On the beauty of the Pearl and our wrinkles

In a youth obsessed culture like that here in the United States, it’s no surprise that there’s a great deal of funding available for anti-aging research. I mean this is the culture that is bravely going into that long night declaring that forty is the new thirty. Or fifty… depends who’s hosting the beauty segment on the Today Show.

That aging research has paid off a bit as there is report of a new understanding of what causes us to age – wrinkles, grey hair and all.

The basic idea is that our increasingly “ravaged” faces are a result of mistakes made as our body attempts to repair damage made to our skin and other organs:

“The new idea from Michelitsch and co relates to this second mechanism. They contend that the accumulation of faults on the cellular and molecular level are certainly involved in aging but are not the mechanism of aging. These faults trigger the body’s repair mechanisms, which fix everything up, most of the time.

But sometimes these repair mechanisms go wrong, leaving small regions of misrepair. The new idea is that aging is the result of the accumulation of these misrepairs over time.

This leads to a key prediction about aging. The team says: ‘Our theory suggests that for extending lifespan all efforts need to focus on the reduction of misrepair.’

So what should you do if you want to live longer? Avoid damage as far as possible, say Michelitsch and pals, emphasising that ‘it is especially important to prevent chronic inflammation, which is an important source of misrepair.'”

Read the full article here.

So, if you want to look your youthful best, don’t force your body to clean up after your experiences.

Which is good news to me as a pasty faced nerdling. Since I hardly leave the basement, my skin is still as soft as a baby’s…

When I read this news report I was immediately reminded of the solid-state phenomenon of color-centers. In a crystal lattice, where atoms and molecules are evenly placed in regular array, occasional mistakes in the lattice structure give rise to all sorts of interesting effects.

In sapphire crystals, which when perfect are absolutely colorless and look like glass, the sorts of mistakes you make cause some sapphires to be blue, some to be red (we call those rubies) and some green (emeralds). That’s actually how these a synthetically grown. You start by epitaxially growing pure sapphires, then introduce “contaminants” which cause mistakes in the array and give rise to the beautiful colors. The more contaminants, the deeper the color (and also the harder the gems are to grow – which is why the color of synthetic gems is not as intense as that of natural ones). My wife’s engagement ring features an emerald with large inclusions (flaws and mistakes) and has deep deep green color that you can hardly find today.

It’s the mistakes that give rise to the beauty that we so prize. It’s the flaws that makes these gems valuable.

Isn’t it surprising, and sort of sad, that it’s so different with humans?

Someone pointed out to me that there’s a reason that heaven has pearly gates. It’s because the pearl can only be grown through pain, irritation and prolonged suffering on behalf of the oyster. The gates of heaven are opened to us because of Christ’s passion – the profound suffering of our Lord to lead us out of sinful state.

Kind of makes me look at “fifty is the new thirty” in a whole new light. And it’s not a good one.

Author: Nicholas Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

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