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

By William R. Clark | Go to book overview

11
A Conditional Bene fit

In this book we have looked at the process of aging from a new and increasingly important perspective, that of cell and molecular biology and the underlying discipline of genetics. These are fairly new disciplines: Cell biology really came into its own only at the end of the last century; genetics was born in the first few years of the present century, with the rediscovery of Gregor Mendel's momentous works; and molecular biology emerged from the fields of biochemistry and microbial genetics only toward the end of the 1950s. These three disciplines have provided powerful new tools for looking at living organisms. We can now analyze biology at its most fundamental level; we can look for the genes underlying a given aspect of the life history of an animal, ask what exactly it is they do, how they do it, which other genes they may interact with, and how each gene's function may be affected by the environment. In the past twenty-five years or so, this new approach has been applied to the study of human physiology as well, and has given rise to an entirely new branch of medicine called

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