The Respectable Nature of Longevity Science

Aiming to extend the healthy human life span has come to be a respectable goal in the scientific community over the past ten years. That wasn't always the case, and it's easy to forget just how much of a sea change has taken place since the beginning of the decade. See this representative quote from not too many years past, for example:

'The cure for aging' is the instant-death third rail of grantsmanship and we stay away from it.

Thankfully minds change as evidence accrues. It's very hard to ignore the sound science that shows the potential to repair the damage of aging, and even harder to ignore the many demonstrations of extended longevity in mammals, achieved through genetic and metabolic engineering. That is not to mention the siren song of possible personal gain, amplified by the acquisition of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals last year - a huge market awaits anyone who can develop working longevity medicine.

For all that, respectability is slow to percolate beyond the scientific and medical development communities. It takes years for the public at large to catch up with what's going on in the labs and then rally in support for further progress. So it's always an encouraging sign to see popular press articles of this sort:

Who would have thought it? The quest for eternal life, or at least prolonged youthfulness, has now migrated from the outer fringes of alternative medicine to the halls of Harvard Medical School.

We are fortunate to live in a culture in which, despite its many faults and present downward slide, people still view the halls of science with reverence and uphold scientists as the arbiters of truth. Given time, there will be widespread and enthusiastic support for longevity science - but sooner is much better than later.

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