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Aging: Nature’s way of reducing competition for resources

Disabling the genetic machinery that leads to old age could lead to much longer life spans

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4:50pm, June 12, 2015
Organisms with and without a genetic mutation for mortality

LIVE LONG, DON’T PROSPER  In this simulation, a genetic mutation for mortality spreads through a population of immortals, providing evidence that evolution selects for shortened life spans. Organisms with a finite life span (blue) win out over immortals (red) as they compete for resources (yellow).

The aches, pains and disease that come with age may be nature’s method of population control. 

Aging is a genetic mechanism that prevents humans and other organisms from living as long as they could, scientists argue in a study published June 12 in Physical Review Letters. The scientists propose that age-related ailments provide the evolutionary benefit of shortening life span, which conserves resources for future generations. Scientists could greatly extend life expectancy by deactivating the machinery for aging embedded in our DNA, the researchers assert.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think we could extend the human life span by multiples,” says study coauthor Yaneer Bar-Yam of the New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge, Mass.

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