The blurb on the cover of this book may be slightly misleading: "A world authority shows why aging is neither inevitable nor necessary." This is true, for he does show theoretically why there is no need for us to age, i.e. that there is no "death gene" that determines, more or less precisely, our longevity. Just don't expect any miracle cures. From a layman's viewpoint, the evolutionary argument he constructs for the development of aging in species is well elucidated and highly convincing. Aging is not, according to the disposable soma theory expounded here, anything to do with population control or some such crudely deterministic mechanism, but rather the genes making the best of what are, after all, limited energy resources. Our soma cells (anything but the all-important and immortal germ-line cells by which we reproduce) are constantly being replicated, a process that, carried out in any sort of energy-efficient manner, leaves room for error. And these errors are cumulative in effect; though the process is generally remarkably accurate, a faultily constructed cell cannot produce a perfect cell, and eventually our bodies will go wrong with fatal consequences. This mattered less when the conditions of life were such that reaching a state of senescence was relatively rare. But with the change in these conditions found in modern industrialized countries, the effects of this process have taken on a far greater significance. As well as the science (all very accessible to the nonscientist), Tom Kirkwood also engages the reader in an interesting and important discussion of the social and cultural implications of these changed conditions. For the time being, though, as far as any of us are concerned, aging is still inevitable. This book doesn't offer the hope of evading death or even delaying it that significantly, but it does offer up some hope: understanding a process can help to demystify it and dispel fear, and, as Kirkwood illustrates, it can help us to try and intelligently influence the processes at work in our favor. Time of Our Lives
is an excellently written popular-science book for anyone who is concerned with the onslaught of the years. --Alisdair Bowles, Amazon.co.uk
--This text refers to the
From Publishers Weekly
"Aging is neither inevitable nor necessary," declares British gerontologist Kirkwood in this unorthodox study. According to his hypothesis, which he calls the "disposable soma theory," aging occurs because genes treat organisms as dispensable, investing just enough in body maintenance to enable an organism to get through its life expectancy in the wild. Kirkwood believes that freshwater hydraAtubular pond animals with remarkable regenerative powersAare immortal, a claim made by Argentinean biologist Daniel Martinez in the early 1990s. When it comes to humans, though, Kirkwood concedes that a fountain-of-youth elixir, whether obtained through gene-repair therapy or other means, is far in the future or may never exist. His survey of scientific research into the human aging process reveals clues about the origins of arthritis, memory loss, Alzheimer's disease and immune-system impairment. He dispenses sensible if unsurprising advice on how to slow one's own aging (exercise, eat fewer calories, keep up a healthy sex life, etc.) and examines anti-aging fads, including those involving melatonin, the steroid hormone DHEA and hormone replacement therapy for women. Kirkwood's more provocative ideas include an evolutionary theory to explain menopause and his argument that cancer is an accidental throwback to "immortal" cell-growth mechanisms that were meant to be switched off. He concludes with a weak science fiction scenario in which aging has been conquered and babies are created infrequently to replace individuals who die from accident or suicide. Agent, Felicity Bryan. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to the