Aging and Chemicals


How smoking accelerates aging(9)


Why some 70+ year olds are very active while others can barley move around? Researchers explain in the article, that such difference from one person to other occurs due to exposure towards certain chemicals in the environment. Your date of birth on your certificate gives your chronological age, which might mean little in terms of the biological age of the cells inside the body. Chemicals like, benzene, cigarette smoke, and stress were identified as causative factors.

In an article(1) researcher explains the need to have more knowledge about the chemicals involved in aging and biomarkers(5) to measure them. Dr Norman Sharpless from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, states, “The rate of physiologic, or molecular, aging differs between individuals in part because of exposure to ‘gerotogens’, that is environmental factors that affect aging”. He further said, “We believe just as an understanding of carcinogens has informed cancer(6)biology, so will an understanding of gerontogens benefit the study of aging. By identifying and avoiding gerontogens, we will be able to influence aging and life expectancy(7)at a public health level.”

Differences in individual aging rates in the future can be determined using blood test evaluating biomarkers of molecular age. Tests like these measure key pathways in the process of cellular aging or chemical modifications to DNA(8).

Dr Sharpless stated that cigarette smoking is the most important gerontogen. Cigarette smoking has been linked with cancers. It has also been linked with atherosclerosis(4), pulmonary fibrosis(3) and other disease linked with aging. Even sun through UV radiation has also been proven to cause aging; Dr Sharpless and his colleague recently showed that chemotherapy(2) treatment also being strong gerontogen.

Using mouse model, Dr Sharpless and his team is prepared to study gerontogens and other factors in more detail. A concerted research is required to understand the clinical use for molecular tests of aging as well as the epidemiology of accelerated aging. “We believe the comparison of molecular markers of aging to clinical outcomes should begin in earnest,” Sharpless said.

Other ways of measuring molecular age will be through molecular determinations of DNA methylation proving useful biomarkers for this purpose. The concept of carcinogen has provided the foundation for cancer biology, the concept of gerontogen and its measurement using appropriate animal models and human biomarkers, will be crucial to a modern understanding of human aging.


 1)    E. Sharpless, Norman , 2014. Defining the toxicology of aging. Trends in Molecular Medicine, 13, 13-23.






















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