What is ageing? It is the result of a wide variety of molecular and cellular damage accumulating over the years. This causes a steady decline in physical and mental function, an increase in the risk of disease, and eventually mortality. These changes are neither linear nor consistent, and their association with a person’s age in years is only tenuous. Diversity in senior age is not coincidental. In addition to biological changes, ageing is frequently connected with other life transitions, such as retirement, moving to more suitable housing, and the loss of friends and companions.
In his research, Dr Rohit Sharma of Shoolini University has focused on figuring out what causes ageing and finding nutritional elements that can slow or lessen the adverse effects of ageing. Philosophers and scientists alike have never been able to figure out why and how organisms age. Several theories about ageing have been put forward so far, but none of them seems to take into account the different parts of ageing. Even though there is no agreement on whether or not ageing itself is a disease, it is important to note that there is enough evidence to suggest that several long-term diseases in humans, such as cancer and diabetes, are strongly linked to age, suggesting a direct link between diseases and ageing.
However, how nutrition affects ageing within the purview of the emerging cellular senescence-based understanding of ageing is yet unclear and least explored. Considering this, Dr Sharma’s lab focuses on the identification of Himalayan medicinal plants for their anti-ageing potential and aims at developing novel functional foods with the ability to extend organismal healthspan and lifespan.
The research team has found that the catechin EGCG in green tea is an important nutrient that can help with many aspects of ageing and senescence. Using a unique model of a long-term experiment with mice, Dr Sharma’s team showed that long-term consumption of tea catechin can significantly prevent age-related damage to cells and molecules, while also improving several age-related cell dysfunctions in the animals, which in turn increased their healthspan. This was the first large-scale study to look at how tea affects ageing and health. It showed that drinking tea is good for ageing and health. The group also tested how well drinking tea worked in an actual model of colonic inflammatory disease. They found that drinking tea does protect animals from damage and cancer caused by inflammation.
The research team is now trying to figure out how cellular senescence affects known factors that affect ageing, such as immunity and the microbiota in the gut. Also, different medicinal plants from the Himalayas are being studied for their anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory properties. The idea behind the whole research is to help the elderly improve their immune systems and reduce inflammation.
The innovative research had been possible with the support of Shoolini University’s administration and finances from the INSPIRE faculty scheme of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, Dr Rohit Sharma added.