The Longevity Consortium

The Longevity Consortium is an interesting project, and its members are a representative cross-section of the mainstream of modern aging research - which is to say people who largely focus on understanding aging only, or on slowing aging by manipulating metabolism. From the Consortium website:

We are a consortium of scientists from multiple disciplines interested in the study of genetics of aging and age-related traits. Our group includes laboratory-based scientists, epidemiologists and statistical geneticists.

Members of the Consortium represent three types of research efforts:

  • Laboratories devoted to the identification of longevity-related genes and pathways in non-human species;
  • Studies of special populations (e.g., centenarians) that are engaged in the discovery of genes associated with longevity; and
  • Established longitudinal cohorts of elderly men and women that have DNA and excellent phenotyping that can be used to study candidate genes.

As you all no doubt know by now, I'm no fan of efforts aimed exclusively at slowing down aging through genetic or metabolic alteration. These are slow, hard, and complex paths that will lead to poor results in comparison to repair-focused strategies like SENS. A method of slowing aging that arrives thirty years from now will be largely worthless for those of us presently in middle age - we'll already be old and damaged. But a method of repair that can reverse that damage is another story entirely, and furthermore can be used over and again whenever damage reappears. So if we have thirty years to work on this problem, why not work on producing a solution that will actually help?

But I digress.

As I've mentioned in the past, this is an age of synthesis in the life sciences. Fields are huge, fragmented, and far too expansive for any one researcher to discover everything that might be important to his or her work. Related projects often take place in unknowing isolation - but collaboration would lead to faster progress and greater insight on all sides. There is a great need for more in the way of institutions and processes that aim to knit back together the diverse fields and research groups that would benefit from closer ties, and make it possible for researchers to easily discover all the relevant ongoing work that relates to their current studies. In this, at least, the Longevity Consortium is pointed in the right direction:

Investigators in longevity have behaved a bit like separate species. There has been intense scientific intercourse among those working with invertebrates, or with centenarians, or those working on chronic diseases in the elderly, but virtually no contact between these groups. The Consortium will bring together these diverse groups of investigators to develop useful tools, such as a catalogue of polymorphisms in candidate genes that have been associated with longevity in other species, including those that may arise from the DNA microarray analyses of primate tissues that are part of this proposal. It will produce a searchable Website of publications, abstracts, and key resources for the field and an electronic forum for exchange of unpublished ideas and findings. The phenotypes of longevity and frailty developed by this Consortium will help establish common approaches in this area. The Consortium will engage several large longitudinal cohorts of older adults in longevity research, introducing them to experts in longevity with the expectation that these cohorts will provide adequate sample sizes to study candidate genes, thereby avoiding under-powered negative studies and enabling the rapid confirmation of candidates discovered in laboratories and special populations. If naturally occurring alleles that influence longevity are uncommon or if they have modest effects, then studies to identify and confirm longevity genes must involve the power of these large populations.

There are actually a fair few interesting resources at the Consortium site or linked from it. You should wander through and take a look.

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