Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Insights Into The Enigma Of Lengthening Longevity

Date:
May 13, 1998
Source:
Max Planck Society For The Advancement Of Science
Summary:
Contrary to accepted wisdom, which assumes an exponential increase in mortality with age, death rates decelerate with age, not just for humans but also for insects, worms, yeast—and automobiles.

Contrary to accepted wisdom, which assumes an exponential increase in mortality with age, death rates decelerate with age, not just for humans but also for insects, worms, yeast—and automobiles.

In an article appearing recently in Science (Vaupel et. al., Biodemographic trajectories of Longevity, Science, vol. 280, 8 May 1998) senior author Prof. James W. Vaupel from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, presents the findings of research on longevity conducted over the last several years by members of an international team of demographers, biologists and statisticians. This study is one of the first to come out of the newly emerging field of biodemography.

Since 1950 there have been substantial, largely unexplained reductions in human mortality at older ages. And the rate of reduction has accelerated in most developed countries, especially since 1970. In 1990 there were about four to five times as many centenarians in these countries than there would have been if mortality after age 80 had stayed at 1960 levels. Death rates increase at a slowing rate after age 80. Mathematical analysis of the data indicates that death rates may level off at around 105 and even decline after age 110.

The decline in old-age mortality is not restricted to Homo sapiens. Vaupel et al. estimated age trajectories of death rates for very large cohorts of four species of fruit flies, a parasitoid wasp, a nematode worm, and baker’s yeast. Despite substantial differences in the trajectories, they share a key characteristic: mortality decelerates and, for the largest populations studied, it even declines at older ages. The same seems to be true for old automobiles as well, which suggests that although living organisms are vastly more complex than manufactured products mortality deceleration could be a general property of complex systems.

As far as living organisms are concerned, these findings come as a big surprise in light of the traditional view that posits maximum life-spans. According to this theory, the postreproductive span of life should be short because there is no selection against mutations that are not expressed until reproductive activity has ceased.

While it is not clear how to reconcile these findings with theories about aging, the authors present three biodemographic insights—concerning the correlation of death rates across age, individual differences in survival chances, and induced alterations in age-patterns of fertility and mortality—that offer clues and suggest avenues for future research.

These three concepts can be tied together by a general question: how important are an individual’s "survival attributes" (persistent characteristics, innate or acquired, that affect survival chances) as opposed to current conditions in determining the chance of death? An analysis of data on Danish twins suggests that about 50% of the variation in human life-spans after age 30 can be attributed to survival attributes that are fixed by the time an individual is 30; a third to a half of these attributes are genetic and half to two-thirds nongenetic (related to, for example, socioeconomic status, disease history, etc.). The model used for this analysis indicates that the importance of survival attributes may increase with a person’s life expectancy. Research over the next decade may resolve the question of how many survival attributes account for most of the variation in life-spans.

That genes can alter mortality trajectories is now certain. The emerging field of molecular biodemography seeks to uncover how variation at the microscopic level of genetic polymorphisms alters mortality trajectories at the macroscopic level of entire populations. As for nongenetic determinants of longevity, the importance of diet, stress, and reproduction in inducing alternative mortality schedules has been demonstrated. The authors conclude that progress in understanding these causal relationships and in discovering genes and other survival attributes will lead to even longer lives.

Co-authors are: James R. Carey, Kaare Christensen, Thomas E. Johnson, Anatoli I. Yashin, Niels V. Holm, Ivan A. Iachine, Vδinφ Kannisto, Aziz A. Khazaeli, Pablo Liedo, Valter D. Longo, Zeng Yi, Kenneth G. Manton, James W. Curtsinger


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max Planck Society For The Advancement Of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Max Planck Society For The Advancement Of Science. "New Insights Into The Enigma Of Lengthening Longevity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 May 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/05/980513075840.htm>.
Max Planck Society For The Advancement Of Science. (1998, May 13). New Insights Into The Enigma Of Lengthening Longevity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/05/980513075840.htm
Max Planck Society For The Advancement Of Science. "New Insights Into The Enigma Of Lengthening Longevity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/05/980513075840.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) — Contains graphic content. He's only 17. But Johntrell Bowles has wanted to be a doctor from a young age, despite the odds against him. He was recently the youngest participant in a cadaver program at the Indiana University NW medical school. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — It's unclear whether the American Ebola patients' recoveries can be attributed to an experimental drug or early detection and good medical care. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins