A Science News article here looks at the most well known and best funded research into slowing aging. It is all a matter of great expense to achieve very modest goals in slowing aging, and that almost as a side-effect of the main aim, which is to catalog and understand the biochemistry of metabolism.
A drug that postpones aging could also have profound health benefits, since most common diseases (such as cancer, heart disease and dementia) accompany old age. "That's what's driving us," says Donald Ingram, head of the nutritional neuroscience and aging laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. "We would like to see some kind of a product that would promote healthy aging."
So far, scientists have singled out a handful of synthetic and natural compounds that appear to trigger the same biochemical mechanisms that kick in when cells are partially starved of nutrients, part of a coping mechanism that protects against stress.
This sort of research accounts for the vast majority of funding in longevity science, and if that remains true then we'll live just a little bit longer than our parents. Perhaps as much as ten years longer if the metabolic engineers pull an unexpected amazing advance from their hats within the next decade.
From where I stand, that outcome would be a disaster - a missed opportunity with a cost of more than 50 million lives lost to aging and disease each and every year. If we reach 2040, after five decades of a scientific revolution in biotechnology, computing, and the ability to manipulate the fundamental components of life, and have not yet developed true rejuvenation biotechnology, capable of repairing the biochemical damage that causes aging ... well, we failed, and then some.
Presently, that grand failure through a focus on trivial success is exactly where the scientific and medical development community is headed. Their timelines are for drugs and metabolic manipulations that give a small number of additional years of life to emerge by 2030 - decades of tinkering, decades of trials, and we're all old by the time that any modestly useful result emerges into general use. Yet the research community, the public, and the press are all absolutely focused on slowing aging, where they think about aging at all. Far too few people realize just how damaging to our prospects this state of affairs will be in the long run.
This is why efforts like the SENS Foundation are so important: we need to see more groups building a platform, a body of work, and successfully making inroads into persuading the scientific community to work on repair of aging rather than just slowing it down. It won't take any longer to achieve meaningful success in repair-based research, given where things stand today, but the resulting difference to our lives and our health couldn't be greater.