A Nice Turn of Phrase

This caught my eye while I was meandering my way through PubMed; a nice turn of phrase in this way of looking at the mechanisms of aging and the future of aging in a world shaped by human action.

Senescence Viewed through the Lens of Comparative Biology:

Although mortality and longevity are inherently biological phenomena, their study has historically been the purview of demography and the actuarial sciences. An infusion of biological thinking into these disciplines transforms demography into biodemography and provides expectations and coherency to observations on age-determined mortality that would not be explainable otherwise.

Comparative biology teaches us that reproduction is life's solution to the inevitability of death in the hostile environments of Earth. That solution, however, places a higher priority on investing physiological resources into reproduction that could otherwise have been used to maintain the soma (body) longer. As such, aging is an inescapable but inadvertent byproduct of imperfect maintenance and its attendant surveillance and repair. Biology also reveals that while bodies are not designed to fail, neither are they designed for extended operation. In other words, bodies are subject to biological warranty periods for normal operation. For sexually reproducing species, that warranty period includes the time from conception to sexual maturity, the production and nurturing of offspring, and a period of grand-parenting in some species.

Humans are the only species capable of exploiting the loophole in the biological contract of life (bodies that are not designed to fail). Human ingenuity (science, medicine, public health) has produced interventions that manufacture survival time by delaying death, and in so doing, has created a phenomenon never before seen in the history of life - population aging (and all the societal and health consequences that go with it).

Aging and individual death might well be the inevitable consequence of evolutionary pressure on cellular life, but it's far more noteworthy that we have the capacity to do something about it. Intelligence and technology are a loophole big enough to created physical immortality - given enough resources and time. The big question is whether the first stages on the road to the repair of aging and greatly increased healthy life spans happen rapidly enough to benefit you and I, or whether cryosuspension will be our only opportunity.

The choice is ours; how much do we want healthy longevity and how much are we prepared to work towards that goal?


Reproduction isn't the evolutionary "solution to the problem of death" but simply occurs because genes favoring reproduction copy themselves more often.
Evolution doesn't care about death at all except that species which live a little while have more chance to multiply. Evolution's solution to the problem is, therefore, to delay senescence; in other words, EVOLUTION ALREADY EVOLVED A VERSION OF SENS. The remarkable effectiveness of these naturally evolved SENS mechanisms should be our guiding light in immortality research.

Posted by: will nelson at November 27th, 2007 4:06 PM

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