Lifespan in captive baboons is heritable

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The effects of aging are evident in multiple organ systems, tissues, cell types, and molecules; all complex phenotypes affected by multiple shared and unique environmental factors and genes, which makes identifying the role of genetics in human aging difficult. Researchers have used yeast, nematodes, fruit flies, and mice to search for genes that influence the aging process. Given the phylogenetic distance and anatomic and physiologic dissimilarities of these organisms from humans, directly extrapolating these results to our species is problematic. However, nonhuman primates have a high degree of genetic, anatomic and physiologic similarity with humans and, thus, they may assist in the detection, characterization, and identification of genetic and environmental influences on human aging. Our goal is to demonstrate that effects of genes on variation in lifespan, a surrogate measure of aging, can be detected in a nonhuman primate species. Using variance component analysis, heritability of age at death was estimated to be 0.23±0.08 (P=0.0003) in 674 baboons from the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (SFBR). This research demonstrates that lifespan is under partial genetic control. Given these findings, we believe that the baboon has potential as a model of human aging. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.




Martin, L. J., Mahaney, M. C., Bronikowski, A. M., Dee Carey, K., Dyke, B., & Comuzzie, A. G. (2002). Lifespan in captive baboons is heritable. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 123(11), 1461–1467.

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