Emery Thompson, M., Rosati, A.G., Snyder-Mackler, N. (2020). Insights from evolutionarily-relevant models for human ageing. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 375: 20190605.[PDF] [Publisher’s version] Abstract
As the world confronts the health challenges of an aging population, there has been dramatically increased interest in the science of aging. This research has overwhelmingly focused on age-related disease, particularly in industrialized human populations and short-lived laboratory animal models. However, it has become clear that humans and long-lived primates age differently than many typical model organisms, and that many of the diseases causing death and disability in the developed world are greatly exacerbated by modern lifestyles. As such, research on how the human aging process evolved is vital to understanding the origins of prolonged human lifespan and factors increasing vulnerability to degenerative disease. In this issue, we highlight emerging comparative research on primates, highlighting the physical, physiological, behavioural, and cognitive processes of aging. This work comprises data and theory on non-human primates, as well as underrepresented data on humans living in small-scale societies, which help elucidate how environment shapes senescence. Component papers address (1) the critical processes that comprise senescence in long-lived primates; (2) the social, ecological, or individual characteristics that predict variation in the pace of aging; and (3) the complicated relationship between aging trajectories and disease outcomes. Collectively, this work provides essential comparative, evolutionary data on aging and demonstrates its unique potential to inform our understanding of the human aging process.