June 15, 2015

Disabling the genetic machinery that leads to old age could lead to much longer life spans

Scientists propose that age-related ailments provide the evolutionary benefit of shortening life span, which conserves resources for future generations. Scientists could greatly extend life expectancy by deactivating the machinery for aging embedded in our DNA, the researchers assert.

In this simulation, a genetic mutation for mortality spreads through a population of immortals, providing evidence that evolution selects for shortened life spans. Organisms with a finite life span (blue) win out over immortals (red) as they compete for resources (yellow).

Physical Letter Reviews - Programed Death is Favored by Natural Selection in Spatial Systems

Standard evolutionary theories of aging and mortality, implicitly based on mean-field assumptions, hold that programed mortality is untenable, as it opposes direct individual benefit. We show that in spatial models with local reproduction, programed deaths instead robustly result in long-term benefit to a lineage, by reducing local environmental resource depletion via spatiotemporal patterns causing feedback over many generations. Results are robust to model variations, implying that direct selection for shorter life span may be quite widespread in nature.

George Dvorsky at IO9 does a good job of contacting Aubrey dr Grey and Olshanksy to get their opinions about this paper.

They disagree with Bar-Yam and the conclusion.

Bar-Yam also gets to respond.

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