Clearly we are going to be hearing a lot about the genetics and epigenetics of aging in the years ahead. The price of biotechnologies in this field has fallen, sequencing and analysis is cheap, and interest in intervening in the aging process is growing. Sadly, and as I've outlined in past posts, I don't see this as a path towards greatly extending the healthy human life span. Researchers will learn a great deal about how aging progresses, and produce benefits for other areas of medicine, but work on genetic analysis and alteration of epigenetic patterns can only be a hard and complicated path to slowing aging through manipulation of the operation of metabolism. As an end goal that is of very limited benefit to those of us who will be old before it arrives.
Here is an open access review from researchers involved in one of the current commercial ventures focusing on the genetics and epigenetics of aging:
During aging, vital bodily functions such as regeneration and reproduction slowly decline. As a result, the organism loses its ability to maintain homeostasis and becomes more susceptible to stress, diseases, and injuries. A loss of essential body functions leads to age-associated pathologies, which ultimately cause death.
Evolutionary theories of aging predict the existence of certain genes that provide selective advantage early in life with adverse effect on lifespan later in life (antagonistic pleiotropy theory) or longevity insurance genes (disposable soma theory). Indeed, the study of human and animal genetics is gradually identifying new genes that increase lifespan when overexpressed or mutated: gerontogenes. Furthermore, genetic and epigenetic mechanisms are being identified that have a positive effect on longevity.
The gerontogenes are classified as lifespan regulators, mediators, effectors, housekeeping genes, genes involved in mitochondrial function, and genes regulating cellular senescence and apoptosis. In this review we demonstrate that the majority of the genes as well as genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that are involved in regulation of longevity are highly interconnected and related to stress response.