Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Punching the timeclock of life

27.09.2004


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."

Usha Sutliff | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.usc.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Nanoparticle Exposure Can Awaken Dormant Viruses in the Lungs
16.01.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Cholera bacteria infect more effectively with a simple twist of shape
13.01.2017 | Princeton University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>