[Back to Issue 9 ToC] [Back to Journal Contents] [Back to Biochemistry (Moscow) Home page]
[View Full Article] [Download Reprint (PDF)]

How Does the Body Know How Old It Is? Introducing the Epigenetic Clock Hypothesis

J. J. Mitteldorf

Department of EAPS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge MA 02138, USA; E-mail: josh@mathforum.org

Received February 15, 2013
Animals and plants have biological clocks that help to regulate circadian cycles, seasonal rhythms, growth, development, and sexual maturity. It is reasonable to suspect that the timing of senescence is also influenced by one or more biological clocks. Evolutionary reasoning first articulated by G. Williams suggests that multiple, redundant clocks might influence organismal aging. Some aging clocks that have been proposed include the suprachiasmatic nucleus, the hypothalamus, involution of the thymus, and cellular senescence. Cellular senescence, mediated by telomere attrition, is in a class by itself, having recently been validated as a primary regulator of aging. Gene expression is known to change in characteristic ways with age, and in particular DNA methylation changes in age-related ways. Herein, I propose a new candidate for an aging clock, based on epigenetics and the state of chromosome methylation, particularly in stem cells. If validated, this mechanism would present a challenging target for medical intervention.
KEY WORDS: biological clock, senescence, rhythm, maturation, aging, programmed aging, adaptive aging, methylation, epigenetics, gene expression

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297913090113