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Biology of Aging

Genetic Analyses

A major area of investigation in the biology of aging is the search for genes that influence life span and an understanding of how these genes exert their influence. Studies in lower organisms such as yeasts and fungi show that there are genes, called longevity assurance genes, that assure that cells function long enough for the organism to live out its normal life span. Cancer occurs when these longevity assurance functions go awry. Understanding the mechanisms by which a delicate balance between longevity assurance and disease are maintained is one of the very promising areas of biogerontology.

Knowing that a particular gene or set of genes have an effect on an aging parameter does not in and of itself tell us anything about how the genes produce that effect. Molecular biology and molecular genetics are the research areas devoted to seeking such explanations. These research programs look at molecular function in aging organisms from plants and small worms (Caenorhabditis elegans) to fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) to mammals and humans. Understanding the mechanisms by which genes turn molecular and cellular functions on and off at various times in the life span of organisms will eventually lead to the ability to modify those processes. This is the promise of molecular and genetic therapies, tailored to an individual's very specific genetic makeup, that is causing great excitement at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 1Biology of Aging - Biogerontology, Research Approaches, Genetic Analyses, Model Systems, Cell Senescence, Hormonal Changes, Nutrition