The most important strategic debate in aging science is over how to go about producing therapies for aging. The present dominant camp believes that only minimal progress is possible in the near term, and that altering the operation of metabolism is one of the few viable methods: they are aiming to gently slow aging, such as by replicating some of the beneficial changes that occur in calorie restriction.
The minority position in this debate looks to build therapies capable of true rejuvenation, reversal of aging by repairing the cellular and molecular damage that causes aging. This is a path that should prove no harder, will produce far better results, but yet remains unpopular in the research community. If we want to see meaningful progress towards engineered longevity in our lifetimes, it is the path that will have to win out, however.
The mainstream position has its own internal debates over strategy, as a recent article illustrates, while taking a swipe at the repair-based approach along the way:
In the current issue of Scientific American, author Katherine Harmon takes a brief look at two schools of thought in the field of human lifespan expansion science. One group believes lifespan can be extended by limiting diseases one at a time. Focusing on the top two, cancer and heart disease, they beleive will go a long way. "If we can focus on the major causes of death - cancer, cardiovascular disease - if we can really conquer those diseases and replace parts of the body if they wear out, that is the best possible outcome," gerontologist Sarah Harper is quoted as saying.
The other group believes the actual underlying aging pathway itself can be slowed. This camp is represented by Dr . S. Jay Olshanksy at the University of Chicago. He believes that even if diseases are eliminated, cells and organs will age and degenerate and people will still age and die, perhaps some number of fixed years later. Olshansky is said with colleagues to be launching a "Manahttan-style project to slow aging" whose primary goal is to extend healthy lifespan by seven years in the next decade or two. Since disease risk doubles every seven years, slowing aging by seven years will reduce diseases by half.
The aim of this group is to find compounds that slow aging. No specific mention was made in the article of Dr. Aubrey de Grey and his SENS Foundation and his premise that age-related damage can be fixed and aging reversed and halted. His efforts are derided by associating one his quotes that the first person to live to 150 has already been born to "pseudoscience backwater, swamped with snake oil and short-lived hopes."
The snake oil abounds amidst the lies and frauds of the "anti-aging" market of course, but it's simple laziness to associate serious scientific efforts like SENS with snake oil salesmen just because both groups say that they want to greatly extend healthy life.