Tag Archives: biogerontology

Major Problem in Biogerontology

This interview potpourri covers the opinions of well-known gerontologists about the possibility of late-onset interventions to prolong life. The scientists are the authors of a paper in the Science Translational Medicine, which advocates that the funding for research is increased and interventions in aging processes are developed.

I’d like to draw your attention to Jan Vijg’s words: “People are a little afraid to confess that they want to cure aging. I think it would be a good thing to make it very clear that that is exactly what we want to do, we want to try to get rid of aging.” Dr. Vijg discerned one of the major problems in biogerontology – the fear and pretence of the scientists, who want the grant money, but don’t want to sound “inappropriate.” I have to say this approach of not saying what you have in mind is lethal. For everybody.

Why is so much money being spent on cancer research? Because cancer researchers cry out loud that cancer is a very dangerous disease that needs to be cured. They clearly state their goal. Biogerontologists, on the other hand, would never say their goal is to cure aging. This is why they don’t get the money. This is why the whole field rather survives, not lives.

I believe this attitude has to change. Researchers have to state their noble goal – to defeat aging. They should be neither afraid, nor embarrased to say this explicitly. This is the only right way to get public attention and needed grant money for studying the fundamental mechnisms of our worst disease – aging.

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Retirement should depend upon biological causes as opposed to chronological age

Never before has our planet contained so many older people, or such a large percentage of them. In the United States each year, more than 3.5 million Baby Boomers turn 55. Their swelling numbers predict that, by 2012, America’s 50 and older population will reach 100 million. This dramatic growth in numbers and proportions, increased life expectancies, and energetic life styles, now enables people to live 20 to 25 percent of their lives in active retirement.

This is actually great news – but – on the other side of the coin, global economies will have trouble sustaining themselves in coming years as the number of people leaving workforces dramatically outpaces the number of workers entering. Also, there’s going to be a huge demand for services but less people paying taxes and actually doing the needed work.

According to a new analysis on global aging from Standard & Poor, the irreversible rate at which the population is aging will likely influence the future of national economic health, public finances and national policies – and most developed countries are not properly prepared.

Some ideas being suggested currently involve:

1.    Influential international organizations like the G20 and other governmental agencies as well as companies and academic institutions placing aging as a real cause, in a similar manner as they have regarded the environment.
2.    Curbing the growth of medical spending ahead of the looming financial crisis.
3.    Extending the official ages of retirement

These ideas are all important to explore, but they are far-far away from being a panacea. These are important social measures, but mankind needs something that will achieve greater results than the ideas listed above as those serve as merely good intentions which will most likely result in meaningless debates for the next 10 years – and no action.

Other schools of thought on this from biogerontologists and longevity experts including myself believe that the focus should be about making the elderly population less of a burden on the healthcare system and more productive in the workforce for longer periods of time through a global initiative on combating aging. To truly combat this crisis, a mass-scale collaborative effort similar in size to the Manhattan Project or the Apollo Project is needed so that the mechanisms that cause us to age can be identified and better understood. This kind of undertaking should have single leadership and massive funding. The main research direction of this project would include regenerative medicine, genome regulation, neuroscience, immunosenescence, endocrinology of aging, drug design, etc. Therapies can then be created to fight the major illnesses and diseases of our time allowing for a functional working population of people beyond the age of 70.

The other way to tackle this problem could be through initiating a change in retirement policies where retirement would be dependant upon biological causes as opposed to chronological age. Insurance companies could pay for appropriate medical testing to determine health status, which would be an important measure in itself. Under this scenario, individuals would be more motivated to keep their health optimized because good health would be more valuable in terms of earning potential as compared to a small monthly pension.

A third, important concept would be advocating for longevity. A strong social movement would need to be initiated that would reinforce our right to longer and healthier lives. Ideas such as creating a University for adults could be created where older individuals could acquire new skills for re-entry into new professions. We need to fight for our health, our youth, but certainly not for pensions.

