I’ve been committed to understanding the biology of aging since I was a teenager, and my education and career took aim at this problem from many angles. One aspect that still perplexes me is that there isn’t a good, easily communicable answer to this simple question: What is biological aging?
When it comes to biological aging research … scientists finally have a pretty good understanding of the major components of aging. But there’s no consensus definition of it that consolidates the existing framework.
Why do we need such a definition of biological aging? A good definition can grab the essential characteristics of an entity and put them to good use.
The myriad definitions of biological aging help identify some necessary components of it. But an aggregated mash-up won’t guarantee a formally correct and useful definition. Identifying the content itself is not enough, especially when dealing with such a complex and lifelong process. Just because we have found most of the puzzle pieces does not mean we can put the puzzle together without a clue to its shape.
A confident answer to the question “What is biological aging?” in humans will help us ensure that complexity does not hide any magical mysteries. Controlling that complexity to maximize a healthy lifespan wouldn’t need a magic wand, either.