Evol Ecol Res 8: 1445-1459 (2006)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Ageing and total quality management: extending the reliability metaphor for longevity

David Steinsaltz1* and Lloyd Goldwasser2

1Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada and  2Department of Demography, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-2120, USA

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: steinsaltz@mast.queensu.ca


Question: How can the limitations and potential of biological repair processes be reconciled with evolutionary theory to understand patterns of ageing?

Approach: Current mathematical models of ageing under conditions of biological repair are drawn from a limited range of engineering analogies that implicitly assume repair is perfect and/or harmless, with the only constraint being its cost to a common energy budget. Other analogies suggest new models which may be (and in some cases are being) fruitfully developed. A useful guiding principle is the engineer’s ‘total quality management’, which imposes a balance between high-level and low-level design.

Key point: Reparability itself may impose trade-offs against, for instance, reliability and efficiency, and may not always be advantageous, even when cost-free.

Conclusions: Because the repair of damage is often incomplete or imperfect, the accumulation of repair increases the disorder within the system over time, decreasing the effectiveness of the local controls over repair. Asymmetry and sequestration appear to be ways of channelling the disorder to parts of the systems that are reparable.

Keywords: ageing, damage segregation, evolutionary models of senescence, optimization, reliability models.

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