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Can meditation really slow aging?

meditationEditor’s note: CNN.com is showcasing the work of Mosaic, a new digital publication that explores the science of life. It’s produced by the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation that supports research in biology, medicine and the medical humanities, with the goal of improving human and animal health. The content is produced solely by Mosaic, and we will be posting some of its most thought-provoking work.
(CNN) — It’s seven in the morning on the beach in Santa Monica, California. The low sun glints off the waves and the clouds are still golden from the dawn. The view stretches out over thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean. In the distance, white villas of wealthy Los Angeles residents dot the Hollywood hills. Here by the shore, curlews and sandpipers cluster on the damp sand. A few meters back from the water’s edge, a handful of people sit cross-legged: members of a local Buddhist center about to begin an hour-long silent meditation.
Such spiritual practices may seem a world away from biomedical research, with its focus on molecular processes and repeatable results. Yet just up the coast, at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), a team led by a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist is charging into territory where few mainstream scientists would dare to tread. Whereas Western biomedicine has traditionally shunned the study of personal experiences and emotions in relation to physical health, these scientists are placing state of mind at the center of their work. They are engaged in serious studies hinting that meditation might — as Eastern traditions have long claimed — slow aging and lengthen life.

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