Human Genetic Disorders That Feature Premature Onset and Accelerated Progression of Biological Aging

  • Samuel Goldstein


Despite a burgeoning number of recent investigations and increasingly rigorous scrutiny, a universally acceptable definition of normal biological aging is still not available. The origins of senescence remain enigmatic, and little agreement exists regarding its true nature. While most would accept as genuine aging phenomena the diverse processes of hair graying, wrinkling of skin, and arteriosclerosis, they would, on the other hand, reserve embryogenesis, somatic growth, and pubescence for development. Both kinds of phenomena are clearly time-dependent, but the interface between them is often blurred (Goldstein, S., 1971a). The conceptual difficulty is exemplified by the frequent juxtaposition of involution and new development, even at early and middle stages of the life span (Saunders and Fallon, 1966). Cogent examples are the placenta vs. the fetus during gestation and the replacement of deciduous teeth by permanent dentition during infancy. During childhood, atrophy of the thymus occurs when virtually all other organs are growing and maturing, while the menopausal ovary involutes relatively abruptly in comparison with other organs in the middle-aged female. One could invoke examples of involution at the molecular level such as the loss during fetal life of various proteins including ϒ-hemoglobin, carcinoembryonic antigen, α-fetoprotein, and others (Gold, 1971). In short, attempts to delineate the point at which development is succeeded by aging may be futile, since both processes probably operate along the same continuum.


Down Syndrome Turner Syndrome Fanconi Anemia Premature Aging Gonadal Dysgenesis 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel Goldstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Medicine and BiochemistryMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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