What Research is Currently Funded?

In the latest Longevity Meme newsletter, I take a look at currently funded medical research likely to have a notable effect on healthy life span, the divide between prevention and cure, and why a better approach is needed.

The bottom line is that most of us reading this newsletter today are not going to greatly benefit from the "one cure at a time" approach to medicine. We won't suffer the horrible effects of Alzheimer's, nor will we die from heart disease. Cancer will most likely be a controllable, chronic condition 20 years from now. Yet we won't be living much longer overall as a result of those advances - they do not address the underlying cause of aging and age-related death.

A real sea change must come about in the way in which aging is addressed by the research community, not to mention the level of funding put into longevity research. We are very close - a matter of decades - from being able to greatly increase the healthy human life span; by decades initially, and far more subsequently. You can find more details on how this could happen at Aubrey de Grey's Strategies for Negligible Engineered Senescence (SENS) website.

Everything else aside, the funding must be there. That $1 billion per year for directly longevity research has to happen. Making it happen is up to all of us - we make the future through our actions and expressing our wishes to those who direct investments. So stand up today and do something for the future of medical research and healthy longevity!

You can sign up to receive the newsletter via e-mail over at the Longevity Meme website.


Hi. I certainly want more pure longevity research, but I think in the post above and the referenced newsletter you consistently understate the benefits of curing or controlling cancer and alzheimer's. Yes, accomplishing these is not going to increase maximum human life span at all. However, they will greatly increase many individuals' lifespan and healthspan. For any individual what matters is how long and well they live, not a species maximum.

Ex: My grandmother could probably have gained 20 years of quality life had Alzheimer's been conquered (she's had it ~10 years, could easily live in this state for another 10). I'm sure nearly everyone personally knows someone similarly afflicted with Alzheimer's or cancer for whom a cure would mean a large increase in healthspan and often lifespan.

Perhaps one point, if I have one, is that there is no need to belittle disease-specific research in order to promote general longevity research. Now it might be that a case can be made that longevity research is a shorter path to curing cancer than cancer-specific research. If so that's a case well worth making.

Posted by: Mike Linksvayer at March 28th, 2005 1:40 PM

You're right, I probably didn't present that as well as I could have. There are the seeds of a longer essay in there; the next version will do a better job of making these and other points.

Posted by: Reason at March 28th, 2005 8:55 PM

Well, while not as good as pure AA/longevity R&D I think the current situation will indeed lead to an extension of lifespan for most. Dealing with those will help square the curve, and cell-based/regenerative therapies should help add some, or at least further square it.

Posted by: Apocalypse at March 29th, 2005 2:30 AM

A beloved friend of the family was just diagnosed with Alzheimers. Without identity there is no life.

LE approaches to research will likely yield broader spectrum tools that will have great utility for curing single diseases - just like antibiotics turned out to have a huge spectrum of effectiveness. I think current research should proceed because we can always apply for grants aimed at a particular disease while knowing that an LE research effort might also have more global efficacy.

Posted by: Dave at March 29th, 2005 4:59 AM

Dave said "I think current research should proceed..."

Quite right. If push came to shove, I'd support cuttint back on current research to support anti-aging/pure longevity research. However, with all the tens of billions of dollars being tossed around every year in both the public and private sector, I see no reason why funding anti-aging research should in any way impact the funding of current research.

Posted by: Jay Fox at March 29th, 2005 8:24 AM
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