There are times when showing your partner a raw expression of hurt and rage, will break through the other person’s defenses and get through. Important addendum: This will happen only if your outburst comes as a big surprise to both of you, meaning it’s a rare event and not the rule. Here’s an example: A friend of mine, discovered her husband was having an emotional affair with one of his graduate students. Something led her to go into the “deleted” box of his email, where she found his provocative and sexualized messages. He wrote, for example, “I didn’t dare hug you when you left my office Monday, because I didn’t trust that I’d be able to stop myself there.” It seemed that they hadn’t yet had culmination.
She confronted him immediately, and they had many conversations about the situation. She said all the right things and, expressed the whole range of feelings that were evoked by reading the emails. She took a clear position on what she expected from her husband, and how much he was putting at risk if he didn’t stop the flirtation. Probably, she said all that could be said. She felt it was important to take a position calmly, to speak in “I” language, and to keep the intensity down so as to ensure her message was heard. The problem was that she almost always talked this way. She was, by nature, a very low-key person who didn’t have much range in her speaking style.
One evening in their bedroom, she simply lost it. She began screaming at her husband about the graduate student. It was the kind of screaming that left her vocal cords raw. She was afraid she might have actually damaged them. After she screamed, for maybe a minute or less, she threw herself down on the floor of their small bedroom closet, sobbing uncontrollably, refusing her husband’s pleas to come out or at least open the closet door. She slept in another room that night. This incident got through to her husband in a way that all the previous conversation had not. The rawness of her emotional response opened his heart in way that his wife’s calm, “I” language and “good communication” had never done. “Losing it,” to use her term, turned out to be both good and, perhaps more to the point, unavoidable.
I’m not suggesting you should make a plan to “lose it.” In fact, if you “loose it” with any degree of frequency, you’re eroding the foundation of your relationship and self esteem. You need to get help. But when “losing it” is a very rare and surprising departure from your usual fighting style—and does not harm or physically threaten your partner—a raw show of emotion may get through at a deeper level. As friend’s story illustrates that there’s an exception to almost every rule of good communication; and that goes for my own rules, too.
How yeast cells reverse aging? The gene Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologists found can double yeast lifespan when turned on late in life. Human cells have a finite lifespan. They can divide only a certain number of times before they die. However, that lifespan is reset when reproductive cells are formed, which is why the children of a 20-year-old man have the same life expectancy as those of an 80-year-old man. How that resetting occurs in human cells is not known, but Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologists have now found a gene that appears to control this process in yeast. Furthermore, by turning on that gene in aged yeast cells, Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologists were able to double their usual lifespan.
If the human cell lifespan is controlled in a similar way, it could offer a new approach to rejuvenating human cells or creating pluripotent stem cells, says Angelika Amon, professor of biology and senior author of a paper describing the work in the June 24 issue of the journal Science. If Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologists can identify which genes reverse aging, they can start engineering ways to express them in normal cells,” says Amon, who is also a member of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Lead author of the paper is Koch Institute postdoc Elçin Ünal.
Scientists already know that aged yeast cells look different from younger cells. Yeast has a normal lifespan of about 30 cell divisions. Those age-related changes include accumulation of extra pieces of DNA, clumping of cellular proteins and abnormal structures of the nucleolus; a cluster of proteins and nucleic acids found in the cell nucleus that produce all other proteins in the cell. However, scientists aren’t sure which of these physical markers are actually important to the aging process. Nobody really knows what aging is. It is known all these things happen, but scientists don’t know what will eventually kill a cell or make it sick.
When yeast cells reproduce, they undergo a special type of cell division called meiosis, which produces spores. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology team found that the signs of cellular aging disappear at the very end of meiosis. There is a true rejuvenation going on. The researchers discovered that a gene called NDT80 is activated at the same time that the rejuvenation occurs. When scientists turned on this gene in aged cells that were not reproducing, the cells lived twice as long as normal. They took an old cell and made it young again. In aged cells with activated NDT80, the nucleolar damage was the only age-related change that disappeared. This suggests that nucleolar changes are the primary force behind the aging process.
The next challenge, says Daniel Gottschling, a member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, will be to figure out the cellular mechanisms driving those changes. Something is going on that we don’t know about,” says Gottschling, who was not involved in this research. “It opens up some new biology, in terms of how lifespan is being reset.”
The protein produced by the NDT80 gene is a transcription factor, meaning that it activates other genes. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers are now looking for the genes targeted by NDT80, which likely carry out the rejuvenation process. Amon and her colleagues are also planning to study NDT80’s effects in the worm C. elegans, and will also investigate the effects of the analogous gene in mice, p63. Humans also have the p63 gene, a close relative of the cancer-protective gene p53 found in the cells that make sperm and eggs.