SAGE Crossroads has added a couple of new podcasts since the last brace of material on biomarkers of aging. Take a look and see what you think.
Humanity faces many challenges this century. There are three important considerations that can help us distinguish between the challenges that are truly the biggest problems from those that are less pressing. The first is the magnitute of the harms in question. Second, is their certainty of happening. Last, is the likelihood that we could do something about them. Aging scores very high on all three of these issues.
The sheer number of humans that will suffer the diseases of aging this century is staggering and unprecedented. Aging scores very high on the magnitude of the harm criterion. Secondly, aging scores high on the certainty factor. The scientific consensus is in, senescence causes disease and death. Thirdly, we must ask what is the likelihood that we could actually do something to remedy the situation. The greater the likelihood that we could successfully mitigate the harms in questions, the stronger the case for taking action. We know that aging is not immutable, and thus longevity science could provide us with effective and efficient strategies for dealing with the many problems that the aging populations face.
A great many people within the scientific community do in fact share this view - the most important present debates are over the strategies by which progress is made. What is efficient, what is plausible, how will funds be raised and research prioritized? Meanwhile, outside the scientific community, a great deal of work remains to be done in education and raising awareness: the assignment of resources to specific research goals depends upon a broad base of popular support and understanding. Think of cancer science, for example, or Alzheimer's research. That level of public understanding, appreciation for what is a plausible rate of progress, and support for funding of longevity science is a good goal to aim for.
KYLE JENSEN: A lot of headlines have been coming out of NIH studies that you’ve been involved in that state resveratrol improves health in mice but not longevity. Do you think there is a chance that resveratrol can increase human longevity?
LEONARD GUARENTE: Absolutely. I think we aren’t going to know that for a very, very long time. In mice so many things have been [improved] by sirtuin activators, and the fact that longevity hasn’t been observed yet I think it just a matter of time before one has the right strain.
KYLE JENSEN: Now do you think this approach, going after drugs like resveratrol, will hold the key to defeating age-related disease and increasing lifespan?
LEONARD GUARENTE: I don’t think we will defeat them, but I think we have a chance to hold them at bay longer and increase the period when we are healthy and disease free. Perhaps as much by a decade. Which, you know, will make a huge difference.
Supporters of drug-based metabolic manipulation will spend staggering sums of money over the next two decades pushing various drugs through the present hideously inefficient system of medical regulation. These are all aimed at slowing aging by inducing metabolic changes discovered in biochemistry of calorie restriction, exercise, and the like. This is the grand, slow, inefficient way forward. Slowing the rate at which age-related damage accumulates does nothing for the old.
It is frustrating at times to see the research community just as close to truly impressive methods of completely repairing specific types of age-related damage as it is to more metabolism-tweaking drugs that can only slow that damage down - and yet all the resources are going to the slower path of drug development that will in all likelihood produce less effective therapies in the end.