tunneled through the gut after the
dino’s death, but his team found only
one type of worm burrow “which
suggests that either only one kind of
scavenger had access to the carcass,”
or “that these burrows were an inside
job,” Tweet says.
That’s no moon!
A recently discovered asteroid appears to
orbit Earth, but that’s just an illusion. The
asteroid orbits the sun, but its constant
proximity to Earth makes it the planet’s only
known quasisatellite, Christopher Crockett
reported in “Say What? Quasisatellite”
(SN:;7/23/16, p. 5).
Reader Mike Lieber wondered if the
moon could also be a quasisatellite.
“The gravitational attraction of the sun
on the moon is twice that of the Earth,”
he wrote. “It seems that the apparent
looping of the moon around the Earth is
The moon is a true satellite, Crockett
says. If the sun were to disappear, the
moon would continue orbiting Earth.
“The moon is within Earth’s ‘Hill
sphere,’ the volume of space in which
Earth’s gravity is the dominant influence,” he says. “The strength of the
gravitational force isn’t as important as
by how much it changes from one place
to another.” Given the moon’s proximity to our planet, Earth prevails. “The
moon orbits Earth and the Earth-moon
system orbits the sun,” he says.
What is aging, exactly, and when
does it start? Has the first person
who will live to age 150 already
been born? Science News writers
Laura Sanders, Tina Hesman Saey
and Susan Milius (below) answered
these aging questions and others
online in a Reddit Ask Me Anything.
Read more at bit.ly/SN_Aging