Programmatic features of aging originating in development: aging mechanisms beyond molecular damage?

FASEB J. 2012 Dec;26(12):4821-6. doi: 10.1096/fj.12-210872. Epub 2012 Sep 10.


The idea that aging follows a predetermined sequence of events, a program, has been discredited by most contemporary authors. Instead, aging is largely thought to occur due to the accumulation of various forms of molecular damage. Recent work employing functional genomics now suggests that, indeed, certain facets of mammalian aging may follow predetermined patterns encoded in the genome as part of developmental processes. It appears that genetic programs coordinating some aspects of growth and development persist into adulthood and may become detrimental. This link between development and aging may occur due to regulated processes, including through the action of microRNAs and epigenetic mechanisms. Taken together with other results, in particular from worms, these findings provide evidence that some aging changes are not primarily a result of a build-up of stochastic damage but are rather a product of regulated processes. These processes are interpreted as forms of antagonistic pleiotropy, the product of a "shortsighted watchmaker," and thus do not assume aging evolved for a purpose. Overall, it appears that the genome does, indeed, contain specific instructions that drive aging in animals, a radical shift in our perception of the aging process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics*
  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Models, Genetic


  • MicroRNAs