The free radical theory of aging proposes that reactive oxygen species (ROS)-induced accumulation of damage to cellular macromolecules is a primary driving force of aging and a major determinant of lifespan. Although this theory is one of the most popular explanations for the cause of aging, several experimental rodent models of antioxidant manipulation have failed to affect lifespan. Moreover, antioxidant supplementation clinical trials have been largely disappointing. The mitochondrial theory of aging specifies more particularly that mitochondria are both the primary sources of ROS and the primary targets of ROS damage. In addition to effects on lifespan and aging, mitochondrial ROS have been shown to play a central role in healthspan of many vital organ systems. In this article we review the evidence supporting the role of mitochondrial oxidative stress, mitochondrial damage and dysfunction in aging and healthspan, including cardiac aging, age-dependent cardiovascular diseases, skeletal muscle aging, neurodegenerative diseases, insulin resistance and diabetes as well as age-related cancers. The crosstalk of mitochondrial ROS, redox, and other cellular signaling is briefly presented. Potential therapeutic strategies to improve mitochondrial function in aging and healthspan are reviewed, with a focus on mitochondrial protective drugs, such as the mitochondrial antioxidants MitoQ, SkQ1, and the mitochondrial protective peptide SS-31.
Keywords: Aging; Healthspan; Mitochondria; Oxidative stress.