Category: longevity

What is Cellular Senescence

Where do senescent cells come from, and why does our body create them?

As over time and as you get older, you accumulate DNA damage in your cells.

DNA damage can happen in a number of different ways, such as radiation and environmental factors, but can also happen naturally through normal cell growth and division.

This DNA damage accumulates and causes what’s known as senescent cells. Senescence means that the cells are old and have undergone aging at the cellular level.

But some cells don’t experience senescence and seem to be able to undergo healthy division almost indefinitely.

Let’s examine the differences between cells that experience senescence and those that don’t.

Somatic Cells: telomere shortening and cell division

In human bodies, our cells divide 2 trillion times per day.. that’s 2,000,000,000,000. [4]

As somatic cells divide, the caps at the end of our cells (called telomeres) slowly lose information after each subsequent cell division.

source: Khan Academy YouTube Channel [3]

When telomeres become too short, the cells stops dividing.

Telomere shortening and other types of DNA damage results in these cells becoming senescent – which means they autonomously stop dividing.

Doing so helps prevent DNA damage from continuing to happen, and being carried over into future child cells. [3]

Our somatic cells can divide between 60-70 times before the telomeres get too short (called the Hayflick limit).

Stem cells: telomerase and DNA repair

Although somatic cells undergo this natural progression towards cellular senescence after a certain number of divisions, not all cells in the body go through these stages.

Stem cells are special – they don’t experience cellular senscence.

Stem cells are able to maintain their mitotic capacity (ability to divide) and avoid senescence because they have a special enzyme called telomerase.

Telomerase helps cells “stay young” and avoid the Hayflick limit because it is able to rejuvenate the lost ends of telomeres after dividing. [4]

Humans have stem cells in all different types of tissue and organs throughout our bodies.

Why don’t somatic cells produce telomerase?

In regular cell function, telomerase is specific to stem cells, and somatic cells are not supposed to produce telomerase.

However, because our body creates 100 billion new cells every single day, mutations can happen where a somatic cell will produce telomerase. This is actually a BAD mutation!

And while telomerase might sound like the key to keep our cells young, unfortunately, its more complicated than that.

Telomerase production in somatic cells results in uncontrollable cell division and growth, which causes cancer.

Even at an extremely low rate of mutation, the high number of cells means more opportunities for cancer to form.

Problems caused by senescent cells

Similar to brain neurons and heart muscle cells, senescent cells don’t divide. They shut down and stop copying DNA and dividing.

Somatic cells undergo senescence to stop dividing and to avoid becoming cancerous. And as humans age, we have more senescent cells in our bodies.

Although good for the prevention of cancer, too many senescent cells is a detriment to human health.

Senescent cells secrete proteins and molecules that cause inflammation. (senescence associated secretory phenotype, or SASP).

Remember, inflammation is BAD. Due to the SASP factors from senescent cells increasing inflammation in our bodies, we experience debilitation and disease at increased rates.

So although we want our somatic cells to avoid growing uncontrollably and causing cancer, we also want to avoid the presence of senescent cells if at all possible.

The future of cellular aging

Scientists are looking into ways to remove senescent cells to improve health. Senolytic drugs, for example, are built to kill these cells.

How do you think the future of cellular aging will look?

Tweet @espressoinsight and let us know what ideas you have.

Sources:

  1. The Hallmarks of Aging https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3836174/
  2. SENS Overview of Cell Senescence https://www.sens.org/overview-of-cell-senescence/
  3. Telomeres and cellular senescence https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5YiO6rKr-w
  4. Cell division https://askabiologist.asu.edu/cell-division#:~:text=Organisms%20grow%20because%20cells%20are,trillion%20cells%20divide%20every%20day.

Why Humans Need to Cure Aging

During a conversation with a friend, the topic of longevity research came up, which I expressed my longstanding support for.

My friend came back expressing his idea that death is actually important, and questions of why we shouldn’t die, concerned about how life will be special if we don’t die.

