UNC study: Environmental toxins affect aging

Jun. 02, 2014 @ 10:55 AM

Harmful chemicals, cigarette smoke and even stress may make us feel older than our years, according to a study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A research team, including Ned Sharpless of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said scientists must understand the chemicals involved in aging and biomarkers to measure their effects.

"The rate of physiologic, or molecular, aging differs between individuals in part because of exposure to 'gerontogens,' i.e., environmental factors that affect aging," Sharpless said in a news release. His report appears in Cell Press journal Trends in Molecular medicine. "We believe just as an understanding of carcinogens has informed cancer 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 at a public health level."