Cover image for A means to an end : the biological basis of aging and death
A means to an end : the biological basis of aging and death
Clark, William R., 1938-
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Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xv, 234 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
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QH608 .C53 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Why do we age? Is aging inevitable? Will advances in medical knowledge allow us to extend the human lifespan beyond its present limits? Because growing old has long been the one irreducible reality of human existence, these intriguing questions arise more often in the context of sciencefiction than science fact. But recent discoveries in the fields of cell biology and molecular genetics are seriously challenging the assumption that human lifespans are beyond our control.With such discoveries in mind, noted cell biologist William R. Clark clearly and skillfully describes how senescence begins at the level of individual cells and how cellular replication may be bound up with aging of the entire organism. He explores the evolutionary origin and function of aging, thecellular connections between aging and cancer, the parallels between cellular senescence and Alzheimer's disease, and the insights gained through studying human genetic disorders -- such as Werner's syndrome -- that mimic the symptoms of aging. Clark also explains how reduction in caloric intakemay actually help increase lifespan, and how the destructive effects of oxidative elements in the body may be limited by the consumption of antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. In a final chapter, Clark considers the social and economic aspects of living longer, the implications of genetherapy on senescence, and what we might learn about aging from experiments in cloning. This is a highly readable, provocative account of some of the most far-reaching and controversial questions we are likely to ask in the next century.

Author Notes

Professor Emeritus of Immunology at UCLA and an internationally recognized authority on cellular immune reactions, William R. Clark is the author of The New Healers: Molecular Medicine in the Twenty-First Century, Sex and the Origins of Death, and At War Within: The Double Edged Sword ofImmunity, all published by OUP.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Clark believes that the study of aging is one of the most mysterious and exciting areas of biomedical research. His fascinating and informative book conveys his belief, if the reader is willing to stay with its close reasoning and scientific terminology. Clark examines aging and death at the cellular level. Cellular processes that deal with "programmed" and accidental death began far down in the evolutionary chain; indeed, one of the most remarkable aspects of the subject is how closely those processes resemble one another in the simplest and most complex organisms. As Clark works his way through recent research, he points out difficulties in separating cause and effect and the many questions that still remain unanswered. How cells keep time is only one of the provocative questions he raises. Other subjects include the roles of genes and environment, of free radicals and antioxidants, and of unbounded and restricted eating. One of the book's most engaging elements is Clark's ability to show how scientists think about problems and approaches in the field. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0195125932William Beatty

Publisher's Weekly Review

A professor emeritus of immunology at UCLA, Clark here examines "the process of aging from a new and increasingly important perspective, that of cell and molecular biology and the underlying discipline of genetics." When addressing each of these biological subfields, Clark effortlessly takes readers from the simple to the complex, from a discussion of single-celled organisms to human beings. Along the way, he summarizes the latest scientific information while outlining prospects for future research. Although this is a scholarly book, not a how-to manual, Clark does discuss strategies for extending the average human life by caloric restriction (reductions of 20% to 25% seem to be required) and the use of antioxidants (natural forms found in fruits and vegetables appear to be much more effective than supplements). He also does a nice job of exploring the causes of Alzheimer's disease, various forms of cancer and an array of genetic disorders that afflict the young by making them age prematurely. Finally, in this neatly informative work, Clark uses a sociological and political perspective to probe the tensions likely to arise between length of life and quality of life as medical advances continue to accumulate, and to consider the broad ramifications inherent in an aging population. 21 linecuts. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

As in his previous books, Clark (immunology, emeritus, UCLA; The New Healers: Molecular Medicine in the Twenty-First Century, LJ 12/97) does not hesitate to introduce the lay reader to complex concepts in cell and molecular biology. The news media and popular magazines tend to overestimate the impact of aging research on humans, but Clark looks at things realistically, especially the effects of reduced caloric intake and antioxidants at the cellular level. Clark concludes his book with an interesting discussion of the economic and social impact a longer lifespan might have on humans. Clark's is less anecdotal than some of the other aging books on the market: Steve Austad's Why We Age (Wiley, 1997), Leonard Hayflick and Robert Butler's How and Why We Age (Ballantine, 1994), and John J. Medina's The Clock of Ages (LJ 3/15/96). He sticks to the scientific research and refers to articles published in top-ranked, peer-reviewed scientific publications in his bibliography. Recommended for larger public libraries.Ă„Margaret Henderson, Huntington, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 Aging, Senescence, and Lifespan
2 The Nature of Cellular Senescence and Death
3 The Evolution of Senescence and Death
4 Of Embryos and Worms and Very Old Men: The Developmental Genetics of Senescence and Lifespan
5 Human Genetic Diseases That Mimic the Aging Process
6 Cycling to Scenescence
7 Replicative Immortality: Cancer and Aging
8 Caloric Restriction and Maximum Lifespan
9 With Every Breath We Take: Oxidative Stress and Cellular Senescence
10 The Aging Brain
11 A Conditional Benefit