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What physics knows about aging: international conference at Jacobs University


July 06, 2018

Materials age - as do biological organisms. Why this is so and how this process can be delayed or even stopped is occupying scientists from a wide variety of disciplines for a long time. At a five-day conference at Jacobs University Bremen from July 16 to 20, 2018 physicists and biologists will address the question of aging. “Our goal is to compare the different perspectives,” says physics professor Dr. Hildegard Meyer-Ortmanns of Jacobs University, one of the two organizers of the conference.

The researchers come from the US, India, China, and all over Europe. Among other things, they will deal with questions relating to biophysics, the physical realization of information, genetics and systems biology. The topics include various manifestations of aging, ranging from materials, individual cells to cell populations.

The topic of discussion will be possible fundamental physical causes which, over the years, can lead to an accumulation of errors in copying or reproduction processes at the genetic or cellular level. From the fundamental principles of physics it is known that the desired high accuracy in such information-processing mechanisms can only be achieved at the cost of high energy input. However, the available energy supply is limited. Therefore, in old age, more and more energy must be used to correct such accumulating errors. Thus, these principles from physics raise doubts about the new approach of considering aging only as a disease that can be cured. The aging process may undoubtedly be considerably delayed, but the question at the conference will be whether it is in principle reversible and avoidable without violating physical principles.

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