The uses of intraspecific variation in aging research

Steven N. Austad

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The artificial creation of genetically long-lived populations of several invertebrate species has illustrated how researchers may take advantage of genetic variation within a species to investigate the nature and mechanisms of aging. The advantage of studying intraspecific variation is that populations will be generally similar except for the relevant demographic differences. Also, there are reasons to suspect that genetic mechanisms of aging may differ from mechanisms associated with life extension via environmental manipulations such as caloric restriction. However creating a long-lived mammalian aging model will be expensive and time consuming. An alternative approach is to seek to identify naturally occurring slowly aging populations to contrast mechanistically with a reference population. Ecologists have already noted that demographic alterations of the appropriate type are frequently associated with populations from differing latitudes, differing altitudes, or from islands. Therefore, it is likely that genetically longer- (and shorter)-lived mammal populations of the same species already exist in nature, and could potentially be exploited to inquire into the genetics and mechanisms of aging and longevity. Of particular interest is the indication that some island populations of house mice may exhibit extended longevity compared with laboratory strains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-463
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Genetic variation
  • Geographic variation
  • Intraspecific variation
  • Iongevity
  • Mammals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Aging
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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