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Controversy 2. Why Do Our Bodies Grow Old?. Why Do Our Bodies Grow Old?. The maximum human lifespan appears to be around 120 years We have no valid records of people living much beyond 120 years

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Controversy 2

Controversy 2

Why Do Our Bodies Grow Old?


Why do our bodies grow old
Why Do Our Bodies Grow Old?

  • The maximum human lifespan appears to be around 120 years

    • We have no valid records of people living much beyond 120 years

  • Over recent years, “life expectancy” (e.g., expected years from birth) has risen; but “lifespan” (e.g., maximum possible length of life) hasn’t changed at all

  • Compression of Morbidity theory – believes we should aim for a healthy old age, followed by a rapid decline and death, which would likely:

    • Enhance the quality of life

    • Extend life expectancy

    • Reduce health care costs


The process of biological aging
The Process of Biological Aging

  • Normal Aging – an underlying time-dependent biological process that, although not itself a disease, involves functional loss and susceptibility to disease and death.

    • Gompertz Law – death rates for contemporary humans double every 8 years (ex., a 38-yr. old would be twice as likely to die as a 30-yr. old)

    • Additionally, at any given age, men are twice as likely to die as women


The process of biological aging cont
The Process of Biological Aging (cont.)

  • Comparative Anatomy – the study of the structure of different species

    • Helps us understand differences in aging and lifespan across species

    • The rate of aging can be correlated with the amount of time it takes the death rate of a species to double

      • Ex., the doubling time for humans is 8 years, but is 10 days for a fruit fly, and 3 months for a mouse


The process of biological aging cont1
The Process of Biological Aging (cont.)

  • Comparative Anatomy – the study of the structure of different species

    • Helps us understand differences in aging and lifespan across species

    • The rate of aging can be correlated with the amount of time it takes the death rate of a species to double

      • Ex., the doubling time for humans is 8 years, but is 10 days for a fruit fly, and 3 months for a mouse


The process of biological aging cont2
The Process of Biological Aging (cont.)

  • Rate-of-Living Concept – the concept that metabolism and life expectancy are closely related

    • Smaller organisms, which have faster metabolisms, also have shorter life expectancies

  • Human beings have an average lifespan and maximum life expectancy about twice as great as those of any other primate


Biological theories of aging
Biological Theories of Aging

  • No single theory of aging explains all the complex processes that occur in cells and body systems

    • But ongoing research is finding new insights into why we grow old

  • Two basic kinds of theory of aging:

    • Chance – the result of external events

    • Fate – the result of an internal necessity

  • The question remains whether or not it’s possible to intervene to correct damage to the aging body or modify the genetic program


Biological theories of aging1
Biological Theories of Aging

  • Wear-and-Tear theory – sees aging as the result of chance

    • A good explanation for some aspects of aging, such as the fact that our joints and bones become damaged over time

    • Theory dates back to Aristotle

  • Somatic Mutation theory – notes that cells can be damaged by radiation, and as a result, mutate or experience genetic changes

    • A more modern and sophisticated version of the wear-and-tear theory, but little science evidence to support


Wear and tear theory cont
Wear-and-Tear Theory (cont.)

  • Error Accumulation theory (aka, errorcatastrophe theory) – says that decremental changes of senescence are the result of chance or random changes that downgrade the genetic code

    • Over time, small errors in genetic coding occur, and eventually make the later copies unreadable (e.g., like using a photocopy to make another copy)

  • Accumulative Waste theory – theorizes that the accumulation of waste products eventually interferes with cell metabolism and leads to death

    • According to scientific research, although waste products do accumulate, there is little evidence of harm to the organism


Biological theories of aging cont
Biological Theories of Aging (cont.)

  • Autoimmune theory – the system may eventually become defective and no longer distinguish the body’s own tissues from foreign tissues

    • The body may then begin to attack itself, as suggested by the increase in autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis

  • Aging-Clock theory – claims that aging is programmed into our bodies like a clock ticking away from conception


Biological theories of aging cont1
Biological Theories of Aging (cont.)

  • Cross-Linkage Theory – claims that the bodily changes that we see as we age result from the accumulation of cross-linking compounds in the collagen, which gradually becomes stiff

    • Collagen – a natural protein found in the skin, bones, and tendons

  • Free Radicals – damage created by freeradicals(molecules that appear as a by-product of oxygen metabolism in cells) eventually gives rise to the symptoms we recognize as aging

    • The body produces anti-oxidants – substances that protect against free radicals that prevent damage to cells


Biological theories of aging cont2
Biological Theories of Aging (cont.)

  • Cellular Theory – argues that aging ultimately results from the progressive weakening of capacity for cell division, perhaps through exhaustion of the genetic material

    • Hayflick limit – the finite number of cell divisions that normal human cells in tissue culture go through

      • Named after discoverer Leonard Hayflick (1961)


Is aging inevitable
Is Aging Inevitable?

  • The biological aging process may not be the result of a rigid genetic program:

    • It may simply be the complex and indirect result of multiple traits in the organism tied to normal development

  • But aging is not a disease

    • Rather, it’s a process of change, part of which may make us more vulnerable to disease


Environmental and genetic approaches
Environmental and Genetic Approaches

  • There is only one environmental intervention that has scientifically been shown to extend lifespan in mammals – restricting food intake

    • When caloric intake is reduced – by up to 40% fewer calories than normal – age-related deterioration slows down, and age-related diseases are diminished

    • This is possibly because caloric reduction slows metabolism – the rate at which food is transformed into energy

  • For any individual, length of life will be the result of both genetic and environmental factors


Compression or prolongation of morbidity
Compression or Prolongation of Morbidity?

  • Various environmental and genetic alterations have been shown to increase lifespan among simple organisms

    • But human beings are more complex, and there is still no conclusive evidence from research on humans

  • According to the textbook, the compression of morbidity theory stands out as an important reminder of how critical biological research will be for the future of an aging society