Proposing a Novel Theory of Aging: The Concept of Selective Degeneration

A recently published editorial in the journal Aging presents a novel perspective on aging within multicellular organisms. The paper challenges the traditional notion that neighboring cells in these organisms are in constant competition and that aging primarily results from the accumulation of somatic damage.

Back in 1977, Thomas Kirkwood proposed the Disposable Soma Theory, suggesting that organisms might strategically allocate resources away from somatic maintenance to prioritize vital processes like reproduction. This theory has long been a cornerstone in gerontology. However, as our understanding of aging advances, it becomes apparent that not all aspects of aging can be neatly explained by the gradual buildup of damage. Intriguingly, certain mutations that increase damage accumulation can also extend longevity, while recent discoveries such as parabiosis and Yamanaka factors hint at the potential for rejuvenation without incurring significant energetic costs, even in the presence of high damage levels.

In their latest editorial, James Wordsworth and Daryl Shanley from Newcastle University delve into their newly published paper, which introduces the concept of Selective Destruction Theory (SDT). SDT proposes an alternative mechanism of aging that operates independently of damage accumulation yet aligns with the concept of epigenetic rejuvenation. Using agent-based modeling, the authors illustrate how aging could be driven by a process of positive selection that does not hinge on the traditional notion of accumulating damage.

Wordsworth and Shanley’s theory posits that selective destruction may be more than just a theoretical concept. In their most refined model, they demonstrate that if slower cells induce epigenetic changes in faster cells, causing their metabolism to slow down (rather than causing cell death), it not only minimizes unnecessary cell loss but also reduces the risk of hyperactivity disorders by curbing the spread of fast cells.

Reference: “A Novel Theory of Aging Independent of Damage Accumulation” by James Wordsworth and Daryl Shanley, published on July 28, 2023, in Aging. DOI: 10.18632/aging.204956.

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