The search for a treatment for ageing

Bioethics Briefing Note

Published 10/01/2018

Ageing cover
Elderly person hand hold

Biological ageing

Biological ageing is a progressive decline in bodily function and an increasing susceptibility to disease and death as we get older. There is no consensus about the precise processes that cause biological ageing, although it is clear that no single mechanism is responsible. Cell damage and errors in DNA accumulate over our lives, eventually leading to cellular dysfunction.*

Hundreds of genes also have been found to be involved in ageing. Recent advances in the tools of research, such as genome sequencing, computer modelling, data science, and the collection of long-term data from specific groups of people, are likely to accelerate our understanding of ageing processes in the near future.**

*See, for example, Kirkwood TBL (2005) Understanding the odd science of aging Cell 120: 437-47; van Deursen JM (2014) The role of senescent cells in ageing Nature 509: 439- 46.

For example, bioinformatics were recently used to study how environmental factors, or epigenetics, influence the genes of mice and biological ageing: Stubbs TM et al. (2017) Multitissue DNA methylation age predictor in mouse Genome Biol 18: 68.