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REVIEW: Is Aging an Inevitable Characteristic of Organic Life or an Evolutionary Adaptation?

Peter V. Lidsky1,a*, Jing Yuan1, Jacob M. Rulison1,2, and Raul Andino-Pavlovsky1,b*

1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of California San Francisco, CA, USA

2University of California Berkeley, CA, USA

Received September 27, 2022; Revised September 27, 2022; Accepted November 4, 2022
Aging is an evolutionary paradox. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain it, but none fully explains all the biochemical and ecologic data accumulated over decades of research. We suggest that senescence is a primitive immune strategy which acts to protect an individual’s kin from chronic infections. Older organisms are exposed to pathogens for a longer period of time and have a higher likelihood of acquiring infectious diseases. Accordingly, the parasitic load in aged individuals is higher than in younger ones. Given that the probability of pathogen transmission is higher within the kin, the inclusive fitness cost of infection might exceed the benefit of living longer. In this case, programmed lifespan termination might be an evolutionarily stable strategy. Here, we discuss the classical evolutionary hypotheses of aging and compare them with the pathogen control hypothesis, discuss the consistency of these hypotheses with existing empirical data, and present a revised conceptual framework to understand the evolution of aging.
KEY WORDS: aging, evolution, infection, immunity, phenoptosis

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297922120021