Another Call to Classify Aging as a Disease

In the stifling, costly regulatory systems surrounding medical research and commercial application of therapies, aging is not classified as a disease for which one can develop treatments. This is a good deal of the reason why it is hard to raise funding for potential interventions in the aging process, and it is why, now that those interventions are more broadly recognized as plausible, we are seeing a growing chorus of calls for change. For my part, I'd rather see the whole corrupt, backwards system of medical regulation torn down, or for the research and development community to make regulators irrelevant by carrying out their work in other jurisdictions, supplying the resulting therapies via medical tourism. But the mainstream will always want to work to adjust the system from within, leaving most of the harms and unnecessary costs intact, rather than take more radical steps to speed up progress:

Aging itself is the process of the human body deteriorating over time, and its effects are now attributed to a wide range of illnesses. People gradually lose their sight and vision, their organs suffer decreased function, and in some cases people's very minds change so much that they cease being who they used to be. Several diseases and conditions are labeled as the culprits of aging, with research and treatments being directed at each of them individually. This work is certainly important, but several scientists argue that this approach is too piecemeal. According to them, such ailments represent the side effects of a greater disease, one that in fact can be treated and prevented. That disease is aging itself.

The notion of aging as a disease is not an entirely revolutionary one, and several scientists have been pushing for such recognition. Scientists have recently called on the World Health Organization to classify aging as a disease in the 11th iteration of its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11). The ICD is the standard tool for identifying and classifying diseases used by medical professional throughout the world. Our current biological understanding of aging is shifting along with societal attitudes towards what can be classified as a disease, and that the ICD-11 needs to be updated to reflect this.

A change in nomenclature may not sound like it has much effect, but it has great potential. History has shown that the classification of mental disorders, such as autism, as diseases has led to increased attention to the subject, the development of more accurate diagnostic methods, and increased involvement of the pharmaceutical industry and policy makers. It also provides the basis for clinical trials, which are critical in creating specific anti-aging treatments. A formal World Health Organization classification of aging as a disease would involve the creation of a dedicated task force, in a fashion similar to what is being done for chronic pain. It would also allow for the recognition of an "ideal norm" of a disease-free state of a specified age (such as 25), which would provide a clear goal for treatments to strive towards. If we consider aging a disease, it doesn't just represent a nomenclatural change in thinking but rather a paradigm shift. The first step in tackling a problem is to define it, and while people may not specifically consider aging a disease as of yet, we have always been striving for longer and healthier lives. It is, after all, the entire purpose of medicine, and this classification is a logical next step. Science and medicine only make progress once the problem is properly identified.



Reason I am with you, I would like to see the whole lot torn down and rebuilt but its not going to happen any time soon. There is considerable pressure on WHO to change the situation so its probably the best thing we can do for now. I submitted a WHO survey on aging recently so there is a push to make changes at least. But you are right the whole thing is an absolute farce.

Posted by: Steve H at November 17th, 2015 9:32 AM

I also submitted the survey to the WHO. That being said, I wonder how many other people really took the time to do it. Probably a lot less than we would like. What do you think the odds are of aging actually getting any attention from the WHO? I know Novartis is in favor of this, so that should be somewhat helpful.

Posted by: Ham at November 17th, 2015 9:45 AM

Aging is merely a kind of natural phenomena. I mean everyone is going to know this period. I don't think it's reasonable to classify aging as a disease. I do agree that aging could cause some disease problems, but not aging itself.

Posted by: Chloe at November 17th, 2015 8:24 PM

It pretty much meets all the criteria that's required to be considered a disease. Not to mention the fact that it's one of, if not the single biggest risk factor for a plethora of diseases, including Alzheimers, cancer, and heart disease.

Is there even a distinction between disease and "treatable condition" in the regulatory world? I ask, because if it is considered a disease, you know there will be tons of people up in arms and offended that they're considered diseased now. Just a thought, not sure if there is really a distinction or not.

Posted by: Ham at November 18th, 2015 11:46 AM

@Chloe: AIDS is also a natural phenomenon. I do agree that AIDS could cause some disease problems, like opportunistic infections, but not AIDS itself.