The argument of whether or not we should extend longevity has and will be continued to be had over and over and over again. The points and arguments may be disagreed upon, but it is important to lay them out in writing once and for all:

First of all, we should be so lucky to be able to worry about living forever.

At this stage, we aren’t even sure if curing aging is possible.

We’re pretty far from discovering the cure for aging.

The proclamation that “we shouldn’t cure aging” is silly if we don’t even know for sure that it is possible.

What we do know is that people suffer unnecessarily due to age related illnesses.

While some of us with longevity genes live healthy and active well into our 90s, many of our loved ones get older and face cancer, obesity, dementia and alzeimers, and more.

The issue is that these debilitating aging illnesses consume a large number of years towards the end of a persons life.

By solving aging, first and foremost we must allow people to live healthy, active lives up until the end.

Its unlikely we’ll be able to extend life indefinitely (at least as far as we know).

But what if humans could live healthy lives into their twelfth decade, reaching 120+ years of age?

I believe this is absolutely possible and achievable at the current pace of scientific research.

We want to find a way to end diseases. No one is saying you have to live forever.

You can still die. But wouldn’t it be great to extend our lives a little longer?

Why is extending human lifespan important?

As a person finishes school and gets their start in the “real world”, their lives are likely already 1/3 to 1/4 of the way over.

As disappointing as this may be, it is a fact – and the sooner you come to terms with mortality, the easier it will be to focus and commit to the truly important things in life – that which gives your life meaning, whatever that may be for you as an individual.

Reason #1 – more productive years for skilled professionals

Take an example of the career of a doctor.

If you decide to become a doctor, you’re going to have to spend another 8-ish years in school on top of college.

By the time you make it out of medical school and residency as a practicing physician, if you’re lucky, you will be about 30 years old.

On the other hand, many students don’t get into medical school the first time around due to grades, preparedness, slow decision making, and other reasons. Its not uncommon to see medical students enter their M1 year of school after taking a 3-4 year gap between undergrad and medical school.

Because of this, a career doctor can expect to spend between 30-35 years as a practicing physician, assuming an average retirement age of 65.

There is a shortage of primary care physicians globally, and a shortage of specialists in the US.

Its too bad that after all that school and training, one of the most valuable professions in our society gets so few years of productive work out in the real world.

The skills that a doctor possesses are important and benefit society. Becoming a doctor is no easy task. Wouldn’t it be better if a doctor was able to practice medicine for more years, allowing society to benefit more from their hard earned skillset?

How much better would surgeons be if they were able to put that much more time under their belt? Why can’t people live to be 200, 500, or even 1000 years old?

The same can be said of other skilled professions as well. How much would human society benefit from having elders with decades upon centuries of experience to help us run our seemingly broken society?

It is unfortunate that humans have to have this upper-limit to their age of productivity.

As soon as you really start to get your life figured out – by the time you get your finances under control, have learned quite a lot about the world, have developed a strong network of friendships, and built a solid career, the effects of aging start to creep up on you and slowly compound and get worse over the next several decades of life.

Reason #2 – aging is expensive

As you reach old age, the numeric age of a person is quite insignificant.

What really matters is the quality of life, health, and prevalence of disease – or ideally lack thereof.

But one thing is for sure – as people get older, they tend to develop more age related illnesses.

These illnesses unfortunately cost a lot.

Medicare in the United States spends about $35 billion per year on kidney failure alone. [1]

At age 65 and older people spend over $11,000 on average per year on healthcare.

Imagine a futuristic society where people don’t have to get sick and debilitated as they get old.

Imagine that instead of spending $35 billion on treating kidney failure (which, by the way, is almost always incurable), we spent far less money on re-programming cells and turn back the aging clock.

The large healthcare costs could be more efficiently put towards other endeavors such as infrastructure, education, providing clean access to drinking water, advancing space travel – anything we can think of to make life more enjoyable for everyone on planet Earth.

Reason #3 – death is scary

No matter what they say, no one wants to die.

