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Cellular Aging - Definition and Causes

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4 min read


Growing old makes the cell age. Let us know about this biological fact in the article below.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At January 19, 2023
Reviewed AtFebruary 1, 2024


Soon after birth, the cellular aging process begins; as cells multiply, divide, and increase in size, they age too. The body has planned to replace these aging cells with newer ones. Aging is one of the periods in the cell life cycle. The regulation and subsequent breakdown of cellular processes represent a programmatic decision by the cell to either continue or abandon maintenance procedures with age.

What Is Cellular Aging?

Cellular aging is referred to as cellular senescence. Cellular aging is a defense mechanism of the cell to prevent further damage. The cell becomes incapable of re-entering the cell cycle. The aging cell is larger when compared to surrounding cells. Older cells do not divide further. Cell division of aging cells can lead to some errors and can harm themselves or the surrounding tissues. A normal cell takes around six weeks to become a senescent, aging cell.

What Causes Cellular Aging?

DNA - Deoxyribonuclease replication is an important part of the cell life cycle. The body has specific triggers involved, which stop the replication process. These triggers are present within the aging cell or from the environment. Cell aging takes place as a physiologic as well as a pathologic response. Cell aging can also be linked to overnutrition. The following are the causes of cellular aging:

  • DNA Damage: Every cell consists of chromosomes. These chromosomes have all the genetic information. The end of these chromosomes is called a telomere. After each replication cycle, the telomere shortens. Without telomere, cell replication is unstructured and dangerous. Ultraviolet rays (UV) can cause DNA damage. So, cells are altered to maintain the genetic code.
  • Oxidative Stress: The reactive oxygen species in a cell's environment can lead to replication errors. Cellular replication discontinues in the presence of such reactive oxygen species. Oxidative stress acts as a trigger for cell aging.
  • Reduced Autophagy: Autophagy is a self-destructive process. A cell and its components fail as the cell ages. A cell self-digests its products in a process called autophagy. A cell consists of digestive enzymes called lysozymes. These lysosomes are responsible for breaking down damaged cell components. This increases protein levels within the cell and hampers replication. This process triggers aging.

What Is the Difference Between Apoptosis and Cellular Aging?

An aging cell loses its ability to replicate. They can perform their original function. They could be more efficient and more productive. However, apoptosis is programmed cell death. Older cells apoptosis, but not all aging cells apoptosis. Apoptosis is triggered to control the replication of poorly structured cells.

What Causes Premature Cellular Aging?

Cellular aging cannot be controlled. Some activities can act as triggers for premature aging. The following are the activities:

  • Smoking.
  • Drug use.
  • Stress.
  • Sunburns and tanning.
  • Obesity.

What Are the Physiologic Roles of Senescence?

Cellular aging affects tissue homeostasis. Cellular aging also plays an important role in tissue remodeling and wound healing; it acts as a protective stress response. During repair, excessive connective tissue formation triggers fibrosis. Accumulation of extracellular proteins leads to the formation of scars, unstable structures, and non-functional tissue. It acts as an anti-cancer phenomenon and limits the malignant transformation of cells. If aging cells accumulate, it leads to age-related diseases. The aging of cells is required for the proper development of embryos and tissue repair. In cancer, cell aging helps to prevent tumor formation.

What Are Age-Related Diseases?

All organisms exhibit a loss in tissue and function over a period. This leads to age-related diseases. Markers of aging accumulate in the tissues, triggering the diseases mentioned below.

  • Atherosclerosis: Accumulation of lipoproteins in the arteries activates certain smooth muscle cells. These cells trigger an inflammatory response. These cells form a wax-like substance called plaque. The smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells from this plaque release aging markers. Thus, the gaining of cells acts as a protective barrier against atherosclerosis.
  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is decreased function of the synovial joint due to degeneration of cartilage between the joint, presence of bony projections, inflammation, and thickening of ligaments. These changes cause pain and difficulty in moving. The cartilage-forming cells called chondrocytes secrete extracellular matrix to maintain the cartilage between the joints. They also release aging markers. Chondrocytes lose this ability over time. Transplantation of aging markers through ear cartilage helps with the treatment of osteoarthritis.
  • Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis occurs due to a change in bone turnover rate. In osteoporosis, bone resorption is more than bone formation. This leads to a decrease in bone density and strength, increasing the risk of fracture. Aging bone cells activate osteoclast and bone-resorbing cells and stimulate bone resorption.
  • Glaucoma:Glaucoma is a condition in which blindness occurs due to progressive degeneration of the optic nerve. This occurs due to increased pressure in the eye, followed by the death of retinal cells. The role of aging cells in glaucoma development is unclear.
  • Cancer: Cellular aging has oncogenic signal transduction. This is a response that inhibits the conversion of cells into malignant cells. Drugs used in chemotherapy and radiation can induce the aging of cancer cells. Aging controls proliferation and prevents the spread of cancer.

How To Prevent Cellular Aging?

