Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Punching The Timeclock Of Life

Date:
September 29, 2004
Source:
University Of Southern California
Summary:
Is human longevity programmed? Does the majority of a population age and die prematurely to make way for a few better-adapted individuals? A USC molecular geneticist's findings may one day alter Darwin's ideas.

Ten years ago, Valter Longo had an inkling of a theory of aging that is now challenging the dogma of one of science’s heavyweights – Charles Darwin.

From graduate school to a career as an assistant professor in the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Longo’s ideas were questioned by peers and students alike as he explored a new way to look at aging that directly opposes principles set forth by Darwin in his theory of natural selection.

It has long been accepted that natural selection happens on the individual level – the better suited an organism is to its environment, the more likely it is to reproduce, forcing the species to change, or evolve, over time.

Longo’s theory, in contrast, hinges on a process called “group selection,” believed by most scientists to be wrong because it proposes that selection happens at the group level rather than the individual .

The gerontologist also rejects the commonly accepted theory that aging happens by chance and that, like a car, an organism runs well until it starts to breaks down and eventually just stops working.

In research published in the Sept. 27 edition of the Journal of Cell Biology, Longo proposes that aging is programmed so that the majority of a population dies prematurely to provide nutrients for the sake of a few individuals who have acquired the genetic mutations that increase their chances of reproduction.

The research is based on observations of programmed aging in baker’s yeast by Longo and co-author Paola Fabrizio. Scientists use baker’s yeast to study aging because the molecular pathway that regulates its longevity is similar to that in other organisms, such as mice and possibly humans, Longo said.

“Basically, it is the first demonstration, to our knowledge, that aging is programmed and altruistic,” Longo said.

“The organisms we have studied die long before they have to in order to provide nutrients for ‘mutants’ generated within their own population. Thus, billions of organisms die early so that a few better-adapted individuals can grow.”

What is even more striking, he said, is that the findings raise the possibility that the same process happens in humans, with many of us dying before we have to.

“Programmed human aging is just a possibility. We don’t know whether it’s true yet or not,” he said. “But if aging is programmed in yeast, and the pathway is very similar, then isn’t it possible that humans also die earlier than they have to?”

Longo said he realizes that this theory goes against the fundamental theories of evolution, which is why he took 10 years to publish, combing through scientific papers dating back to the 1870s to learn about the genesis of the theory of natural selection and speaking with prominent evolutionary biologists about his ideas.

“I wanted them to tell me, ‘No, you’re wrong and here’s why.’ I never got that,” he said.

Longo said there are many questions that have yet to be answered through theoretical studies and a closer look at aging in humans and mammals.

“We’re not saying Darwin was wrong. We’re just saying that there appear to be some big missing pieces in his theory,” Longo said.

“We’re also not saying that humans are, for sure, undergoing programmed aging. But, most likely, most organisms undergo programmed longevity. Life is programmed. Whether death is programmed or not is yet to be determined.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Southern California. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Southern California. "Punching The Timeclock Of Life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 September 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040928123106.htm>.
University Of Southern California. (2004, September 29). Punching The Timeclock Of Life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040928123106.htm
University Of Southern California. "Punching The Timeclock Of Life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040928123106.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 18, 2014) Researchers at The National University of Singapore have invented a new microneedle patch that could offer a faster and less painful delivery of drugs such as insulin and painkillers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) The first nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola at a Dallas hospital walked down the stairs of an executive jet into an ambulance at an airport in Frederick, Maryland, on Thursday. Pham will be treated at the National Institutes of Health. (Oct. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) A Caribbean cruise ship carrying a Dallas health care worker who is being monitored for signs of the Ebola virus is heading back to Texas, US, after being refused permission to dock in Cozumel, Mexico. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) All four suspected Ebola cases admitted to hospitals in Spain on Thursday have tested negative for the deadly virus in a first round of tests, the government said Friday. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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