Yet, when bringing up the idea of living forever, so many people start acting squirrely and say something along the line of “but without death, we won’t have meaning in our lives”.

The thing is, we’ll always die. But the goal here is to stop the body from breaking down.

Let’s not worry so much about they unknown negative effects of living forever, and instead, let’s first focus on finding a cure for aging and age related diseases, enabling people to live healthy lifespans for longer.

A special thank you to David Sinclair and his inspiring book “Lifespan”.

  1. Kidney Project Statistics

How Lab Grown Organs can Revolutionize Biotech

So many medical breakthroughs occur in mice, but how often does mouse-model research translate to humans?

We need a way to safely test the efficacy of treatments on humans. Lab grown organs may allow us to do this. Organ tissue is being artificially grown and used to advance medical technology on a number of different fronts.

Purpose of Lab- Engineered Organs:

  1. Organ transplants: Replacing an entire dysfunctional organs in a human’s body.
  2. Research: Testing medical technology treatments – drug discovery and medical device efficacy.
source: Nathan Langer, UPMC

Benefits of growing organs in the Lab

  1. Organ transplants:
    • There is a shortage of donor organs for transplant. People die everyday waiting for a heart, lung, kidney, or liver transplant.
    • For those patients that do receive a transplant, there is a risk that the body will reject the new, foreign organ. This requires lifelong immunosuppressive therapy post-transplant. If there was a way to grow organs for patients using their own cells, it would ensure a perfect match and eliminate these risks.
    • Making replacement organs for a patient from their own stem cells means the organ would be so compatible with their body that it would eventually become a part of their body and not have to be replaced.
  2. Research:
    • The drug discovery process requires time, effort, and energy to test on animal models to ensure safety and efficacy before testing on humans. However, animal models don’t always translate to humans. Being able to test medical treatments on engineered human cells and tissues would accelerate this process and ensure greater safety.
    • Create a more humane research process by not needing to test on animals.

Successful Progress Growing Organs

  • Today, we can successfully produce more simple organ structures in a lab (including arteries, tracheas, bladders). People have benefitted from lab-grown bladders and tracheas, for example. [1]
    • In dialysis, often blood vessels have to be replaced. Human cells will grow around artificial implanted blood vessel to form a new one. [4]
    • We can grow arteries from stem cells [5]
  • Researchers have uses 3D printing to create scaffolds in which stem cells grow into the shape of the organ. However, we are not able to connect the network of blood vessels, nerves, and more to the organ, so it remains as a group of non-functioning cells.

Challenges Growing Cell Groups:

  • To grow in three dimensions, cells need some sort of scaffold, which must be accepted by the body and ideally degrade over time into nontoxic components. [3]
  • It’s easy to grow cells in a Petri dish – I did this in college with prostate cancer cells. The challenge comes when trying to build more complex tissues – lab grown cells are quick to die when they get larger than about half a centimeter. There are no blood vessels going through the cells to supply them with nutrients.
  • “But without cues provided by blood flow and interactions with other tissues, the result would be simply a stomach-shaped statue, unable to digest or growl. An organ is much more than a mass of cells arranged in a particular configuration: it also has support scaffolds, blood vessels to deliver nutrients and signal molecules, and a hierarchy of intricate control functions that can respond to internal and external cues.” (2)
  • Livers, hearts, and tissues are complex tissues, hard to make.

Lab-Grown Cells for Medical Research

One method to test the efficacy of drugs during the development pipeline is by building small groups of cell components that are structurally and functionally similar to part of a human organ.

organs on chips
source: Wyss Institute, Harvard

These are called “organs on chips”, and allow researchers to simulate cells in the human body for drug development, disease modeling, and personalized medicine. [6]

The opportunity for this approach to bring transformational improvements in the field of personalized medicine cannot be overstated.

What are Organs on Chips?

The Wyss Institute, affiliated with Harvard University, is leading the development of a breathtaking medical technology called Human Organs-On-Chips.

