Yale University School of Medicine
The Regulation of Chromosomes and Longevity
Aging is often depicted as an inevitable grinding down of the bodily machine, but there is much evidence to suggest it is a biological process under some genetic control. In order to better understand this process, we are attempting to speed up and slow down aging experimentally. This is being done by testing a series of mutations for an effect upon longevity and aging in the fruit fly. The mutations affect genes that have close counterparts in man, and that appear to function similarly in both the fly and man. The genes help regulate chromosome structure. The rationale for our study lies in the properties of the chromosome apparatus. It does not follow the on/off, computer-program rules of some other biological systems, but instead follows "epigenetic" rules. This means that a small dose of randomness is part of its normal function. This element of randomness works well during the primary development of the organism and works well for the young adult, but it may not age well, literally and figuratively. If chromosomes do perform more poorly with age, their dysfunction could be one of the factors that cause aging and limit life span.