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Biology of Aging


Peter Gurevich


Have you ever asked yourself why are we aging and dying? Why are animals and plants around us aging and dying? Are all living beings mortal? Or are some immortal? Could we defy aging and death? Could we live longer? If you ask these kinds of questions, this book is for you.
The book “Unlimited Life. Immortality. Preventing Aging and Natural Death” explains the origins and sources of the aging phenomenon and natural death widely observed among living organisms, as well as the absence of aging and natural death between some of the organisms and living systems. This book describes mechanisms of aging that occur on different levels of biological hierarchy. Despite the book “Unlimited Life. Immortality. Preventing Aging and Natural Death” being a scientific publication, it’s written in a manner that makes it accessible to the general public.

Part I

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Starting our discussion about aging and natural death, we should define many conceptions that would be used in our debates. Though some of them seem commonly known and intuitively understood, to define them properly is indeed a very complicated and tricky task, because of their great complicity, multiplicity of enclosed subunits, details, hierarchy of levels, variability and mutual interference, reciprocal influence or interconnections and interdependences of different parts and vectors involved in the phenomenon of the aging process and natural death. Part of our definitions would be mostly semantic and artificial, but they would be needed and useful to understand the aging phenomenon and modeling its mechanisms.

                Some concepts that should be defined:

Living organisms and living systems

Death: violent and natural

Aging, aging speed, aging rate, aging process and processes

Environment: optimal, non-optimal and non-survivable,               natural and artificial, biological and non-biological, and organism as environment

Functions: self-supporting of living organisms and systems, self-maintenance and self-restoration,self-regulation

A.      Living organisms

                Living organisms (on planet Earth) areopen, functioning as self-supported, self-regulated systems, built from biopolymers, existing in certain environments and capable of replicating themselves.

There are many different definitions of “living organisms,” but all of them are very close to each other and this definition would serve our discussion very well. Often, instead of the expression “living organism,” the expression “living system” will be used. Actually, the meaning is nearly the same, but sometimes we will use “living system” as a wider conception than the conception of “living organism.”

Roughly, the definition of “system” may be used in two different connotations:

                1. Few or many individual, independent, interchangeable objects, units or other systems working, acting together in a cooperative, mutual manner for common profit (there is an opinion that this is not a real system by definition, but a pseudo-system); for example, we could take an ecological system. An ecological system is not actually a “living system” since it includes many non-living components such as soil, water, etc.

                2. Individual, independent unit or system, which includes different parts, each working, acting for the profit of the whole unit rather than for itself; for example, living organisms.

The main distinguishing characteristic of both concepts is as follows: in the first example of “system” or pseudo-system definition, individual parts of the system may exist separately by themselves or as a part of other “systems,” but in the second example parts of the system cannot exist beside its system where they are integrated.

Of course, there are many other related definitions of “system” in other scientific areas, but those, quoted above definitions are fitting our needs well for biological studies of aging and natural death.

Here are a few more examples: living systems may exist on different planets or artificial living systems on Earth built from other than biopolymers materials. We’re defining “living organism” as one individual organism, but “living system” may include few or many of them living in symbiotic coexistence such as coral reefs. A huge network of Armillary mushrooms or any plant with one large root system could be defined as one individual organism or as a living system containing many not fully separated organisms in more intimate coexistence than symbiosis (kind of non-separated Siamese twins or Siamese multi-organisms). Those are small, mostly semantic differences, but it would be very important to distinguish between “living organism” and “living system” definitions for determination and explanation of the aging process and natural death. We’re defining living organism exclusively as an individual living organism. Later we’ll discuss how to define marginal cases of living organisms with multiple bodies physically connected to each other into one huge system: as individual organisms with multiple bodies, connected clones, colonies of identical individual organisms or symbiosis or systems built from many identical organisms or undivided individual subjects.

                Another interesting unusual use of the definition “living system” could be employed for the description of any part of the living organism, while we’re semantically defining the entire living organism as an “environment” for any chosen specific part of the organism. It could be done only as a theoretical simplified model for studying; for example, we could study self-regulation of blood circulating system in the entire organism as “environment.”

                A very significant assumption of this kind would be especially important for lines of reproductive or stem cells inside living organisms passing from generation to generation.

We could resume the differential meaning between definitions “living organism” and “living system” by saying that all “living organisms” are “living systems,” but not all “living systems” are “living organisms.” We will often use the short term “organism” as a complete synonym of “living organism.”

                In accordance to the definition of living organisms or systems, viruses are not belonging to this category, despite being built from the same biopolymers.

Dr. Peter Gurevich

Assistant Professor (status)

University of Toronto