2Institute for Systems Analysis, Russian Academy of Sciences, pr. 60-letiya Oktyabrya 9, 117312 Moscow, Russia; fax: (499) 783-9132; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Received May 26, 2013
Aging is a complex and not well understood process. Two opposite concepts try to explain its causes and mechanisms – programmed aging and aging of “wear and tear” (stochastic aging). To date, much evidence has been obtained that contradicts the theories of aging as being due to accumulation of various damages. For example, creation of adequate conditions for the functioning of the organism’s components (appropriate microenvironment, humoral background, etc.) has been shown to cause partial or complete reversibility of signs of its aging. Programmed aging and death of an organism can be termed phenoptosis by analogy to the term apoptosis for programmed cell death (this term was first suggested by V. P. Skulachev). The necessity of this phenomenon, since A. Weismann, has been justified by the need for population renewal according to ecological and evolutionary requirements. Species-specific lifespan, age-dependent changes in expression pattern of genes, etc. are compatible with the concept of phenoptosis. However, the intraspecific rate of aging was shown to vary over of a wide range depending on living conditions. This means that the “aging program” is not set rigidly; it sensitively adjusts an individual to the specific realities of its habitat. Moreover, there are indications that in rather severe conditions of natural habitat the aging program can be completely cancelled, as the need for it disappears because of the raised mortality from external causes (high extrinsic mortality), providing fast turnover of the population.
KEY WORDS: aging plasticity, environmental influences, origin of aging, retarded senescence, self-maintenance, reversibility of senescence