The project allows small units of human organ tissue to be grown on polymer “chips” that recreate the biochemistry function and response of the cells in our organs. The cells are thus able to grow in realistic arrangements. Additionally, mechanical simulations applied to the chips allow the cells behave as they would naturally in human organs. By creating an environment that mimics the way cells feel and act in the human body, researchers are able to better understand and predict what is going to happen when medicines are given to humans.

Why is this a better technology than what currently exists?

Organs on Chips help to make the drug discovery process more effective and efficient. This helps solve a big problem in medical research. Currently, we test drugs in two general ways, either in petri dishes, or on animals. 

But these two methods of testing during of the drug discovery process are imperfect: 

  • The cells in petri dishes don’t behave exactly the way they do in a living being.
  • Animal trials fail to predict exact drug response in an actual human.

Organs on chips better mimic the microbiology of a human. By building simulations that closely resemble the way cells respond to medicine in the human body, medical researchers can find new drugs more effectively.

Designing Organs on Chips:

The chip itself is made of a clear flexible polymer. It is translucent so that we can see through the walls of the structure and observe what is happening among the human cells on the chip. 

By attaching the chip to various tubes and sensors, we can simulate blood flow to create a dynamic environment that brings in nutrients and removes waste products.

The chip has hollow microfluidic channels lined by living human organ-specific cells interfaced with a human endothelial cell-lined artificial vasculature.

Since cells are able to grow naturally with features like capillaries that allow blood flow to and from the cells, they behave naturally – the way they would inside our bodies. 

Simulating human living cells:

The chips don’t recreate entire organ systems, but small components that are of interest to medical research. They feature three-dimensional cross-sections of these major functional units within human organs.

The chip has mechanical forces that can be applied to mimic the physical microenvironment of living organs. These mechanical forces can vary in type and intensity.

They can be applied to a wide variety of cell / organ types to simulate the specific environment that occurs at that location.

For example, the mechanics of a chip can simulate breathing motions that occur in the lung, or the digestion process by creating peristalsis like deformations of the intestine cells.

Researchers have been able to line the chip with diseased cells from an individual patient, and the cells retain the features of the patient’s cells (becoming inflamed, etc.).

Personalized medicine:

We can personalize drug testing by placing individual patient cells inside these chips. To do so, we take the individual’s stem cells and grow them into the desired type of organ cell.

This helps researchers discover the dynamic response in the individual’s body to the drug during mechanically simulated but realistic cell behavior.

The differentiated behaviors of one’s cells compared to a control group allows researchers to understand how these cells function within the unique micro environment of that patient as an individual.

Chip linkages as organ systems

The ultimate goal of organs on chips is to recreate a small functional unit of a human organ, not entire organs. But these organ chips can be linked together.

By linking multiple chips together, for example cells from your heart, along with those from your lung and even digestive tract, researchers can take a more holistic approach to medical research and drug discovery, better understanding how a drug might affect your body as a whole.

This may even help discover and mitigate unwanted side effects.

Why does this matter?

Organs on chips are an exciting medical technology.

They will improve the accuracy and efficiency of preclinical testing for medicines, since they allow researchers to understand how living human organ cells respond to drugs and other treatments.

Medical research can continue developing organ-specific drug delivery systems. 

Companies working on this:

Volumetric: trying to work our lungs. Air sacs are hard. Tissue-level, then organ-level therapies.

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Sources:

  1. https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=lab+grown+organs&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart#d=gs_qabs&u=%23p%3DHLvxb-jf3B4J
  2. https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=lab+grown+organs&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart#d=gs_qabs&u=%23p%3Do2sO4BReRVgJ
  3. https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=lab+grown+organs&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart#d=gs_qabs&u=%23p%3DPCbmXk2F4QgJ
  4. https://stm.sciencemag.org/content/11/485/eaau6934
  5. https://www.pnas.org/content/116/26/12710
  6. The Wyss Institute of Harvard

Understanding UV Rays and Skin Damage

The sun emits radiation along the entire visible as well as ultraviolet spectrum range. In addition, the sun also emits infrared radiation, and even radio waves!

