Can you remember?

Smart but dead

By Nancy G. West

A NetGalley Review

Telomerase – also called telomere terminal transferase – is a ribonucleoprotein – and if you know what that means you’re clearly a scientist with a degree in biology and working on cancer drugs or anti-ageing.telemorase

Well in this book it is all about anti-ageing and age-related diseases.

In Faust the Devil suggests that the best way to stay young(er) is to:

Seek out a life of moderation, stop being lazy, exercise regularly and avoid unhealthy foods! But Faust prefers the magic pill / potion, and so too do many people – after all living a healthy life is just too much work! We don’t want to gradually lose our memories – forgetting where the car key is – the name of the flower – who that celebrity is – nor do we want to get flabby and lose muscle tone – those batwings are not attractive! So we all look for the magic potion as mentioned in the press that will stop the decline – eat blueberries, or flax seed, or drink kale smoothies, or, or… or just maybe there is something else that we can take – a medicine – perhaps related to telomeres that will do the job without us having to lift a finger.

For the scientist who can market an anti-ageing pill that really work on the cellular level – that actually prevents cells from ageing, there is a fortune waiting to be made. A similar pill could be adapted to prevent cancer or to heal and reverse it, and as it is estimated that 1 in 3 of have some form of cancer before we die, just think how much money could be involved.

“Where does this interaction of telomere-dependent and telomere-independent aging pathways as well as the influence of known (and many unknown) stressors leave us? The molecular understanding of cellular aging is progressing steadily, but the complexity of cellular aging and the even more complex question of how organs such as the brain and heart age requires a lot more work. There will be no single molecular switch which can reverse or halt aging and triple our lifespan, but most aging researchers do not this as their goal. Understanding specific aging pathways, as well as the genes and stressors which activate them, will allow us to prevent and treat age-related diseases as well as one day be able to provide personalized advice to individuals on how to maximize their “healthspan”.

Originally published as “The Stress of Aging” in the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting blog.”

For now, we can stick to some of the broad lifestyle interventions which were recommended by Mephistopheles: exercise and a healthy diet.

So from all of this we can conclude that if someone could find the way to maximum life span then there is a lot of money to be made and it would be worth killing for .

In this book I learn quite a lot of science about ageing – I learn that the APOE genes are implicated in 20-25% of Alzheimer cases; this gene is found on chromosome 19 and has 3 variants – depending on which of the 3  you have, your risk of Alzheimer’s is increased or reduced, but there is also Vascular dementia, Frontal-temporal dementia which also runs in families and other ways to lose your memory as you get older – over 65 (Oh dear, I’m now 65!).

So it seems that 35% of the individual differences in ageing are inherited and that lifestyle can change the length of your telemeres. If you do as the Devil recommends.

I learnt all of these facts (with the addition of what I looked up) in the first 50% of the book but as the storyline didn’t explore much further I gave up. it was a very thin story-line indeed and it seems to me that I never found out enough about the heroine – she wasn’t young that was clear from her interest in the genetics of ageing; and she seemed to lust after the detective. In her role as detective (very privately) she seemed rather inept even if it was a sideline. I felt that the story was just a way of getting across the science of ageing in a very lightweight way without exploring the issues connected – included just what a drug company would do to get their hands on a wonder drug!

This is the 3rd book in this series and to me it was just one of those series that seems to tail off as more is written. Other reviewers have called this series ‘cozy’ or ‘lighter reading’ and I do agree and thus it is not for me.

3 *



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