MADISON, Wisc. -- Colon cancer and many other geriatric diseases in primates appear to be natural outcomes of aging, rather than being caused by outside factors, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has found.
The findings, reported recently in Age and The American Journal of Primatology, adds to evidence that how we age may be linked more to our genes than our lifestyle.
"The simple lives of captive-born, aged rhesus monkeys result in minimal or no exposure to the varying environmental and lifestyle factors that affect humans," said Hideo Uno, senior scientist at the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center and adjunct professor of pathology and laboratory medicine. "Yet the monkeys still get many of the same geriatric diseases people get."
From 1980 to 1994, Uno compiled autopsy data from 175 monkeys, all aged 20 to 37 years, roughly the equivalent of people in their 50s to 80s. The animals, which were used for breeding rather than scientific experimentation during their lifetimes, either died spontaneously or were euthanized due to severe illness.
Autopsy data revealed that most of the diseases appeared to be brought on by old age and predisposing genetic factors, versus environmental or lifestyle factors. Colon cancer, coronary sclerosis, degenerative joint disorders, and cerebral amyloid plaque (a component of Alzheimer's disease), were among the disorders, Uno said.