Visions & Reflections (Minireview)

Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 67, Issue 1, pp 1-8

First online:

When a theory of aging ages badly

  • Jérôme LapointeAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, McGill University
  • , Siegfried HekimiAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, McGill University Email author 

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According to the widely acknowledged mitochondrial free radical theory of aging (MFRTA), the macromolecular damage that results from the production of toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) during cellular respiration is the cause of aging. However, although it is clear that oxidative damage increases during aging, the fundamental question regarding whether mitochondrial oxidative stress is in any way causal to the aging process remains unresolved. An increasing number of studies on long-lived vertebrate species, mutants and transgenic animals have seriously challenged the pervasive MFRTA. Here, we describe some of these new results, including those pertaining to the phenotype of the long-lived Mclk1 +/− mice, which appear irreconcilable with the MFRTA. Thus, we believe that it is reasonable to now consider the MFRTA as refuted and that it is time to use the insight gained by many years of testing this theory to develop new views as to the physiological causes of aging.