Thankfully, we only need to protect ourselves from ultraviolet radiation. As you probably know, ultraviolet (UV) rays reach your skin causing sunburn and even DNA damage. This results in cellular mutations that can lead to skin cancer. The most deadly form of skin cancer is melanoma.

This post will dive deeper and examine which specific types of UV rays actually harm your skin. After reading this, you will be better educated when selecting sun protection.

First, let’s view the entire electromagnetic spectrum below.

electromagneticspectrum.jpg
Source: Stanford Solar Center

You’ll notice that the UV spectrum is located just to the left of the “visible” spectrum. Humans can see the visible spectrum, whose various wavelengths account for the different colors, but the UV spectrum, composed of wavelengths between 10 and 400 nm, cannot be seen by the naked eye.

Its a wonder that such a small sliver of the entire electromagnetic spectrum causes such massive damage to our cells.

Different types of UV radiation

Spanning from 10nm – 400nm, UV radiation imposes various types of damage to our skin based on the wavelength, frequency, and energy.

In general, shorter wavelength UV rays cause the most damage. This is because shorter wavelengths have higher frequency and a higher amount of energy. Higher energy radiation elicits more harm because it penetrates deeper into skin, tissues, and cells.

Scientists categorize UV radiation into three bands corresponding to the different wavelengths: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C:

UVC (10-290nm) – completely absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere
UVB (290-320 nm) – 90% absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere
UVA (320-400 nm) – not absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere

Each of the UV bands present different types of risks for humans

As radiation is emitted by the sun towards Earth, the atmosphere (composed of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, argon, etc) helps to absorb a large amount of the UV radiation.

Remember how we said the shorter wavelengths of light are more harmful? The good news is that most these shorter wavelengths of radiation (UVB and UVC) are blocked ozone, water vapor, oxygen, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Specifically, all UVC radiation, and 90% of UVB radiation is absorbed. These rays are largely blocked by our atmosphere because of the unique way that they interact with those chemicals in our atmosphere. Much like sunscreen contains chemicals to absorb certain bands of UV rays, our atmosphere is our best friend for UV protection.

Unfortunately, our atmosphere can only protect so much.

Longer wavelength UVA radiation, for example, is less affected by the atmosphere, so a large amount of the UVA band makes it through. Even though only about 10% of UVB radiation makes it through to pose a risk to humans, a large amount of UVA makes up the dangerous solar radiation that we are exposed to when we go outside on a sunny day.

Once the rays get to our skin, UVA radiation (which lower energy than UVB radiation) tends to penetrate about two layers of skin, causing sunburn and wrinkles long term. The good news, however, is that UVA radiation’s longer wavelength and thus lower energy means it cannot penetrate through our cells, so it does minimal to no DNA damage.

UVB rays, on the other hand, have a slightly shorter wavelength as well as a higher frequency and energy than UVA rays. UVB rays do penetrate our cells and damage DNA causing mutations and skin cancer.

How about UVC rays?

Well – UVC rays have previously been found in tanning beds, and because of the shorter wavelength, higher frequency, and thus greater energy, these rays are extremely damaging, if you are by chance exposed to them. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about sunlight containing UVC since the atmosphere blocks them completely.

Conclusion:

To protect yourself from wrinkles, block UVA rays.

To protect yourself from DNA damage / cancer, block UVB rays.

UVC rays are largely used in some types of artificial light used for disinfection, such as those made by the company Klaren. Aside from that, there is little risk that UVC rays from the sun will be of any worry.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20806994

https://www.who.int/uv/uv_and_health/en/

https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb

https://share.upmc.com/2014/07/infographic-abcs-uv-difference-uva-uvb-uvc/

Chemistry of Sunscreen

Stop by a Wallgreens or CVS and you’ll notice a large sunscreen selection, but each product has advantages and flaws. The differences, it turns out, depend on the chemistry of each active ingredient. If you’re in the United States, glancing at the list on the back of each bottle, you’ll see that products tend to have some combination of 8 common active ingredients.

