Ageing and Function

Sydney Shall bafa1 at
Mon Jul 5 05:11:23 EST 1993

Recently, in a discussion of the evolution of ageing by T. Donaldson, I
found a small lack of clarity in the use of the term "ageing".
Donaldson correctly points out that we are all agreed that the immediate
priority is to ensure improved physiological and mental function among
older people.  This must certainly take precedence over elongation of
the lifespan of people.  This is absolutely true, and is probably
universally aggreed.  

	The problem arises inasmuch as this formulation begs an
underlying question; namely, how is the lifespan to be elongated and how
are we to improve the functioning and well-being of older people.  At
first sight, it may appear that the two objectives are unrelated, but
closer inspection shows that the two aims are perhaps closely linked.

	For example, if we were to improve neonatal survivial, which in most
communities would be technically feasible and technically easy, we would
substantially increase the expected lifespan in those communities.  By
contrast, in rich communities it may be the case that the source of some
serious disabilites and mortality, may be ultimately due to an
inadequate ability to reproduce important stem cells in crucial tissues
such as the blood vessels.  Improvement of the reproductive ability of
arteriolar stem cells may lead to decreased arterial pathology, and this
in turn may lead to decreased morbidity and mortality, in addition; the
increased cell proliferation may in itself increase the lifespan of the

	Thus, since we have not yet been able to clearly dissect out
human pathology from "age" related decline in function, it remains very
unclear what the precise relation between pathology and "ageing" in
whole organisms actually is.  I would strongly recommend that we should
should use terms like "age" and "ageing" very sparingly.  Lifespan is a
term that can in principle be easily quantified.  Similarly, one can
define physiological and behavioural levels reasonable well. Therefore,
these measures are more useful to us.



Sydney SHALL,
Laboratory of Cell and Molecular Biology,
Biology Building,
University of Sussex,
East Sussex BN1 9QG,

Telephone: +

FAX: +


	Janet:		BAFA1 at

	Elsewhere:	BAFA1 at

	EARN/BITNET:	BAFA1%sussex.central at ukacrl



More information about the Ageing mailing list