Keynote Address: Genetics and Aging; The Werner Syndrome as a Segmental Progeroid Syndrome
The maximum lifespan potential is a constitutional feature of speciation and must be subject to polygenic controls acting both in the domain of development and in the domain of the maintenance of macromolecular integrity. The enormous genetic hererogeneity that characterizes our own species, the complexities of numerous nature-nurture interactions, and the quantitative and qualitative variations of the senescent phenotype that are observed suggest that precise patterns of aging in each of us may be unique. Patterns of aging may also differ sharply among species (for example, semelparous vs. multiparous mammals).
Some potential common denominators, however, allow one to identify progeroid syndromes in man that could lead to the elucidation of important pathways of gene action. (The suffix “oid” means “like”; it does not mean identity.) Unimodal progeroid syndromes (eg., familial dementia of the Alzheimer type, an autosomal dominant) can help us understand the pathogenesis of a particular aspect of the senescent phenotype of man. Segmental progeroid syndromes (eg. the Werner syndrome, an autosomal recessive) may be relevant to multiple aspects of the senescent phenotype.
Some results of research on the Werner syndrome may be interpreted as support for “peripheral” as opposed to “central” theories of aging; they are consistent with the view that gene action in the domain of development (adolescence, in this instance) can set the stage for patterns of aging in the adult; they point to the importance of mesenchymal cell populations in the pathogenesis of age-related disorders; finally, they underscore the role of chromosomal instability, especially in the pathogenesis of neoplasia.
KeywordsDown Syndrome Werner Syndrome Bloom Syndrome Constitutional Feature Cockayne Syndrome
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