Aging is an extremely complex biologic phenomenon of immense importance. Currently we have only a poor and incomplete understanding of the fundamental molecular mechanisms involved. Despite numerous observations and diverse theories, no unifying or proven hypotheses have emerged. It is reasonable to conclude, however, that aging is a multifactorial process composed of both genetic and environmental components. Each physiologic system within an organism, each tissue within a system, and each cell type with a tissue appears to have its own trajectory of aging. Thus, aging must be studied as parts of a whole and understood as the sum of its parts. Cellular 'clocks' exist and operate in the absence of higher-order 'clocks.' However, higher- order clocks are certainly in place in vivo, but their relationship to cellular clocks is not well understood. All aging changes have a cellular basis, and aging is perhaps best studied, fundamentally, at the cellular level under defined and controlled environmental conditions. Aging changes at the cellular level must be viewed, however, as components of a hierarchical, dynamic, and interacting network whose functional integrity progressively deteriorates with time. The powerful tools of molecular biology are now being applied by scientists to evaluate the leading hypotheses. The results of these studies should serve to advance our understanding of aging and to focus future research efforts. This work should provide the scientific foundation to enhance the quality of life for people suffering the failings of age.
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