Randall Parker on the Genetics of Aging Kidneys

You may recall I mentioned research into the genetics of aging using kidney tissue a little while ago.

The findings, from different tissue groups within the kidney, suggest that the same changes in gene activity with age occur in all tissue types. This would certainly be hopeful news if verified - dealing with one type of process will require far less time and research funding than if there were a different process for every tissue type in the body. This "study doesn't suggest what factors drive the aging process, only that once it starts it follows the same path even in different organs ... whatever happens once aging begins, the mechanism that kicks off the process is probably genetically determined."

Randall Parker has followed up with his own more in-depth commentary:

The next obvious experiment would be to repeat this study with tissues from other organs and see if the same genes have changing levels of activity as tissue ages. Do some organs age at more rapid rates? Does this happen for everyone? One might expect some variability between humans due to genetic variants that accelerate aging in particular organs and also due to dietary habits and other habits that impose larger harm on certain organs (e.g. smoking on lungs or drinking on livers or fried meats on intestines).

Note that gene microarrays have gotten so powerful that these researchers were able to check the expression levels of all the known genes in a human cell. Chronological age is not always the same as age as measured by molecular genetic expression profile.


I'd love to see a longitudinal study where tissues are taken from a number of elderly people and assayed for gene expression to see if onset of diseases and mortality can be predicted from how far along the cells in a person seem to have aged according to gene expression levels.

As pointed out in that post, you can read the full paper online. Open scientific publishing is a very good thing; one has to hope that this new publishing model wins out over the established journal system.


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