Read the NY Times article about our aging population and the inevitable strain that is expected to affect economic growth

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The Future of Aging: Pathways to Human Life Extension

Editor: Gregory M. Fahy
Technical Editors: Michael D. West, L. Stephen Coles, Steven B. Harris

To my mind this is a must-read book for anybody who cares about themselves and their future. An outstanding panel of authors brings their expertise to the audience in 23 chapters of what I’m sure is terrific reading. Take a look at the table of contents below and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Just as the health costs of aging threaten to bankrupt developed countries, this book makes the scientific case that a biological “bailout” could be on the way, and that human aging can be different in the future than it is today. Here 40 authors argue how our improving understanding of the biology of aging and selected technologies should enable the successful use of many different and complementary methods for ameliorating aging, and why such interventions are appropriate based on our current historical, anthropological, philosophical, ethical, evolutionary, and biological context.

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The world’s oldest living things

Rachel Sussman‘s talk at TED is about very remarkable creatures – the ones that are older than 2,000 years. Among these record-breakers is Siberian Actinobacteria that is doing DNA repair below freezing. That’s pretty incredible.

Rachel mentions the absence of “the area in the sciences that deals with the idea of global species longevity”. It’s not that I am really surprized to hear that. Gerontology, or in this particular case comparative biology of aging, has been an ‘outsider-science’ for quite a long time. That needs to be changed radically, because the area of comparative biology is extremely important. It may provide us with some biological clues of how to prolong life, for example, in a way that I have described earlier as the main question in biogerontology.

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The main question in Biogerontology

mechanisms of aging, white-footed mouse, lab mouse, mice, aging, fight aging, aging research, biogerontology, funding, stress resistance, oxidative stress, George Sacher, long-lived animals, negligible senescence, naked mole rat
There’s this quite simple idea: to take two species similar in size and basic biology, but having a substantial difference in longevity, and figure out what’s the reason for this difference. What are the distinctions in the mechnisms of aging and stress resistance? It’s desirable to carry out this work in various species. However, not a lot of people are excited about this simple idea. Even the genome of the famous naked mole rat has not been sequenced yet, although many people believe it’s got “negligible” senescence.

For now all that we have is negligible funding of evolutionary-comparative biology of aging. Moreover, previously obtained results are put into cold storage.

In 1962 George Sacher began laboratory breeding of wild-caught house mice (Mus musculus) and white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) trapped near the Argonne Laboratory site in northeast Illinois. The maximal lifespan of the white-footed mouse turned out to be more than 8 years, contrary to 3,5 years in either wild-caught or laboratory house mice. Sacher’s laboratory publiched about a dozen papers comparing house and white-footed mice, as did Ron Hart’s laboratory in the National Center for Toxicological Research.

There’s no need to say that George Sacher was given grants mostly for works in the area of radiological protection, and aging research was mostly funded by means of the lab’s own resources.

Since the beginning of the 1980s research was just middling, but still something was found out.

Below are some data from the works of Ungvary et al. and Labinskyy et al. Basicly this table shows the major known differences between the species. The autors claim that these data correspond with the oxidative stress theory of aging.

mechanisms of aging, white-footed mouse, lab mouse, mice, aging, fight aging, aging research, biogerontology, funding, stress resistance, oxidative stress, George Sacher, long-lived animals, negligible senescence, naked mole rat
Still a lot of questions can be addressed to the white-footed mouse. For example, what is the destinction in the stress resistance mechanisms? What’s with its regeneration capacity? What if we compare it with the naked mole rat? And here comes the main question in Biogerontology. Why is the research into the fundamental mechanisms of aging so scarcely funded?

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The meaning of life

life, death, meaning of life, aging, biogerontology, science, research, south park, kenny
Well, lets start with the meaning of life. Why does a person live?

A person lives in order to live. Everything good that happens to them, all their dreams and goals make senae for them only while they are alive. So, if the person does not exist, their personal meanings do not exist either. No matter how happy a person is – it all goes away. Aging and death erase everything. Yes, of course, kids, accomplishments, somebody’s memories stay, but it already doesn’t matter to the person, because there is no more person. Death sets the counter of accomplishments to zero. Aging makes life intolerable. And this is not fair. And it would be great if something could be done so that people would not age, so that death would not be inevitable.

Science studies the mechanisms of aging. Biomedical technologies are being developed. But it’s all done too slowly. First of all, because people do not see the meaning of life, do not think about it and keep deceiting themselves. It seems like it’s in everybody’s interest to live much longer and be healthy, but only a few are ready to make an effort. That’s why it’s all so slow, and that’s why biogerontology is being scarcely funded.

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