Men Are Different From Women – They Age Faster

Men are different from women – they age faster for one thing, so why is that? Clearly we need someone to blame, so who is it going to be, our mothers, or our fathers? To get to the bottom of that we need an animal model, and the same male/female divergence in aging occurs for many species.

The latest attempt at unraveling the knotty problem is down to Camus et al in Current biology (1, 2). They chose the humble fruit fly as their model. They have the advantage that you can keep a lot of them very cheaply in a cage and thy reproduce very rapidly. The latter asset means that it is possible to follow the DNA mutations, if any, down through the generations.

Fruit fly females live longer than their male counterparts, being energetic for longer. Our cells generate the energy that they need to keep us happy and content from the cellular mitochondrial power plants. As the paper points out, our mitochondrial DNA, which is responsible for our mitochondria is only inherited from our mothers.

The concept is that mutations in the mitochondrial DNA will crop up periodically, some of which will be good and some of which will be bad. Ultimately we believe that good will triumph over bad, although it may take more than one attempt.

Now we come to a selfish gene manifestation because mutations which effect females adversely will be worked out of the system, but those that adversely effect males only can survive and flourish if the inheritance is only through the female and has no adverse effect on their survival.

Before we lay too much blame at our mother’s door, we need to remember that aging is effected by lots of other things such as our array of hormones, our brawling and drinking habits as well as our love of the couch for football, beer and chips.

  1. M. F. Camus, D. J. Clancy and D.K. Dowling, Current Biology, 2012,

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