An epigenetic clock controls aging

Biogerontology. 2016 Feb;17(1):257-65. doi: 10.1007/s10522-015-9617-5. Epub 2015 Nov 25.


We are accustomed to treating aging as a set of things that go wrong with the body. But for more than twenty years, there has been accumulating evidence that much of the process takes place under genetic control. We have seen that signaling chemistry can make dramatic differences in life span, and that single molecules can significantly affect longevity. We are frequently confronted with puzzling choices the body makes which benefit neither present health nor fertility nor long-term survival. If we permit ourselves a shift of reference frame and regard aging as a programmed biological function like growth and development, then these observations fall into place and make sense. This perspective suggests that aging proceeds under control of a master clock, or several redundant clocks. If this is so, we may learn to reset the clocks with biochemical interventions and make an old body behave like a young body, including repair of many of the modes of damage that we are accustomed to regard as independent symptoms of the senescent phenotype, and for which we have assumed that the body has no remedy.

Keywords: Epigenetic; Evolution; Gene expression; Life history; Programmed aging; Senescence.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Biological Clocks / genetics*
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Feedback, Physiological / physiology
  • Humans
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Models, Genetic*