Evolutionary Theories of Aging and Longevity

Leonid Gavrilov lagavril at midway.uchicago.edu
Wed Apr 3 06:01:19 EST 2002

Dear Colleagues,

May I bring to your attention the following link (to the new article), that 
will be active for a limited period of time only:


The following topics in this new published article may be of particular 
interest to this Group:

(1) Life Extension prospects and the evolutionary theory (pages 352-353)

(2) Do long-living people have impaired fertility? (pages 350-352)

(3) Who is the author of the idea of the cell division limit? (pages 343-344)

Also here is some additional description of this new publication:
Gavrilov LA, Gavrilova NS
TheScientificWorldJOURNAL, 2002, 2: 339-356.


This is an introduction to the evolution of aging written for a wide 
readership. Based on lectures taught by the authors at the University of 
Chicago, this article provides a critical review of the most important 
scientific publications on evolution of aging (104 references).

It also demonstrates that claims of impaired fecundity among long-lived 
women, made by proponents of the disposable soma theory, were based on 
incomplete data and, therefore, need to be reevaluated.


The purpose of this article is to provide students and researchers entering 
the field of aging studies with an introduction to the evolutionary 
theories of aging, as well as to orient them in the abundant modern 
scientific literature on evolutionary gerontology.
The following three major evolutionary theories of aging are discussed:

1) the theory of programmed death suggested by August Weismann,
2) the mutation accumulation theory of aging suggested by Peter Medawar, and
3) the antagonistic pleiotropy theory of aging suggested by George Williams.

We also discuss a special case of the antagonistic pleiotropy theory, the 
disposable soma theory developed by Tom Kirkwood and Robin Holliday. The 
theories are compared with each other as well as with recent experimental 
findings. At present the most viable evolutionary theories are the mutation 
accumulation theory and the antagonistic pleiotropy theory; these theories 
are not mutually exclusive, and they both may become a part of a future 
unifying theory of aging.

Evolutionary theories of aging are useful because they open new 
opportunities for further research by suggesting testable predictions, but 
they have also been harmful in the past when they were used to impose 
limitations on aging studies. At this time, the evolutionary theories of 
aging are not ultimate completed theories, but rather a set of ideas that 
themselves require further elaboration and validation.

This theoretical review article is written for a wide readership.

KEY WORDS: evolution, fitness, gerontology, lifespan, longevity, mortality, 
mutation, reproduction, selection, senescence, survival, trade-offs, 
antagonistic pleiotropy theory, disposable soma theory, evolutionary 
theory, life extending mutations, life history theory, mutation 
accumulation theory, natural selection, programmed death, reproductive 
cost, reproductive success, single-gene mutations, theories of biological aging

Link to the full text of this article in TheScientificWorldJOURNAL is also 
available through the following website:

Best wishes,


Dr. Leonid A. Gavrilov, Center on Aging
NORC/University of Chicago
1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637-2745
Fax: (773) 256-6313, Phone: (773) 256-6359


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