An older woman with medium brown hair and pink dress dancing outside

Factors causing ageing, rather than being a consequence of getting older, are a topic of major debate among scientists. Now, new research begins to consider how we determine what’s behind the wheel of human ageing.

In a new paper published in Nature Genetics, noted ageing academic Professor Joao Pedro de Magalhaes has assessed models of ageing from animals and human genetics to evaluate how existing research has addressed the question – and how future research can tackle this challenging question.

Professor de Magalhaes’ discussion paper published today looks at models of research to test theories of causal ageing, including the now-declining free radical theory; and considers how these different models can support the search for causal factors, and which hold the greatest potential for answering this question and consequently for clinical translation.

Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, Professor of Molecular Biogerontology at the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham said:

“What makes us age is a question that humans have been grappling with for millennia, from Aristotle’s first musings 2000 years ago. Today, various models of ageing suggest that changes to everything from the genome, stem cells and the immune system are involved in ageing in humans. Still, we haven’t yet managed to sort out what causes ageing rather than what occurs in and on our bodies as a result of ageing.

I look at how animal models and human genetic studies have been used to consider a fundamental question in the field of healthy ageing – why do we age?

Professor Joao Pedro de Magalhaes

“While recent advances in the field of human ageing have moved away from trying to tackle this admittedly wicked problem, and have focused on testing ways to manipulate ageing to extend healthy life, the ability to answer this incredibly difficult question empirically and definitively could set about a new revolution in biomedical sciences. If we could target therapeutically the underpinning drivers of ageing it would result in a paradigm shift in medicine. Instead of treating age-related diseases one by one we would be able to prevent them by retarding the whole ageing process.”