But did you know that of the 8 most common active ingredients, there are actually only two different UV protection mechanisms? Categorized below, you’ll notice that UV filter compounds are much more common, while the mineral blocker type only include two of the main compounds.

Sunscreen lotion contains active ingredients that contribute to the sunscreen’s SPF, protecting you from sunburn by keeping UV rays from reaching your skin and damaging cells. Active ingredients protect you from UV rays in two unique ways:

Filtering:

This method filters or absorbs UV light, turning the radiation into heat energy, rather than allowing it to cause cell damage.

UV filters chemical ingredients: Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone

  • Hazards of UV filters:
    • UV filters can and have been measured in blood of people who use sunscreen frequently. The main concern with these chemicals is endocrine disruption.
    • Oxybenzone is by far the most dangerous chemical found in sunscreen. It penetrates the skin easily and enters the blood stream. It has the ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, causing hormone disruption. It is estrogenically active and has potent anti-androgenic effects.

Blocking:

Blocks UV light from penetrating through the mineral ingredients in the sunscreen so that it never comes into contact with your skin. (ex. Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide)

Pick up your tube of sunscreen and look at the back. You’ll see a number of active ingredients. Typically, you’ll see 4 or 5 Filtering type ingredients listed. The compounds that protect by Filtering will tend to absorb only certain wavelengths of light, so sunscreen companies include a combination of different ones to block a broader spectrum of UV rays.

Blocking type ingredients work in a different way, so they are present either by themselves or with a few filter ingredients. For example, you might have sunscreen that lists zinc oxide as the only active ingredient.

To avoid sunburn and more importantly skin damage from UV rays, elect for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with as high an SPF as possible, and ideally use a sunscreen that also contains Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide.

UV blocking minerals: Zinc Oxide, Titanium dioxide

  • Hazards of mineral blockers:
    • Zinc Oxide and Titanium dioxide particles are photoactive, meaning they can create free radicals when exposed to UV radiation that damage surrounding cells. To mitigate this risk, manufacturers apply surface coatings to these particles.
    • Both of these mineral blockers are electrically charged molecules. Over time and due to heat exposure, these mineral blockers can settle or clump, leaving gaps in skin coverage. To be effective, mineral sunscreens contain ingredients that hold zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in a suspension to provide an even coating on the skin.
    • Titanium Dioxide creates more free radicals that do oxidative damage to your body and skin cells, and increases aging processes. Zinc oxide tends to have a broader-spectrum range of coverage than titanium dioxide, although the combination of both Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide provide the broadest range of protection.
    • Zinc and titanium oxide may potentially harm environment.

Some products, such as “SheerZinc Face” by Neutrogena, will contain zinc oxide. Finding a product that contains both zinc oxide AND titanium dioxide is much less common due to the highly charged particles tendency to coagulate and cause clumping.

Conclusion:

As discussed, there are two different types of sunscreen. If you are going for a product that contains Mineral Blockers, Zinc Oxide is preferred over Titanium Dioxide. Check products that contain mineral blockers to ensure lotion consistency is homogenous and not de-coagulated because the clumps will cause gaps in skin coverage, thus causing you to get burnt.

Your ideal sunscreen might have the following active ingredients:

  • Homosalate (8–10%)
  • Ocinoxate (variable percentage)
  • Octocrylene (2–6%)
  • Zinc Oxide (5–15% +)

 

Stanford is Helping Humans Age Well

Everyone wants to thrive during old age. What will it take to to increase the number of years of healthy, active life that we all have the opportunity to experience? Stanford University created a center to do just that.

The official mission…

…of the Stanford Center on Longevity is: “accelerate and implement scientific discoveries, technological advances, behavioral practices, and social norms so that century long lives are healthy and rewarding.” The center has three divisions: Mind, Mobility, and Financial Security.

