The State of Research into Human Longevity is Presently Far From Ideal

It is always good to see some of the important ideas making their way out into the world, even in forms that are not ideal. Here, for example, the idea that all is not as it should be in medical and aging research, and that far more could be done to tackle aging: "Scientists who study the biology of aging - the basic mechanisms of how our cells and tissues change with age - believe the aging process is modifiable. ... Even better, scores of peer-reviewed studies have proven that decelerating the aging process in lab animals also offers huge health benefits, dramatically delaying and lowering their incidence of chronic disease. ... If we could achieve the same exciting results in humans, we could transform the lives of older people and achieve what aging researchers call a longer healthspan. ... So what's stopping us? ... Putting a man on the moon was a defining national goal in the 20th century; in the 21st century, it should be decoding the biology of aging to find the fountain of health. ... Unfortunately, this potentially transformative work is a poor stepchild in the biomedical research enterprise. Older Americans tend to develop multiple chronic diseases [but] most research funding gets siloed into grants that study individual diseases, produce therapies that treat only one aspect of a patient's complex condition, and may add few, if any, very expensive months to life. Aging research has far greater potential to repay the public's investment than disease-centric research, because the best defense is a good offense. Getting at the root cause of a range of diseases can ultimately help us keep millions of people from developing those conditions in the first place. Although the National Institutes of Health budget exceeds $31 billion annually, the vast majority of those funds are allocated to research on specific diseases rather than the basic biology of aging, despite its potential to provide many preventive and curative strategies."



I contacted a doctor who has an anti-ageing radio show that specializes in the more mundane status quo kind of thinking.

I think most of his patients are surprised to hear many people alive today can live into their late 80's or early 90's. I asked their radio show to mention SENS. It's worth a try.

Posted by: Matthew W. Fuller at March 21st, 2011 7:39 AM

A frequent theme for what is ideal in terms of policy on this blog is:

1) get rid of the onerous innovation stifling FDA
2) replace it with a free market system (with of course an educated populace)

Am I right?

But here is a debate between Robin Hanson, who believes medicinal is not very effective on the margin (this means for x dollar spent, y dollars gained in terms of health is quite modest) and David Cutler, which believes the standard story that most people believe: medicine is great and more is usually better.

Here is a link to a debate they had waaaay back in 2007:

In particular, I found this paragraph interesting in the context of what is ideal:

"Robin: So what we agree on I presume is that the vast majority of studies that have looked at variations in medicine induced by price or wealth level of nation or local doctor availability or practice variation, those variations, when you look at an aggregate health effect, you usually don't see one. "

And on the concept of wealth buying health:

What I am trying to get at is that I wouldn't mind an authoritarian paternalistic regime if it meant greater medical innovation and efficiency. I don't find this completly idiotic in the context of this blog. Why? Because even if the market was "truly free" there would still be the problem of educating the masses about the value of sens, or of the marginal benefit of doctors. But this opinion is controversial. But so is this blog, no?

Posted by: Matthew W. Fuller at March 21st, 2011 2:23 PM

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