American Federation for Aging Research 2013 Annual Report

The American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) has been around for a while, and best represents the gently-gently approach to moving forward towards greater human longevity. They speak to an audience of researchers who are largely disinterested in working to extend healthy life, an attitude typical of the silent majority in the field, with an eye to moving more of them into the so far smaller category of researchers who support and actively engage in efforts to modestly extend life. This sort of work is typified by initiatives aimed at the development of age-slowing drugs, such as calorie restriction mimetics or compounds that influence mTOR.

From my point of view this approach to longevity science is a slow boat to nowhere, highly unlikely to produce any end result of great utility to old people: slowing aging just a little bit is of very limited use when you are already old. Folk such as myself who support progress towards SENS-like rejuvenation treatments based on repair of the underlying causes of aging have to remember that we are still the upstart minority, however. Despite tremendous growth in support for SENS inside and outside the scientific community over the past decade, it is still the case that work on drug development to slightly slow aging through altering the operation of metabolism receives far, far more funding and attention. In turn work on merely studying aging, with no attempt or interest in doing anything to treat aging as a medical condition, receives yet again far greater funding and attention than does drug development aimed at modestly slowing aging. The times are changing, but this is the present picture.

In the charitable viewpoint, organizations such as AFAR are putting a great deal of effort into raising the waters for longevity science. They are helping to create an environment in which it is easier for more ambitious scientific goals - such as the development rejuvenation therapies in the SENS model - to find support. The principals at AFAR certainly do their part to collaborate with more ambitious organizations such as the SENS Research Foundation. A counterpoint to this is that if we all sat around and adopted the gently-gently approach of advocating small, incremental advances, then going for small incremental advances would be the outside, extreme position in the exchange of ideas. Then nothing would happen, as the middle conservative position would be to do just about nothing. Too many decades have been spent doing next to nothing to treat aging, even in the presence of numerous promising biotechnologies that can be brought to bear on the challenge.

In any case, here is a pointer to the latest AFAR annual report, which is available as a PDF. Make your own mind up after taking a look at the pitch. You might also look over a separate publication from late last year on the topic of the Longevity Dividend, which is a flagship initiative of political advocacy that aims to steer much more US government funding into the sorts of research programs mentioned above.

American Federation for Aging Research 2013 Annual Report and Financials

This year, the American Federation for Aging Research strengthened and supported the field of aging research through a range of public programs and publications to engage investigators, industry leaders, and consumers with the latest biomedical research that will enable us all to live healthier, longer. Understanding the biology of aging is key to unlocking the etiology of the chronic diseases of old age. This outcome promises many medical and economic benefits to society and individuals alike.

Yet, for far too long, aging research has been separated from chronic disease research. But a promising shift in the scientific community's approach began taking shape in 2013: amid newfound attention to aging research, the interdisciplinary commitment to understanding the relationship between aging and age-related diseases, known as geroscience, has emerged. In the past 10 years, geroscience has yielded discoveries that once might have sounded unimaginable. Today, this growing scientific approach has profound implications for medicine and healthy aging. One of the most significant is the ability to modify the aging process in laboratory animals through a variety of interventions, including caloric restriction, pharmaceuticals, and genetic manipulation.

Scientists now believe they will soon be able to delay or even prevent the diseases of old age in humans. Indeed, for many years, geroscientific research by AFAR-affiliated investigators nationwide has been providing increasing evidence that studying aging and chronic disease together yields mutually beneficial results.


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