From the mission above, let’s look at what, specifically, Stanford is doing to help us achieve healthy, rewarding, Century-Long Lives.

In an internet-connected world…

…more and more devices are starting to track human data. In addition to devices such as fitbit heart rate and step trackers, our iPhones also have the capability of collecting and recording large amounts of data from our everyday lives. Aggregating this data and analyzing it using Artificial Intelligence algorithms could provide insight into a person’s current state of health, which may allow for earlier prediction of disease, to recognize it in its early stages. For example, according to the New York Times, speech recognition software has been used by Arizona State University to analyze linguistic data of NFL players at press conferences over a multiple year period to determine changes in vocabulary and sentence structure, which provided insight into the onset of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). What if a similar speech analysis technology could be applied during phone calls of individuals with Parkinson’s disease so that their doctor can adjust the medication, as this article from Slate mentions? What if one could apply the same for Alzheimer’s? Complex algorithms would have to be written, but when considering the scope of technological capacity that we have today, this is certainly possible.

Financial Stability

The center is helping people with achieve and maintain financial stability. Some great first steps to becoming more financially stable include getting out of high-interest debt (such as credit card debt), paying off student loans/mortgage each month, living below your means by creating a budget, saving a regular percentage of your income, maintaining 6-12 months of living expenses in cash, and finally, investing. From a financial standpoint, center focuses on financial capability, new career lifecycles, and common financial pitfalls (such as fraud). In order to maintain your finances as you get older and well into your retirement, the center covers some best practices and other wisdom related to helping manage retirement income, and even ways to supplement that income. If we’re going to be healthier and energetic for longer, humans will have the opportunity to start a side gig, take up a craft, and maybe even build their own business.

Fellowship

Surrounding yourself with a supportive community is supremely important as well. William Chopik mentions that, whether it be friends or family, “having people you can rely on, for the good times as well as the bad” may be so crucial to keeping stress levels low and maintaining positivity, and overall happiness.

It’s great to see universities like Stanford leading our civilization on teaching and spreading the word about how we can implement some of the latest breakthroughs in longevity research. The center’s website will serve as a great resource to help people take small actions to maintain health.

From the Stanford Center on Longevity’s website, it was founded in 2007 by Thomas Rando MD, PhD, and Laura Carstensen PhD.

How To Get an A in Organic Chemistry

This post will describe the tool I used to review ALL of my organic chemistry notes in 1 hour. I will walk you through the steps and show you how I created and used the most fantastic study tools and aced o-chem.

My official college transcript displays Cs in general chemistry (101 and 102).  Below is a description of what I did to get A’s in organic chemistry. Unlike many liberal arts classes, orgo has no Achilles heel to give you an easy way out. No amount of last minute cramming will allow you to succeed.

If you’re like me, studying is more of a game than a task. The hard part about Orgo isn’t the actual material/concepts, but the large amount of information. Taking in all the information in orgo is like trying to drink water from a fire hydrant. Another challenge is siting down and actually studying when surrounded by friends in easier subjects who don’t need to study as much. If you’re the one carrying around that orgo textbook that’s a foot thick, use it as a reminder that you’re going to need to do something different than the kids taking poli sci.

Practice problems first. Choose to spend the majority of your study time on practice problems. Especially at the beginning of a new section/chapter. Work your professor’s assigned problems first. In my experience the most effective way to begin learning the material is by doing practice problems first rather than by making flash cards and trying to memorize reactions.

Getting Stuck. At times its going to feel like a new set of reactions can’t be distinguished from each other. You’re lost and you “don’t get it”. At this point, its time to switch from practice problems to a reading/memorization tactic. You may think of making flash cards but….

