Tuesday, 11 May 2010

An Era of Anti-Wrinkling: Ageism or Age Resistance?

The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women
In a recent article featured in the Times Online- “Girl frozen in time may hold key to ageing” made us question, so why is growing older such a pivotal issue for women and today’s society? In an age of anti-wrinkling products, Botox, and now, gene manipulation; is society trying to avoid inevitable mortality? Such research will be the focus of a conference at the Royal Society in London this week to be attended by some of the world’s leading age researchers.

The girl in question is Brooke Greenberg, a 17-year old; but at 16lb in weight and just 30in tall, she is still the size of a one-year-old. According to Richard Walker, a professor at the University of the South Florida School of Medicine, Greenberg has a mutation in the genes that control her ageing and development so that she appears to have been frozen in time. “If we can compare her genome to the normal version then we might be able to find those genes and see exactly what they do and how to control them.” I think people have forgotten a key point in this case. Why would one ‘mutate’ a healthy gene to achieve beauty? After all, age is unavoidable, unless we stop breathing.

Eline Slagboom, professor of molecular epidemiology at Leiden University, Holland tells us that “Such people simply age slower than the rest of us... their skin is better, they have less risk of diseases of old age like diabetes, heart disease and hypertension and their ability to metabolise lipids and other nutrients is better.” It is rather telling that her first mention of this therapy relates to changing superficially rather than the health benefits.

Although Brooke Greenberg has shown some development, including crawling, smiling and giggling when tickled but she has never learnt to speak and still has her infant teeth. And even more so, she has also suffered a succession of life-threatening health problems, including strokes, seizures, ulcers and breathing difficulties — almost as if she were growing old despite not growing up. So how does this mutation help society if she still suffers the health effects of ageing?

‘The Beauty Myth’ by Naomi Wolf, questions the idea of ageing as a form of control. Wolf argues that beauty is the "last, best belief system that keeps male dominance intact". She states that anti-ageing is a key marketing strategy for cosmetic surgery — namely, classifying ageing as ugly, and ugliness as a disease for which cosmetic surgery practitioners had the most effective treatment. Wolf also questioned whether such exploitation of women's insecurities about their appearance was "subject to the ethics of the genuine medical profession". Subsequently, it is important to ask if there are no apparent health benefits from mutating genes, then why is there such a problem with ‘growing old gracefully?’

1 comment:

  1. I do think pursuing this in the name of defying the natural power of age is ridiculous, as you say why do people have such a problem with age and physical appearance?

    However, I believe its a good idea to study Brooke Greenberg's DNA, not to slow aging as the reason they seem to give, but to investigate the causes of her condition. She has a genetic mutation thats causing her so many life threatening problems, like most other research into the human genome, this should help to treat her and anyone else who may suffer from this, now or in future.

    Oh and just wondering, what do you think about gene therapy? Its a type of gene manipulation, but primarily to treat severe diseases like cystic fibrosis and various cancers. I know that in future, the technology may inevitably end up being exploited in genetic design (am thinking Gattaca lol) but what are your opinions on gene manipulation at present? (just because I'm revising it atm ;) )