At the highest level one can measure the health and pace of progress in a field by counting conferences. Conferences are not where advances happen, but they are an inevitable byproduct of progress and growth in research. When more researchers are focused on a field and their output of significant new scientific results flows faster, then more conferences will tend to take place.
The field of aging research is, sad to say, still a small adjunct office to the great edifice of medical science. The pursuit of enhanced longevity through treating aging as a medical condition is just one small corner desk in that office. We'll see this sorry state of affairs change in our lifetimes, judging by the way things are going, but that process of growth can never proceed fast enough for my liking. Thus there are still all too few conferences devoted to the science of aging and longevity in comparison to those taking place for any truly large section of the medical research community. Nonetheless, they do exist. Last month, for example, the third International Conference on Genetics of Aging and Longevity was held in Sochi, Russia. As for the earlier conferences in the series it was well attended by noted names in aging research. Maria Konovalenko of the Science for Life Extension Foundation attended and offers this report from the event:
More than 200 participants from North America, Europe and Asia met in post-Olympic Sochi for five days this April, as world-famous anti-aging researchers exchanged ideas at the third International Conference on Genetics of Aging and Longevity. They discussed progress and remaining obstacles, in their efforts to deepen our understanding of this complex phenomenon and develop strategies for interventions.
The central themes of the conference included (1) identification of molecular targets for lifespan-extending drugs, (2) understanding the protective genotypes of centenarians and exceptionally long-lived animal species, (3) the complex roles and interactions of genetic determinants, epigenetic regulation, metabolism, gut microbiota, lifestyle and environment in shaping the aging process, (4) developing technologies for artificial growth, cryopreservation and transplantation of organs, and (5) new technologies, including gene-editing nanoparticles and artificial chromosomes, as prospective anti-aging tools.
Some of the few dozen presentations are worth noting, though much of this might be old news for readers here:
Judith Campisi (Buck Institute for Research on Aging) presented a new transgenic mouse model to visualize and eliminate senescent cells in mice based on their elevated expression of the p16INK4a gene.
Shay Soker (Wake Forest School of Medicine) presented recent advances in growing of organs in bioreactors. Simple organs like cornea, blood vessels and bladder are relatively easy to grow, whereas growing of complex organs like liver, kidney and pancreas requires scaffolds. Bioscaffolds can be isolated for the purpose of study by decellularisation of naturally grown organs.
Gregory Fahy (21st Century Medicine, Inc.) presented achievements and difficulties in vitrification of organs. Sophisticated cryoprotective cocktails, and protocols for tissue perfusion at high pressure prior to freezing, and rapid warming methods were developed. Nevertheless, the main problem that remains is different optimal cooling rate for different cell types and organ zones.