You can say that humans have a pretty odd relationship when it comes to the idea of aging. Especially in the current age of elective surgeries and injections. Fat makes up a lot of our body and is vital for every single cell. But how do fatty acids play a role when it comes to ensuring that our cells stay healthy and functional for long?
How can certain chemicals and fatty acids prevent aging?
The Membrane and Fatty Acids
At BodyBio, the investigation into aging starts at the cell membrane. The membrane is the outer shell of the cell, which has two fatty acids facing each other. This forms not only a protective barrier around the cell, but also has a whole communications network on the inside (Hameroff et al, 2002). While the outer membrane may be laxer when it comes to letting in other chemicals and proteins, the inner layer is practically impenetrable. This is because all molecules that the cell needs can go through using special transporters. This makes the membrane a great line of defense for the cell as a whole, that would otherwise be bombarded with random molecules.
In fact, without this layer of fat between the cell and the outside world, no life as we know it would exist. That is how important the membrane is to the functioning of the cell. This is best understood through Peter Michell’s work on the cell’s energy cycle. He theorized that the membrane is the key to understanding why only certain particles could pass thropugh the membrane (Mitchell 1961). Due to this, the membrane can work as a way to send signals between it and the other parts of the cell. But how exactly does the membrane work like a network?
How the Membrane Works as the Cell’s Brain
The cell’s membrane is located on the outer end of the cell, which means that it is in the perfect place to get information about the outside world. For instance, that is one of the ways in which the cells get oxygen as a lung cell, or pump if they are a heart cell. Many believe that the DNA is the thing that holds all the cells together, but this does not seem to be the case. A cell can survive for months, even after the DNA is extracted from it. Yet, if you fracture the membrane, the cell immediately dies. It cannot sustain itself without its layer of protection and information.
This is how vital the membrane is for every single cell in your body. In ‘The Biology of Belief’ Bruce Lipton claims that the DNA is like the hard drive, while the membrane acts as the keyboard. Because although DNA holds all the vital information, it cannot act on it without the membrane’s instruction.
The fatty acids that make up about 60% of the dry weight of the brain are vital to how the brain itself works. The brain is able to communicate via neurons precisely because of these membranes. Making the brain dependent on the individual fats, known as phospholipids, to function and thrive. But what does all this have to do with aging, and can anything be done to prevent cells from dying?
Phosphatidylcholine and Sphingomyelin in aging
So far we have learned about how every cell needs a membrane to thrive. We have also learned that the membrane is vital to every working structure inside of the body. But what about when that body starts to break down? What role do these fatty acids play in that?
Well, one of the most important changes when it comes to aging is how the ratio of certain phospholipids and chemicals change. The ratio seems to be between the chemical phosphatidylcholine (PC), and both lipids sphingomyelin (SM) and cholesterol. As we age, PC decreases while SM and Cholesterol both increase (Schacter et al., 1983). This, in turn, affects every single cell inside the body, such as blood cells, neurons, bone cells, immune cells, and more. This makes aging an issue with bodily balance, otherwise known as homeostasis.
One main example of this is the fact that the aorta and arterial wall shows a PC/SM difference 6 times greater than in other parts of the body. For instance, SM can become up to 80% of the total phospholipids in an advanced lesion found in the aorta. (Yechiel et al.,1985), (Yechiel and Barenholz, 1985), (Yechiel et al.,1986), (Yechiel and Barenholz, 1986; Barenholz 2004), (Cohen and Barenholz, 1984). This shows that health problems can arise as SM and cholesterol increases in our body, and as PC decreases.
This balance has also been seen using rat heart cells. For instance, in one study (Yechiel 1985a.b, 1986; Muscona-Amir 1986), rat heart cells were used to see how PC may benefit the heart. The cells were separated, with one group getting PC and two others not getting any at all. They all started off beating at 160 beats per minute, or BPM. After over two weeks, the two that did not get PC slowed down their beating rate to 20 BPM or even stopped. Then they were all administered PC again. Within 24 hours, all the of sample’s BPM went back up to 160. This shows that aging might be attributed directly by the body’s absolute need for PC.
If you were to search for PC in the medical literature, you would find over 37,000 results. Within these were many other papers detailing the power of this chemical. They have shown that this chemical can help prevent cell death, and prevent the cell from aging.
So in the end, the body runs on a balance. Aging starts due to the body not being having PC and SM in balance. It is believed that it could somehow maintain this homeostasis, we can potentially prevent the body from aging altogether. But it seems like the research is still a long way away from making that a modern reality.