Integrating theories of aging across 10 orders of magnitude

13 December 2019

Daniel Promislow
Departments of Pathology and Biology
University of Washington


Aging affects the function of biological processes over a vast range of spatial and temporal scales. The field of aging research includes a century-long tradition of studies on the evolutionary causes and demographic consequences of aging, and over the past two decades, enormous growth in our understanding of the molecular causes and consequences of aging. In fact, aging acts as a powerful conceptual hub linking observations across enormous spatiotemporal scales, and linking approaches across traditionally disparate disciplines. However, in practice, those working on the smallest scale rarely interact with those working on the largest scale. Evolutionary theories of aging provide a compelling explanation for why organisms senesce, but with few exceptions these theories are ignored by molecular biologists. At the same time, exciting molecular findings in aging are typically ignored by the evolutionary community. There is little crosstalk or collaboration between these two research communities who share a deep interest in the phenomenon of aging. But perhaps more than just about any other field in biology, that of aging research holds out promising potential for compelling and fruitful interactions. Here I will discuss a simple framework, with systems biology at its core, that offers a vision for a conceptual unification of aging theory and research across all scales.

current theory lunch schedule