Ageing cannot be stopped completely but the process can be slowed down. Following are the ways to follow:

  • Healthy Diet: A well-balanced and nutritious diet helps against damage and repair.
  • Stress Management: Managing stress well using meditation, yoga, and indulging in hobbies will reduce stress hormones.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise and lifestyle modifications help us against chronic diseases and build strong cells and tissues.
  • Avoid Exposure to the Triggering Agents: Limited exposure to the sun and pollutants and the use of protective gear can control aging.
  • Prevention Is Better Than Cure: Routine health checkups and managing weight, diet, and blood pressure keep the risk factors under control.
  • Sleep: Getting quality sleep impacts the length of telomeres and helps to reduce cellular aging.
  • Quit Smoking: Avoid smoking, alcohol, and tobacco, which helps in reversing the age.
  • Hydration: Staying hydrated can improve the texture of the skin.


Ageing is a natural complex biological process and an inevitable part of life. Aging is a multifaceted process influenced by genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices. A healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, regular physical activity, and stress reduction slows down the aging process and age-related diseases. Advancements in biotechnology and medicine provide interventions to treat the underlying mechanism. Healthy aging improves overall well-being in all stages of life.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Effects of Genetics on Cellular Aging?

Genetics is one of the factors among many that influence cellular aging. According to a theory, segments of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) known as telomeres present at the end of chromosomes determine the cell’s lifespan. With every cell division, the telomere becomes shorter and reaches a stage where the cells cannot divide without losing significant DNA.


What Is the Process for Cellular Aging?

Common mechanisms are:
- DNA Damage: Over time, the dividing cells may have replication error that causes damage to chromosomes.
- Oxidative Stress: It could trigger cellular aging by halting the cell replication process and causing cellular damage.
- Decrease in Autophagy: When the cell ages, autophagy (conserved degradation of the cell) reduces, leading to damage to accumulated components.


What Is the Percentage of a Genetic Factor That Affects Aging?

There is a 25 percent contribution of genetic factors towards the aging process. However, there are other factors that also contribute to the aging process, including lifestyle, dietary habits, disease, environmental factors, and cognitive functioning.


What Is the Importance of Cellular Aging?

Cellular aging has an important role in the development of age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s (neurodegenerative) disease, cancer, and cardiac disorders. Therefore, obtaining an understanding of cellular aging can help formulate new interventions to slow down or prevent the disease.


What Tests Determine Cellular Aging?

Several tests determine cellular aging and are:
- Telomere Length Test: It measures the length of telomere in an individual’s body and compares it with others in similar age brackets.
- Hovarth’s Clock: It uses DNA methylation to calculate an individual’s cellular age.
- Epigenetic Test: It is a DNA methylation pattern test.


Why Do Cells Stop Dividing With Aging?

With aging, the cells become larger and lose the ability to divide and multiply. This is explained by the theory the telomere within the chromosome shortens with each replication and signals the cells to stop dividing after a point to protect themselves from damage.


What Role Does Age Play in Cellular Metabolism?

Metabolic changes are a hallmark of cellular aging. Additionally, cellular components such as mitochondria and sodium-potassium pumps become less efficient with age. The effect of aging on metabolism is less prominent than other body changes.


What Is the Differentiating Feature Between Cellular Aging and Cellular Senescence?

Cellular aging is a normal physiologic process in which environmental factors and genetics cause a gradual loss of cell’s integrity leading to cell death. Cellular senescence is irreversible and long-term cell cycle arrest caused by excessive cellular stress or damage.


What Are the Cellular and Molecular Changes Seen With Aging?

Some of the changes are:
- Cells become larger and lose the ability to multiply or divide.
- The lipid and pigment content within the cell increases.
- Cells might lose their functioning ability or function abnormally.
- Waste products tend to build up in cells as individuals age.


Why Does Cellular Aging Cause Cell Death?

Cellular aging can result in cellular death due to the interplay of factors like telomere shortening, oxidative stress, and programmed cell death. Since the aging cells are unable to divide or replicate, they eventually die.


What Causes Death of Aged Cells?

Aging reduces the cell turnover rate of several highly mitotic issues. Aged cells could die through programmed cell death, which needs energy, or necrotic cell death, which does not need energy.


Do Cells Have Genetically Programmed Age?

According to several theories, the age of an individual is determined by genetics. The lifespan is determined when the baby is conceived and largely depends on the parents and their age. The genetically programmed aging code in an individual is telomere.


Why Cannot the Cells Grow for a Lifetime?

Cells have a maximum limit for division before they age and stop dividing. The limit for cell division depends on the type of cell. However, most human cells are able to undergo 40 to 60 divisions before they age.


Who Suggested the Cellular Aging Theory?

The cellular theory of aging was first proposed by August Weismann. It suggests that humans age because of cellular aging when a large number of cells reach senescence and lose the ability to divide. Therefore, there is a decline in the body’s ability to regenerate or respond to injury.


How to Prevent DNA From Aging?

Some measures to prevent DNA aging are:
- Adequate Sleep: Chromosomes within DNA become active during sleep, which heals the DNA faster.
- Healthy Diet: Consuming a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains protects DNA from damage.
- Routine Exercise: Regular physical activity protects telomeres from damage and reduces oxidative stress and inflammation within the body.
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Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)


cellular aging
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