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Keywords:

  • longevity;
  • mouse models;
  • mutants;
  • pathology;
  • segmental aging;
  • skepticism

Summary

Organism envy afflicts most researchers who work on aging in mice; how frustrating it is to see the worm and fly biologists nail down milestone after milestone, citation after citation! Surely genetic trickery can produce mice that age in a comparable jiffy? Alas, our near-total ignorance of what times the aging process makes it hard to guess what genes to tweak, if indeed aging can be mimicked a presto. Building a case that a given short-lived mutant ages quickly is a steep and thorny path, requiring more than just plucking a symptom here and there from a list of things that sometimes go wrong in old people or old mice. The hallmark of aging is that a lot goes wrong more or less at the same time, in 2-year-old mice, 10-year-old dogs and 70-year-old people. Finding ways to damage one or two systems in a 6-week or 6-month-old mouse is not too hard to do, but the implications of such studies for improved understanding of aging per se are at best indirect and at worst imaginary and distracting.