Evidence for the existence of such genetic variation for aging rates—a central tenet in the evolutionary theory that explains why animals would show physiological declines as they grow older—had largely been lacking in natural populations until now, the researchers said.
“We’ve found that individuals differ in their rates of aging, or senescence, and that these differences are (at least in part) caused by genetic effects so they will be inherited,” said Alastair Wilson of the University of Edinburgh. “While the genetic effects we found are completely consistent with existing theory, scientists hadn’t previously managed to test this theory properly except in controlled laboratory experiments.
“We’ve also done this work on long-lived mammals,” he added. “For someone interested in the evolution of aging and senescence in humans, these are going to be more relevant organisms than Drosophila [fruit flies].”
Scientists normally expect genetic mutations having bad effects to be removed by natural selection, Wilson explained. Conversely, selection will lead to an increase in the frequency of mutations that are beneficial. “On this basis, any genes with bad effects on survival or reproduction should be removed by selection,” he said. “But if that were true then there is no reason for individuals to deteriorate as they get old.”
Aging therefore raises a critical question: How has natural selection failed to remove genetic effects responsible for such reduced fitness among older individuals? Current evolutionary theory explains this phenomenon by showing that, as a result of the risk of death from environmental causes that individuals experience over the course of their lives, the force of selection inevitably weakens with age, he continued. This, in turn, means that genetic mutations having detrimental effects that are only felt late in life may persist in a population. Although widely accepted, this theory rests on the assumption that there is genetic variation for aging in natural systems.
To look for such genetic variation in the new study, the researchers examined wild Soay sheep and red deer living on two Scottish islands. Those populations were ideal for the study because they provide unparalleled levels of data, including individual survival and reproductive success, for large numbers of long-lived animals, Wilson said. In both study systems, individually marked animals are followed throughout their lives from birth until death, and their relationships to one another are known.
In both the red deer and sheep populations, they found evidence for age-specific genetic effects on “fitness”—a measure combining the animals’ probability of survival and reproduction. “The present study provides, to our knowledge, the first evidence for additive genetic variance in aging rates from a wild, non-model study organism,” the researchers concluded. “Furthermore, the age-specific patterns of additive genetic (co)variation evident in the two populations examined here were entirely consistent with the hypothesis that declines in fitness with age are driven by a weakening of natural selection.”
Cathleen Genova | alfa
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy