Advice to an aging scientist

Mech Ageing Dev. 2002 Apr 30;123(8):841-50. doi: 10.1016/s0047-6374(02)00021-0.


Fifty years ago, Peter Medawar and George Williams developed two now-classic theories for the evolution of senescence. In the past 20 years, evolutionary biologists studying aging have developed explicit mathematical models of these theories, used these models to derive explicit predictions, and tested these predictions using a variety of approaches. But, we argue here, our singular focus on these models may have hindered progress in evolutionary studies of aging. Research in this area has not kept pace with dramatic advances in evolutionary theory and molecular genetics. Progress in evolutionary studies of aging will depend on a bold, integrative approach, incorporating evolutionary and molecular advances from other fields, along with the powerful statistical and mathematical tools now available. We discuss several specific examples where we may gain new insight into the causes of aging by looking to other evolutionary phenomena, including sexual conflict and the evolution of social behavior. In addition, we present new results which suggest that the analysis of gene networks may lend particular insight into the genetic underpinnings of the aging process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Molecular Biology
  • Societies, Scientific