What Is Aging? Scientists Study Role of Genes in Process

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 14, 2005 | Go to article overview

What Is Aging? Scientists Study Role of Genes in Process


Byline: Ann Geracimos, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Determining how genes influence the aging process is a slippery slope, scientists engaged in the quest say.

Even defining the word "aging" raises complications, according to David Schlessinger, chief of the Laboratory of Genetics at the National Institute on Aging, an arm of the government's National Institutes of Health.

Because genes govern all life processes, there is no question of their role in the aging process. The challenge is in knowing how they behave alone and with each other and under what conditions, as well as how they react with the environment and with a person's lifestyle. Mutation, or changes in genetic behavior, is a key factor.

"What you mean by aging, and the genetics of aging, varies with different people. It's an unsettled question at present," Mr. Schlessinger says. "There are many theories of aging, and they are all persuasive. In all cases, there is an environmental component, but the response has a genetic component.

"At one extreme, [aging] can be defined as the composite of a lot of pathological problems - some people develop kidney troubles [as they age], etc. The other view is that there is an independent process of aging quite apart from pathology. Depending on the type of definition, you have a lot of different factors involved.

"Aging becomes like pornography," he concludes wittily. "You know it when you see it."

His group is studying the regulation of menopause. Premature ovarian failure, or early menopause, affects about 1 percent of women and has many causes, he notes. His lab, however, has found one gene in a small group of women - among the "considerable fraction" who have a genetic cause - which can be recognized by women born with a droopy eyelid.

"This particular syndrome involves a gene that is extremely important for the formation of follicles," he says.

Follicles in this context are small ovarian sacs containing an immature egg.

Aging also can be defined strictly as "increased maturity," Mr. Schlessinger points out. "Not all gets worse as you get old. In many cases, creativity is stable or increases. That is a positive feature of aging that has not been studied much, although new techniques would make it possible."

It's necessary, however, to take into account increased susceptibility to disease, especially diseases normally linked with age, such as Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, stroke, heart disease and cancer. The incidence of such diseases doubles roughly with every 10 years of life, he says.

"So the question is: What are genetic risk factors for those diseases? That really makes the study of the genetics of aging a study of aging-associated disease. That is a field of its own that has seen enormous progress."

Scientists interested in what Mr. Schlessinger labels "the independent process of aging" have found that genes determine about 30 percent of a person's longevity, the ability to live a longer life than is the norm.

About 50,000 Americans are centenarians - people living 100 years or more - according to census figures quoted in a 2004 report titled "Longevity Genes: Hunting for the Secrets of the Centenarians." The study was published by the International Longevity Center-USA, a nonprofit group affiliated with New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Much of the research being done in this area is credited to Dr. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

What Is Aging? Scientists Study Role of Genes in Process
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.