A Means to an End: The Biological Basis of Aging and Death

By William R. Clark | Go to book overview

5
Human Genetic Diseases
That Mimic the Aging
Process

The search for genes that might be involved in the human aging process—human senescence—was given a major push forward with the publication, in 1978, of a landmark study by George Martin entitled “Genetic Syndromes in Man with Potential Relevance to the Pathobiology of Aging." His analysis of the existing medical and scientific literature had suggested that as many as 7000 human genes might be involved in the degenerative processes associated with aging, but he concluded that probably no more than seventy, and perhaps as few as seven, of these genes controlled processes in the body that have a major impact on senescence. He excluded from consideration genes encoding specific diseases that might cause death either early or late in life; although death is clearly the endpoint of senescence, Martin was more interested in the process of senescence, as defined by studies in both animals and humans.*

____________________
*
This may be too narrow a view of senescence. As discussed earlier, internally programmed events in an organism that lead to a lethal idiopathic disease, or increase susceptibility to death through external disease or accident, should probably be considered part of the overall senescence program of that organism.

-73-

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