The anti-ageing industry in the UK brings in, on average, a whopping 8.3 billion each year! The large revenues reflect how much it affects us as a society. With new eye creams and anti-wrinkle formulas being released each year – ageing definitely matters to us! Have you ever paused to think about what is actually causing you to age? Is it that yummy chocolate- covered birthday cake each year, which is giving gravity the upper hand on your skin?
Well, in 1956, a scientist named Denham Harman proposed a new revolutionary idea. He suggested we age because we are constantly producing unstable molecules called ‘Free Radicals’. His ‘Free radical theory of ageing’ has proved true over the many years. It’s thought these free radicals, bind to proteins and DNA in your body and cause them to be broken down or worn away. Over time, the organs and tissues in your body do not work as well as they used to.
This theory has been put to test in many parts of the body, and shown to be involved in areas such as: the heart – when cells are starved of oxygen, regions of the brain in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients and blood vessels – linked with plaque formation leading to atherosclerosis. However, little research has been done to shine a light on its role in the bladder.
The bladder is a balloon shaped organ found in your lower abdomen. Its main function is urine storage and release. Just like a balloon being filled with air, the muscles relax and the bladder wall expands as it’s filled with urine. Once the volume of urine passes a certain threshold, the body senses that the bladder is full and sends signals to the bladder muscles to contract in order to expel the urine via urethra (the exit tunnel).
The aim of my PhD research project was to discover the role of free radicals in bladder function. My research proposes the idea that, over time, free radicals accumulate in our bladder. Too many free radicals cause damage to essential pathways, thus resulting in increased incontinence with age.
I set out to test my theory, by looking at one of the sources of free radicals in our body – an enzyme Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate Oxidase (NADPH Oxidase). So far I found some interesting results. I hope to investigate further which specific type of NADPH Oxidase is responsible for bladder activity and to move onto its drug potential. Would blocking this enzyme help turn back the clock on bladder function in the elderly? Can we reverse the damage done? What can we do now to slow down the ageing process effects in the bladder?
Maybe one day, there will be a new cosmetic product on the market – this time it’ll be for your bladder! 😉
About the Author
Lisa Adjei is currently a final year PhD student in Bladder physiology at the University of Surrey, UK. Her passions include teaching, science outreach and public engagement. So far, she’s worked with numerous undergraduate students, The British Science Festival, summer schools and open days at the University. In her spare time, Lisa loves to work with young people at her church; where she teaches, helps run services and fun activities. She also enjoys travelling and discovering new cultures, both within the UK and around the globe.