Why and how organisms age remains a mystery, and it defines one of the biggest challenges in biology. Aging is also the primary risk factor for many human pathologies, such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases. Thus, manipulating the aging rate and potentially postponing the onset of these devastating diseases could have a tremendous impact on human health. Recent studies, relying primarily on nonvertebrate short-lived model systems, have shown the importance of both genetic and environmental factors in modulating the aging rate. However, relatively little is known about aging in vertebrates or what processes may be unique and specific to these complex organisms. Here we discuss how advances in genomics and genome editing have significantly expanded our ability to probe the aging process in a vertebrate system. We highlight recent findings from a naturally short-lived vertebrate, the African turquoise killifish, which provides an attractive platform for exploring mechanisms underlying vertebrate aging and age-related diseases.
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