Get A Means to an End: The Biological Basis of Aging and Death PDF

By William R. Clark

ISBN-10: 0195153758

ISBN-13: 9780195153750

Why will we age? Is getting older inevitable? Will advances in scientific wisdom let us expand the human lifespan past its current limits? simply because growing old has lengthy been the only irreducible truth of human lifestyles, those exciting questions come up extra usually within the context of technology fiction than technology truth. yet contemporary discoveries within the fields of cellphone biology and molecular genetics are heavily hard the belief that human lifespans are past our regulate. With such discoveries in brain, famous phone biologist William R. Clark truly and assuredly describes how senescence starts on the point of person cells and the way mobile replication might be sure up with getting older of the whole organism. He explores the evolutionary beginning and serve as of getting older, the mobile connections among getting older and melanoma, the parallels among mobile senescence and Alzheimer's ailment, and the insights won via learning human genetic disorders--such as Werner's syndrome--that mimic the indications of getting older. Clark additionally explains how aid in caloric consumption may very well support bring up lifespan, and the way the harmful results of oxidative parts within the physique should be constrained by means of the intake of antioxidants present in fruit and veggies. In a last bankruptcy, Clark considers the social and financial elements of residing longer, the consequences of gene treatment on senescence, and what we would find out about getting older from experiments in cloning. this can be a hugely readable, provocative account of a few of the main far-reaching and arguable questions we're more likely to ask within the subsequent century.

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Anecdotes and "common wisdom" about human lifespan confused the issue until late in the last century. Although the great French naturalist Georges Buffon had recognized in the mid-eighteenth century that human beings, regardless of their race or social station, only rarely lived beyond a hundred years, accounts of lifespans of as many as 165 years continued to be believed by eminent authorities well into the twentieth century. However, a classical and detailed study published in 1873 by the amateur British demographer William Thorns debunked almost every such claim, and, based on his analysis of insurance company records and various birth and death registries, Thorns correctly concluded that Buffon's upper limit of 100 years was substantially accurate.

Paramecia had created macronuclei to deal with the challenge of size, and they had become about as large as single cells can be. The next major development in the evolutionary theme of ever-greater size was for organisms to become multicellular. Once this happened, the micronuclear (reproductive) DNA was partitioned off into germ cells; the functional equivalent of the macronuclear DNA came to occupy all the other cells of the body—the somatic cells. Like the micronuclear DNA, germ-cell DNA is recombined with the DNA of another individual during reproduction, and the new genetic combinations are passed on to the next generation.

For most biologists, then, the various definitions of life can nearly all be traced back to the presence within individual cells of an active metabolism—an ability to extract energy from the environment and 22 THE NATURE OF CELLULAR SENESCENCE AND DEATH use it to carry out the range of biological functions that we call life. Cellular death can then largely be defined in terms of the absence— but it must be the complete absence—of an active metabolism. Senescence is the sequence of events connecting these two states through time in the life history of an individual: the conversion of a metabolically active cell, through a series of genetically controlled events, to a cell no longer capable of metabolic function.

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A Means to an End: The Biological Basis of Aging and Death by William R. Clark


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