This report from a recent symposium is a good reminder that the majority of work in the aging research community has little or no relevance to the goal of extending healthy human longevity by a large amount. There are very few research programs that offer the possibility of adding decades of healthy life to the present human life span if followed through to completion, and the SENS projects are so far the only coherent, well-organized example of those. The average research organization is conducting work much more in line with the projects noted below:
What have we learned about aging during the past few decades and where is that knowledge taking us as society continues to skew older? To answer those questions, the USC Davis School of Gerontology hosted "What's Hot in Aging Research at USC," the sixth annual interdisciplinary symposium at the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center. Faculty members shared their current research, offering insight as to how it would impact older adults, their families and communities in the future.
The morning session opened with a discussion of the biological mechanisms behind aging, life span and aging-related disease. Valter Longo, Edna M. Jones Professor and USC Longevity Institute director, emphasized the importance of understanding the basic mechanisms of aging, not just hunting for specific remedies for aging-related diseases such as diabetes and cancer. As the population as a whole grows older, many of humanity's most important health challenges will be rooted in the aging process, and researchers will need to "go after the aging process itself, not just Band-Aid solutions," he said.
University Professor Caleb Finch and Professor Christian Pike described their research into inflammatory responses in the brain and Alzheimer's disease. Finch has been exploring the possible links between pollution-induced inflammation and the disease, while Pike has probed the connections between obesity and increased expression of inflammatory factors that heighten Alzheimer's risks. Assistant Professor Sean Curran discussed his work on the interaction of diet and genetics, outlining the possible translational path his studies would take from C. elegans to humans, highlighting the possibilities for personalized nutritional insight ushered in by the genomics revolution. "Every person in every environment is different. If you have a variation in specific genes, how is that predictive of what diet will give you maximum success?"
Addressing several myths about longevity, Assistant Professor Jennifer Ailshire said that although the portion of the population reaching age 100 is still tiny, more people are reaching the milestone than ever. Demographics show that some who become centenarians can reach old age in relatively good health and don't simply spend more years in poor health than others.