An Interview with Researcher Thomas Kirkwood

Here find a popular science interview with Thomas Kirkwood on his contributions to present thought on how and why degenerative aging evolved to be near universal in living organisms. At the high level, what we think that we know about the evolution of aging does to some degree inform the approaches taken to treat aging: in advance of firm data, should we expect one strategy to be better than another, and thus prioritize it?

"I wondered why cells allow damage to build up in the first place. And the idea came to me then, which was the realisation that it takes energy to combat the build-up of damage. There are maintenance and repair processes, proofreading mechanisms to make sure you don't do things wrong in the first place, and then clearance mechanisms to make sure you clean up your mistakes and get rid of them. And all of that costs energy."

"I started thinking that maybe this was the answer to question of why we age and die - because it was never evolutionarily worthwhile to invest enough in the maintenance and repair processes of the body to keep our cells from going on indefinitely. The essence of the theory is simply that, under the pressure of natural selection, organisms invest enough in the maintenance of somatic cells to keep them going for long enough to allow us to grow and reproduce and make the next generation, but it was never worthwhile for them to invest enough for those cells to last indefinitely."

"The theory says that aging will occur, because the whole repertoire of maintenance and repair systems will be tuned to a level that allows damage to build up. That has interesting implications in that it tells us that, from an evolutionary perspective, we should not expect there to be a single mechanism of aging. Very often you'll find groups of scientists that are championing one or other mechanism - so it's all telomeres, or it's all DNA mutations, or proteostasis collapse, or mitochondria, or cellular senescence. But the theory tells us is that it is not one mechanism versus another mechanism but that they work simultaneously, and they work in synergistic ways."



This is always been my generalized system-level theory of aging.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at May 12th, 2022 9:20 AM
Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.