BOOK: Aging, Sex and DNA Repair (Bernstein and Bernstein)

Christopher Kashina Patil cpatil at leland.Stanford.EDU
Tue Aug 25 17:05:10 EST 1992

Hello. I wanted to alert the readers of b.m.a. to the existence of a fine
new book on the molecular basis of aging:

Authors: Bernstein and Bernstein
Title: Aging, Sex, and DNA Repair
Publishing Info: (U.S.) Academic Press, Inc.
			San Diego, CA 92101

		 (U.K.) Academic Press Limited
			24-28 Oval Road, London NW1 7DX
Copyright: 1991
ISBN (whatever the hell that means): 0-12-092860-4

I don't know about the cost of the book, but a grad student in my lab who has
bought it says that it ran about $45 U.S.

	The book presents evidence for two of the author's theories, the DNA
damage theory of aging and the DNA repair (and complementation) theory of sex.
As I am a neophyte biologist, I don't feel especially comfortable evaluating
or even summarizing their arguments, but I will try briefly:

	The DNA damage theory of aging asserts that the accumulation of DNA
damage, especially oxidative damages, in the cells of multi-cellular organisms
is the primary cause of aging. The authors take pains to point out the contrast
between DNA *damage* and somatic mutation, which in light of substantial evi-
dence the authors feel is not responsible for aging (although mutations in 
the somatic cells are unquestionably responsible for some of the maladies ass-
ociated with agin, e.g. cancer). 

	The authors defend this theory by reviewing the nature of DNA damage
as distinct from DNA mutation, and discussing the various kinds of DNA damage
commonly found in nature. They proceed to a discusion of the cytological con-
sequences of DNA damage (e.g., interference with transcription, impairment of 
replication, and cell death), and review the evidence that DNA damage accumu-
lates in postmitotic and slowly dividing cell populations. After spending some
time focusing on oxidative damages in particular, the authors close the section
on aging with a review of human diseases that can serve as a model for aging
(Down's Syndrome, telangiectasia, Werner's, etc.) and a discussion of genetic
syndroms in humans that cause accelerated development of the aging phenotype.
There are also several chapters on the relationship between DNA repair 
efficiency and organismal lifespan.

	The DNA repair (and complementation) theory of sex posits that the 
main evolutionary advantage of sex (whose primary characteristics are defined
by the authors to be outcrossing and recombination) is the repair of DNA 
damages that have accumulated in the germ line. 

	I am extremely poorly versed in the controversies surrounding the 
various theories on the evolution of sex, so I will refrain from summarizing
the authors' arguments  on this issue. Suffice it to say that I found the  
discussion provocative.

	Overall, speaking as an undergraduate student of molecular biology
who has been interested in the problem of aging for a short time, I found the
Bersteins' book extremely readable and educational. I think that novices will
find it a rich source of background, and that all you "grownups" out  there
will find it a valuable review of current literature on theories of aging and
sex, as well as a valuable resource.


Chris Patil
Department of Biological Sciences
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305

cpatil at
Chris Patil				Stanford University
cpatil at		Department of Biological Sciences
					Stanford, CA 94305

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