Genes and Aging

Genes and Aging

Majid Ali, M.D.

I include here some brief comments about genes and aging. In Oxygen and Aging, I asserted that genes positively influence the aging process and longevity only when oxygen metabolism is preserved which, in turn, is profoundly influenced by nutritional, ecologic, and stress-related factors. In his forthcoming book Aging Well, George F. Vaillant of Harvard University provides support for my view. He reports his longitudinal studies of aging in a cohort of Harvard men. The March-April issue (page 47) of Harvard Magazine includes the following quote from him:

We’re all mongrels….Genes are so—well, so heterogenous. With the passage of time, successful aging is remarkably free of genetic factors….Having better doctors and hospitals is a bit like locking the barn after the horse is out. The trick is not going to hospitals in the first place.

Ungenerous Genes

Genes are not generous to those who tinker with them. Notwithstanding the great excitement generated by Dolly, the first cloned ewe, the real story is very different. Consider the following quote concerning the human cloning debate from the March 19, 2001 issue of U.S. News & World Report:

And the scientists had good reason to be pessimistic. Several years of animal cloning work had taught them that most cloned animals never even make it to birth, and the rare ones that do all too frequently have problems ranging from physical deformities to life-threatening medical conditions….[such as] the lamb that scientists had to euthanize this past winter because it couldn’t stop hyperventilating because of blood vessel abnormalities.


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