The Keys to the Fountain of Youth


People have been trying to fight the aging process for centuries. Ancient Egyptians are thought to have created their own anti-aging elixirs and spells. Now researchers at the University of Gothenburg have identified an enzyme that may bring the world one step closer to the fountain of youth.

Using yeast cells as a model, the researchers discovered that the active enzyme peroxiredoxin (Prx1) breaks down harmful hydrogen peroxide in the cells. Inactivation of Prx1 is what leads to aging and its corresponding diseases such as genetic defects, cancer and possibly Alzheimer's. This can be counteracted by production of the enzyme sulfiredoxin (Srx1), which repairs Prx1.

Previous studies show that monkeys using a calorie-restricted diet can increase their life span by producing more of the enzyme Srx1.

Further Study

There are many studies that demonstrate the life-preserving properties of a calorie-restricted diet, but extensive research is still lacking in humans. The diet received positive affirmation after a fluke of Bio-Dome proportions proved its legitimacy. In 1991, scientists participating in Biosphere 2 had to resort to calorie restriction after realizing they didn't have a sufficient amount of food to last the duration of their two-year experiment. Upon exiting the bubble, tests proved that the scientists were healthier in regard to nutrition than when they entered.

Calerie, a study examining the long-term effects of calorie restriction in humans, has been underway for four years now. The last enrollees will be wrapping up their two years as of February 2012.

Although the verdict is still out, people have already decided to devote their lives to calorie restriction.

Skepticism still exists though. One criticism is that the diet is extremely challenging to maintain. Some scientists feel the complete side effects are unknown.

According to University of Gothenburg researchers, calorie restriction is not a necessary element for reducing age. It can be achieved by increasing Srx1 in the cell alone.

Further study will be required to determine which method can best lead to a life of eternal youth. Until then, we are left to wonder if Ponce de León should have simply changed his diet instead of traveling thousands of miles by sea.

Classroom Discussion

  • Do you think calorie restriction will ever become a way of life for the majority of people?
  • Discuss both the positive and negative aspects of people living longer and without sickness.