Is Aging Just an Accident of Evolution? highlights the work of Stanford researcher Stuart Kim who, along with colleagues, has been studying aging in the C. elegans worm.

Essentially, Kim claims that C. elegans does not age because it is exposed to environmental stressors that gradually wear its ability to maintain itself down, but rather that as it ages,

So it looked as though worm aging wasn’t a storm of chemical damage. Instead, Kim said, key regulatory pathways optimized for youth have drifted off track in older animals. Natural selection can’t fix problems that arise late in the animals’ life spans, so the genetic pathways for aging become entrenched by mistake. Kim’s team refers to this slide as “developmental drift.”

“We found a normal developmental program that works in young animals, but becomes unbalanced as the worm gets older,” he said. “It accounts for the lion’s share of molecular differences between young and old worms.”

Kim is quick to add that he cannot say whether human aging also occurs due to the same sort of issues, but the fact that it happens at all at least makes it a possibility to be explored in human aging research.

If humans do age due to this sort of process, it would mean that it would possible to forestall or stop altogether aging by correcting the regulatory pathways that go astray as we age (effectively treating the underlying causes rather than the symptoms of such changes).

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