Make Flash Pages instead of flash cards. The point of a flash card is just that, a flash to spark your memory. Lets say you glance at 10 flash cards 1 time each. Each card takes between 5-10 seconds to look over. I believe that it is possible increase your glance surface area from the size of an index card to the size of an 8x11in sheet of paper. This will improve how much information you cover.
-In a glance of 5-10 seconds, your eyes view an entire page of condensed notes instead of a small index card.
-Your brain will be forced to recognize certain reactions and concepts right next to other reactions and concepts that are related.
To make them: copy the essential sections of a chapter section onto a blank page. Say you cover 6 chapters during a semester, with ~10 sections each. This means that if you make a flash page for every section, you will have made about 60 pages of notes. That’s less than a page per day.  When in the span of an entire semester, this is not much.

Look for the similarities. In many cases, the reactions are analogous to each other. For example: nucleophilic attack on a carbonyl carbon by a nucleophile is analogous to nucleophilic attach on a cyanide carbon by a nucleophile (you’ll know what this means later if you don’t now). Many of the mechanisms involve the same exact steps, which is great because it allows you to focus on a big picture. Understanding the general processes are key to then noticing the slight nuances between each specific mechanism, such as the differences between acidic vs. basic conditions.

Read Before Lecture. Just do it. Bite the bullet and spend some time (even 10 minutes) glancing at the material to be covered in the following lecture. If you are ambitious you can make your flash page on the section before class. This is useful for any class, but in reality is not normally actually done. If you want an A, do it for orgo. This will allow you to capitalize on the time you spend in lecture, and actually understand where your teacher is going during class.

You can try any memorization tricks you want, but as I said in another post, the goal with memorization is to maximize your Glances/Time ratio.

Do Not fall behind.

Supplemental material: I used “Organic Chemistry as a Second Language” by David Klein. There’s a version for both orgo 1 and 2. Utilize your textbook solutions manual. If your book doesn’t come with one, its definitely worth trying to find one on the internet – even purchasing used on amazon if you need to. Remember, work on practice problems first.

Check your syllabus and understand how the course will be graded. My professor’s policy was to drop each student’s lowest exam grade and not count it. So, I was able to accidentally blow one of the exams. Realize also that its easier to do well on homework assignments than it is on tests. So make sure you ace the homeworks and other general assignments so that you have a bit of a buffer when it comes to the exams.  If you have close to a B+ average on exams, this may average to an A/A- when combined with the high grades you receive on the general homework assignments. Play the game.

Lab Sections: Your class will probably have a required lab period. Lab was run by Teacher’s assistants. Go to T.A. office hours (one hour a week for me) and get help. Just ask a million questions and understand how they graded and you’ll be fine.

Get to know your professor. College professors can be phenomenal people. They’re incredibly specialized in their area, and you’ll learn more about the class speaking to them for an hour than spending two days studying alone.

Study Groups: Helpful for lab sections and writing lab reports, as well has comparing solutions to difficult practice problems and homework. Having a small network (maybe 2 to 5 people) that you can call on for help while studying will prove to be beneficial. I sincerely believe that I would not be graduating college this May with a chem major were it not for the group I studied with during some of my harder classes.

Go Out. Don’t spend every night studying, give your brain a break. Studies show that you can’t really focus on one thing for more than 45 minutes anyway. Spend part of every evening studying, sure. But keep in mind that those four years goes by fast, and there’s a chance you won’t ever use the information in organic chem again.

The next part is to Review, and maximize your Glances/Time ratio. The idea here is that its more effective to look over a page 5 times spending a 1 minute each time than it is to look over a page 1 time spending 5 minutes. Do this with the flash pages you make. Don’t worry if you have trouble reading so quickly. I’m one of the slowest readers you’ll meet. Force yourself to spend as little time as possible on each flash page when reviewing. You will improve your brains ability to interpret a large amount of material during a single glance. You will soon see how the sponge of your brain collects and retains more information by seeing it many times in short flashes.

This will shorten the time you spend studying for the class. Towards the end of the semester, the 60 flash pages that you made will become readable in 60 minutes or less if you use this technique. Isn’t that incredible? You now have a tool to get through an entire semester of organic chemistry in 1 hour.