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December 23, 1974

Biological Aging: An Essentially Normal Process

Author Affiliations

Hamilton, Ontario
From the departments of medicine and biochemistry, McMaster University Medical Center, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

JAMA. 1974;230(12):1651-1652. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03240120019011

AGING satisfies the major criterion of a normal physiologic process; it descends inexorably on each and every one of us. Whether this kind of normality is desirable is a debatable point. Teleological approaches are largely unsatisfactory because the nth stage of improved survival is immortality, which implies detrimental effects for the species in perpetuity. Viewed mechanistically, therefore, biological aging is an epilogue of development originating within the genotype and the adaptive norm of the species.1 Although the basic program is limited by the inherited genetic load, most of us in Western civilization who manage to survive to maturity can usually look forward to several decades of vigorous life before one or more pathologic processes become overt and eventually lethal. Against this backdrop, biomedical science has sought its characteristic goal: to define the fundamental, molecular basis of aging.

It is important to distinguish between primary causative mechanisms and secondary and