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Understanding the physiology of the ageing individual: computational modelling of changes in metabolism and endurance

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Thomas Kirkwood


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Ageing and lifespan are strongly affected by metabolism. The maximal possible uptake of oxygen is not only a good predictor of performance in endurance sports, but also of life expectancy. Figuratively speaking, healthy ageing is a competitive sport. Although the root cause of ageing is damage to macromolecules, it is the balance with repair processes that is decisive. Reduced or intermittent nutrition, hormones and intracellular signalling pathways that regulate metabolism have strong effects on ageing. Homeostatic regulatory processes tend to keep the environment of the cells within relatively narrowbounds. On the other hand, the body is constantly adapting to physical activity and food consumption. Spontaneous fluctuations in heart rate and other processes indicate youth and health. A (homeo) dynamic aspect of homeostasis deteriorates with age. We are now in a position to develop computational models of human metabolism and the dynamics of heart rhythm and oxygen transport that will advance our understanding of ageing. Computational modelling of the connections between dietary restriction, metabolism and protein turnover may increase insight into homeostasis of the proteins in our body. In this way, the computational reconstruction of human physiological processes, the Physiome, can help prevent frailty and age-related disease.

Publication metadata

Author(s): van Beek JHGM, Kirkwood TBL, Bassingthwaighte JB

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Interface Focus

Year: 2016

Volume: 6

Issue: 2

Print publication date: 01/04/2016

Online publication date: 19/02/2016

Acceptance date: 01/01/1900

ISSN (print): 2042-8898

ISSN (electronic): 2042-8901

Publisher: ROYAL SOC


DOI: 10.1098/rsfs.2015.0079