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Understanding ageing from an evolutionary perspective

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Thomas Kirkwood


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There is clear heritability of human longevity. However, the genetics of ageing is likely to be complex. Evolution theory tells us not to expect genes that have been selected to promote ageing. Ageing is not programmed but results from accumulation of somatic damage, owing to limited investments in maintenance and repair. Genes controlling the levels of activities, such as DNA repair and antioxidant defence, thus regulate longevity. In addition, there may be contributions either from late-acting deleterious genes that escape the force of natural selection or that trade benefit at an early age against harm at older ages. In some species, there is evidence that genes have evolved to detect and respond to changes in the environment, e.g. food supply. Evolutionary understanding can also help to understand important features of the human life history such as menopause. © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kirkwood TBL

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Journal of Internal Medicine: 4th Key Symposium Biology of Ageing

Year of Conference: 2008

Pages: 117-127

ISSN: 0954-6820

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2007.01901.x

PubMed id: 18226090

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 13652796