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Aging Process Is Propelled by Cell Duplication Failure, Study Says

LOS ANGELES TIMES

The wasting that comes with age -- wrinkled skin, weakened bones and nagging physical complaints -- may result from genetic mistakes that begin in midlife as cells lose their ability to reproduce properly, a new study concludes.

The new research, published Friday in Science, offers a tantalizing -- and tentative -- explanation for the physical ravages of time. If confirmed in subsequent studies, it suggests a single underlying factor at work in degenerative diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis to gum disease, cancer and heart disease.

From the moment of birth, the human body is under assault by the natural chemistry of the world we inhabit, by the radiation from the sun that nurtures us, from the repetitive stress of moving muscle and bone against the force of gravity. Yet for decades, the body’s cells can shrug off ill effects and flawlessly replace themselves, until inevitably and mysteriously they begin to fail.

Seeking clues to why the human body wears out over time, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute and the Novartis Genomics Institute in La Jolla, Calif., found that as the years add up, so do the genetic mutations that occur when critical cells lose their gift for making perfect copies of themselves.

Germany Sets Up Anonymous Drop Boxes for Unwanted Infants

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- HAMBURG, GERMANY

Foundlings left on the doorsteps of churches, orphanages or for kind benefactors have been sent to better lives by desperate mothers at least since the days of the Bible, when Moses was floated down the Nile to safety. But in a wealthy country such as Germany, with one of the best social security nets in the world, few thought to look so far backward for a solution to the disturbingly recurrent problem of unwanted newborns being abandoned to cold and hunger.

With Friday’s inauguration of Germany’s first designated foundling drop-off site since the 1700s, child welfare workers hope the option of a safe and anonymous abandonment will save lives among the 40 or so castoff newborns found nationwide each year, most dead of exposure.

Project Findelbaby -- or foundling -- is little more than a night deposit box with a warm bed beyond the delivery slot and a sensor that alerts caretakers of an arrival. The brainchild of social workers in this port city that has long been a magnet for prostitutes, runaways and drug addicts, the receptacle in the ground-floor door of a day-care center allows the hand-over of unwanted infants with no questions asked.