Why Inflammation and Aging Are Like Oil and Vinegar – Part 1

Written by Anil Bajnath, MD
Posted April 20, 2021

Dear Longevity Insider,

As we age, cells show an increase in self-preserving signals that result in damage elsewhere in the body. Altered intercellular communication contributes to symptoms and diseases that are associated with declining health.

Today, we conclude our nine-part series on the Hallmarks of Aging. If you have followed along, you will find that each hallmark either directly or indirectly affects the other. 

The first four hallmarks are considered primary since they are believed to be actual causes of aging and have a definitive negative effect on DNA. They are what first initiate cellular damage, which then leads to accumulation and progressive loss of function. They are:

  • Genomic instability
  • Telomere attrition
  • Epigenetic alterations
  • Loss of proteostasis

The next three are called antagonistic, as they ultimately respond to the damage caused by the primary hallmarks. However, they are initially designed to have protective factors. It is only when bodily conditions become chronic and/or aggravated that they contribute to cellular damage. They are:

  • Deregulated nutrient-sensing
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • Cellular senescence

The last two hallmarks are thought to be integrative because they “directly affect tissue homeostasis and function.” These come into play once the accumulated damage caused by the primary and antagonistic hallmarks can no longer be stabilized. Once this happens, the functional decline is inevitable. They are:

  • Stem cell exhaustion
  • Altered intercellular communication

This week, we will cover the final hallmark: altered intercellular communication. The primary and antagonistic hallmarks each contribute to the variety of breakdowns in communication within and around our cells, thus the reason for altered intercellular communication is identified as one of the two integrative hallmarks.

Communication is everything

Our cells process millions of signals every day. Scientists have spent entire careers discovering how different signals and intercellular pathways work. It’s that important. When communication gets disrupted, it can allow disease to set in, such as cancer cells growing out of control. In fact, most diseases involve at least one breakdown in cell communication.

How a cell gives and receives messages with its environment and with itself is critical to its survival. It processes information from the outside, such as changes in temperature, variation in light levels, and availability of nutrients. It also communicates with other cells via chemical and mechanical signals, which cause alterations in their function.

Protein receptors embedded in the cell membrane connect membrane signals that affect the inner chemistry of the cell. This allows the direct passage of molecules between the internal and external compartments of the cell. All of this translates into how our cells adapt and change based on our environment and what our bodies need. This includes functions from gene expression and glucose regulation to our overall development.

On Thursday, we will dive into what all of this has to do with inflammation... and what you can do!

To your longevity,

Anil Bajnath MD
CEO/Founder, Institute for Human Optimization
Chief Medical Officer, Longevity Insider HQ