The Growth Process
Everything in the universe is subject to the forces of entropy. The Hypothesis uses the term "entropy" in its colloquial sense -- everything wears down over time. The difference between living organisms, such as a humans, and inanimate objects, such as houses, is that living organs can regenerate themselves. If you cut yourself, you will heal, even with no outside intervention. A house cannot rebuild itself. The aging process is the result of the accretion of years of minor physiological damage at the cellular level. The bulk of the damage is inexorable. Hundreds of millions of cells die every day. Substantially all are replaced, but in the course of replacing those cells, some cells are inevitably replaced with cells that are defective. This results in the minor damage at the cellular level. That damage accretes over the decades and ultimately causes organs and systems to malfunction.
The damage itself is inexorable, but that's not the issue. The conundrum for the scientists has always been – why don’t humans have a maintenance process that fixes that minor deterioration? Humans have a healing process. We have an immune system. Why don’t we have a process that repairs the slow physiological deterioration that results from entropy? The Hypothesis takes that question one step further. Why don't humans have a process that would repair at least some of the damage that starts to accumulate in a 20-year old? None of the available rationales can provide an answer to that question.
The real answer is that we don't have a maintenance process because we don't need one. We have something better. That something better is the Growth Process. A maintenance process would just restore us to the way we were. The Growth Process, when activated, seeks to make us what we were designed to be. The purpose of the Growth Process is to conform phenotype (what we are) to genetic potential.
We are all born with a set of genetic instructions that are designed to ensure that we function perfectly. Included within the instructions is the initial growth process whereby a fertilized egg ultimately becomes a fully functioning adult. In the elegant words of the SENS Research Foundation website:
“During our first two to three decades of life, developmental programs build out our growing bodies, laying down the cellular and molecular structures of our tissues in exquisite fidelity to the instructions carried in our genetic code. From form flows function: the pristine condition of the microscopic machinery of life ensures its silent, unimpeded functioning, manifested in the health and vigor of youth.”
Infants and children are subject to the same forces of entropy as are adults. But because children frequently activate the Growth Process, they historically have not shown the big deviations between phenotype and genotype that are symptomatic of the aging process. Scientists have always assumed that either the Growth Process is nothing more than the genetic instructions themselves, or that the Growth Process terminates once we achieve our maximum height or reproductive maturity. The Hypothesis provides compelling evidence that the Growth Process is a separate and distinct bodily function that involves dramatic changes in body chemistry, and that it remains available to healthy humans throughout their lifespans. But it only occurs when it is activated. That’s true of both children and adults.
The Hypothesis posits that growth and development occur as the result of the Growth Process, which in turn is activated by elevated levels of Complex X in the bloodstream. For adult humans, elevated levels of Complex X in the bloodstream typically result from intense exercise. However, for humans, the greatest period of growth is during the fetal stage. Obviously, the fetus is not going to engage in the same type of intense exercise as an adult.
Nevertheless, the fetus is provided with an ample supply of Complex X. Complex X results from the metabolism of glycogen. In adults that process occurs in the cytoplasm of muscle cells during intense exercise. Muscle cells have stores of muscle glycogen (a form of glucose). The placenta also has stores of glycogen. That glycogen is metabolized in the placenta, and the Complex X that is produced as a result of that process enters the blood stream of the fetus. The Complex X produced by the placenta activates, regulates and fuels the Growth Process in the fetus.
Infants and children must also activate the Growth Process in order to develop and grow. Infants and children have much lower lactate thresholds (lactate threshold is the level of intensity that must be achieved in order to raise blood levels of Complex X) than adults. Thus, merely acting in accordance with their instincts is sufficient for them to activate the Growth Process. But interfering with a child's instinctive need to move with all of the energy it can muster can hinder the development process.
There is no abrupt termination of any bodily process, including the Growth Process. The Growth Process is genetically programmed to operate whenever activated throughout our lifespans. We don’t stop getting taller because the Growth Process terminates. Our final height is determined by the fusing of the relevant bones in a manner that makes further lengthening of those bones impossible. But all organs and systems in the body grow or develop whenever the Growth Process is activated.
But can older adults really activate the Growth Process? One of the critical components of the Growth Process is human growth hormone (HGH). Among other things, HGH is associated with growth and health of all organs other than the brain, and it is necessary in order to achieve growth in muscle mass. HGH is produced by and stored in the pituitary gland. That stored HGH is released into the bloodstream during intense exercise. This process happens so reliably in healthy younger humans that it is known as “Exercise-Induced Human Growth Hormone Response” or EIGR. But textbooks tell us that as we age, the pituitary gland produces less and less HGH. In people with FDS (which means everyone) that gland, like all other organs, becomes less functional with age. Not suprisingly, short-duration studies that include both older and younger people report that untrained older people do not evidence the same EIGR as younger adults.
That’s what is so compelling about the new data relating to older people, like the founder, who are engaging in intense exercise on a regular basis. They are building additional muscle mass. That is not possible without EIGR. EIGR implies a fully functioning pituitary gland. The intense exercise of these older people is not just making them more fit, it is actually restoring function to key organs, such as the pituitary gland. By activating the Growth Process, older humans improve the functioning of the Growth Process itself.