Werner’s Syndrome and Aging: A Reappraisal

  • Charles J. Epstein
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 190)


Although a clear distinction between the Werner syndrome and premature aging was made in our review published in 1966, repeated allusions in the literature indicate either an ambivalence about this relationship or a belief that the two conditions are fundamentally related to one another. Therefore, the criteria for premature aging originally used have been reexamined and found to be still acceptable. Evaluation of the features of the Werner syndrome in the light of these criteria once again indicates that there is no substantial evidence to support and considerable evidence to oppose equating the Werner syndrome with aging. This conclusion applies not only to the Werner syndrome in toto, but also to those aspects of the syndrome considered to qualify it as a segmental progeroid syndrome and to its characteristic cellular abnormalities (severely limited in vitro proliferation and variegated translocation mosaicism). The Werner syndrome should not, therefore, be forced into the mold of premature aging but should be studied on its own merits as a condition which may provide us with clues to the pathogenesis of many important problems.


Natural Aging Accelerate Aging Premature Aging Werner Syndrome Mortality Curve 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Casarett, G.W., 1964, Similarities and contrasts between radiation and time pathology. Advan. Gerontol. Res., 1: 109–163.Google Scholar
  2. Comfort, A., 1959, Natural ageing and the effects of radiation. Radiat. Res. (Suppl.), 1: 216–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Comfort, A., 1979, “The Biology of Senescence,” 3rd ed., Elsevier, New York.Google Scholar
  4. Epstein, C.J., Martin, G.M., and Motulsky, A.G., 1965, Werner’s syndrome: Caricature of aging, a genetic model for the study of degenerative diseases. Trans. Assoc. Amer. Phys., 78: 73–81.Google Scholar
  5. Epstein, C.J., Martin, G.M., Schultz, A.L. and Motulsky, A.G., 1966, Werner’s syndrome. A review of its symptomatology, natural history, pathologic features, genetics and relationship to the natural aging process. Medicine, 45: 177–221.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Fujiwara, Y., Higashikawa, T., and Tatsumi, M., 1977, A retarded rate of DNA replication and normal level of DNA repair in Werner’s syndrome fibroblasts in culture. J. Cell. Physiol., 92: 365–374.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Goldstein, S., 1978, Human genetic disorders that feature premature onset and accelerated progression of biological aging, In “The Genetics of Aging”, E. L. Schneider, ed., Plenum Press, New York.Google Scholar
  8. Goldstein, S. and Moerman, E.J., 1975, Heat-labile enzymes in Werner’s syndrome fibroblasts. Nature, 255: 159.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Goto, M., Horiuchi, Y., Tanimoto, K., Ishii, T., and Nakashima, H., 1978, Werner’s syndrome: analysis of 15 cases with a review of the Japanese literature. J. Amer. Geriatrics Soc., 26: 341–347.Google Scholar
  10. Hayflick, L., 1981, The biology of human aging. Plastic Reconstru. Surg., 67: 536–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hofecker, G., Skalicky, M., Kment, A., and Niedermuller, H., 1980, Models of the biological age of the rat. I. A factor model of age parameters. Mech. Ageing Develop., 14: 345–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Holliday, R., Porterfield, J.S., and Gibbs, D.D., 1974, Premature aging and occurrence of altered enzyme in Werner’s syndrome fibroblasts. Nature, 248: 762–763.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hollingsworth, J.W., Hashizumi, A., and Jablon, S., 1965, Correlations between tests of aging in Hiroshima subjects—an attempt to define “physiological age.” Yale J. Biol. Med. 38: 11–26.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Ishii, T. and Hosoda, Y., 1975, Werner’s syndrome: autopsy report of one case, with a review of pathologic findings reported in the literature. J. Amer. Geriatrics Soc., 23: 145–154.Google Scholar
  15. Ludwig, F.C. and Smoke, M.F., 1980, The measurement of biological age. Exp. Aging Res., 6: 497–522.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Martin, G.M., 1978, Genetic syndromes in man with potential relevance to the pathobiology of aging. Birth Defects Orig. Art. Series 14 (1): 5–39.Google Scholar
  17. Martin, G.M. Sprague, C.A., and Epstein, C.J., 1970, Replicative lifespan of cultivated human cells: effects of donor’s age, tissue and genotype. Lab. Invest., 23: 86–91.Google Scholar
  18. Nakao, Y., Kishihara, M., Yoshimi, H., Inoue, Y., Tanaka, K., Sakamoto, N., Matsukura, S., Imura, H., Ichihashi, M., and Fujiwara, Y., 1978, Werner’s syndrome. In vivo and in vitro characteristics as a model of aging. Amer. J. Med., 65: 919–932.Google Scholar
  19. Salk, D., 1982, Werner’s syndrome: a review of recent researchGoogle Scholar
  20. with an analysis of connective tissue metabolism, growth control of cultured cells, and chromosomal aberrations. Hum. Genet., 62:1–15.Google Scholar
  21. Salk, D., Au, K., Hoehn, H., and Martin, G.M., 1981, Cytogenetics of Werner’s syndrome cultured skin fibroblasts: variegated translocation mosaicism. Cytogenet. Cell Genet.Google Scholar
  22. 30:.
  23. Shock, N.W., 1981, Indices of functional age, In “Aging: A Challenge to Science and Society. Vol. 1, Biology,” D. Danon, N.W., Shock and M. Marois, eds., Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  24. Walburg, H.E., Jr., 1975, Radiation-induced life shortening and premature aging. Advan. Radiat. Biol., 5: 145–179.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles J. Epstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Pediatrics and of Biochemistry and BiophysicsUniversity of California, San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA

Personalised recommendations