Monday, January 14, 2008

Shakespeare and the Genetics of Ageing

More poetry. I have just discovered that Shakespeare stumbled on antagonistic pleiotropy 400 years before the rest of us. AP is the phenomenon whereby genes have multiple effects, some of which may be damaging to the organism. Ageing seems to be caused by genes turning against us once they have done their work of getting us to reproduce. In the sonnet That Time of Year Thou Mayst In Me Behold, Shakespeare writes:
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.'
There you have it, antagonistic pleiotropy. I must be mad giving this stuff away for nothing. People get PhDs for less.


  1. You have just quoted from my favorite W.S. sonnet. And I look out my window upon "bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang."

  2. Perhaps one could write a PhD on how one could extract a PhD from this blog? A meta-PhD? Would that make the author a "meta-doctor-of-philosophy", or just a madman?

  3. I hope medical doctorates do not all become virtual - it would be a bit worrying..

  4. Madman, I think, Elberryand it wouldn't be medical, Mutley, it would be metamedical. I would only be allowed to operate on theoretical patients.

  5. i routinely operate on real patients and i only have a MA in Eng Lit. The trick is to get an admin job in a hospital then tippex over your ID card's job title, replacing it with something like Consultant Surgeon or Consultant Psychiatrist.

    i do a great deal of good for the NHS, as you can imagine.

  6. Hey Brian, hope you're well. Shakespeare, I discover, was right there on children's TV, too. Especially the self-branding in my two-year-old nephew's favourite programme, In the Night Garden. The defining feature of ITNG, as you know, is the fact that the characters only ever say their own names. They might say them gaily, or despondently, but it is still all they say. Their names - and they are some damn stupid names like Upsy-Daisy etc - propel them through life.

    And Upsy-Daisy saying nothing but Upsy-Daisy is only a trip from Parolles and "simply the thing I am shall make me live."

  7. "Shakespeare was Right", say Scientists"

    Cambridge MA--Science has shown that antagonistic pleiotropy, long thought to have been developed in the 1950's by evolutionary biologist G.C. Williams, was actually first conceived by William Shakespeare in one of his lesser-known sonnets.

    "We've always known he was clever with words and plots", said Dr. Ludwig Himpeldorpher, Director of the Harvard Center for the Integration of Darwin and Everything Else, "but now we realize he also forsaw the basics of natural selection and put them to verse. There hasn't been this much excitement since we showed how Oedipus Rex proves Pythagoras's theorem."

    Dr Himpeldorpher, winner of the Nobel prize for his study "Othello and Epistasis", dismissed suggestions the findings were much ado about nothing and said that the discovery had caused great interest in the scientific community. "This will completely change the way we view the world, and especially how we make funding proposals", he said. "It is nothing less than a revolution that will validate all of Darwin's work, not that we needed anything more to do that."

    Dr Himpeldorpher concluded by announcing he would be visiting Stratford-upon-Avon soon to demonstrate how the modern synthesis proves to be or not to be really is the question.

  8. "bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang."

    Ahh, a good and faithful Catholic was our Will.

  9. >Shakespeare was Right<, say Scientists

    So was Nostradamus!

    Master of the pink elephants, white mice and desperate housewives, he predicted the rise of Hitler, the fall of the Ku Klux Klan, disco dancing, bikini waxes, bondage, sadomasochism, and every other event that you care to remember.

    Hindsight is a self-deceiving exercise, and never more so than when looking back.

    Did you know, that women can wear pink on high heels and still have brains. I never seriously doubted it. But Shakespeare would be mortified and, I am certain, Nostradamus would never have predicted that...


  10. O I'm sure Shakespeare knew that, Selena. He knew everything - a fact that continually astonishes us, but shouldn't really. I believe there's a Hindu sect that acknowledges him as a deity. Seems only right...