Posted by: Antonio at November 18th, 2015 1:43 PM

Aging is not a disease but it is the root cause of pathology and the leading risk factor for mortality. Science should be allowed to investigate aging freely in order to tackle diesease at its root cause. Debates over if aging is or isn't a diesease is semantics plain and simple. It kills you and that's enough to justify treatment and therapy against it. People seriously need to get away from this ingrained idea that natural is good too, it's natural to die of infectious disease by age thirty but we don't thanks to medical progress, this is exactly the same.

Posted by: Steve h at November 18th, 2015 5:13 PM

Hi all !

Just my 2 cent (worth that), I believe Aging is a program with a start, a middle and an end. A astronomically complex program and should be viewed as such to anyone wondering what it is really. It can autoprogramm, reprogramm, deprogramm itself from its 'normal program' (normal course of aging), etc.
Evolution made pressure and selection on components of aging (the genes, gene network, genome (the on/off 'switches' if you will and instructions) to yield maximal survival of species within a specie context
(short lifespan, quick expenditure of ressources, high procreation, high population natality/replacement vs long lifespan, slow expenditure of ressources/conservation, low procreation, low population natality/replacement).
A program is made of a code ((epi) genes are coded, encoded, decoded, etc), we are trying to crack this code (à la Davinci 'DNA' Code) that instructs and orders the Program to Continue its Course.

Chromosomes (Telomeres) and Telomeric DNA/RNA (purines, pyrimidines, etc) control that program by the type and amount, and repetition of that code:
T T A G G G (Thymine, Adenine, Guanine) which itself activates/deactivates/expresses/depresses genes (the famous 'switches' that make 'things happen inside'), the genes regulate the Program and its continuation. Genes are directly linked to telomeric space, because telomeres control gene signaling by their methylation/demethylation/DNA repeat content.
As telomeres lower (regular aging, bp loss per pd) certain genes become deactivated (basically the good ones, or become dysfunctional, aging is dysfunction of the gene network (damage accrual is just a second effect) - that is aging), and other genes become activated. The fact that young people with high telomeres have a strong telomere signal and are 'gene silenced' means clearly the Death Program is Silenced in young age. When aging is advanced (say 5 kb telomeres) then Death Program is activated (IL-6, TNF, p53, p16, B-Gal, Senescence and Apopotic secreted factors, Mitochondrial Membrane and mV Potential destruction, Cytochrome C loss, Caspases, massive ROS and inflammation oxidative stress (the gene network is 'stressed' beyong capacity to bounce back to 'stable', it is unstable, dysfunctional..this causes inflammation all over (accelerating The (Epi) Genetic (preprogrammed) Program) and oxidative stress increases (mitochondrial ROS production rises, DNA fragmentation too, lipofuscin bottling up proteasome (in regular aging lipofuscin is linear to death (accrual to a threshold) but in pathologies lipofuscin rises with pathology and increased cell oxidative stress), etc).

The fact that certain stem cells can be REprogrammed to a high telomere and full bioREjuvenated state is a testament that aging is a programm. Let's change that programm, any Programmers here (c++ or windows is not programm I mean) ?

They say 'stick with the programm', I say 'stick it up where...the Programm is not Un - reprogrammable or de - programmable, we are so close to programming the sh.. out of it. To those who say we are playing God by playing our inherited genes, I say evolution and survival is the only way and if we want to Live reallyyy long lives (as in all this talk of immortality... and I'm talking beating Evolution and adapting it to our liking) then
Programming it shall be.

They also say that ''programmers are gods, affectionately 'Programming Gods''', makes sense. God does not want us to decode the magic programm, cause then our Programmers will replace god and will justify their Programming - Gods - title.

Posted by: CANanonymity at November 19th, 2015 1:55 PM

Wikipedia Gene definition :

'A gene is a segment of DNA that encodes function. A chromosome consists of a long strand of DNA containing many genes'

If tall methylated telomeres make for 'stability' and 'youth' and a genome that is transcriptionally efficient - but short demethylated telomeres make for 'unstability' and 'old aging' and a genome that is transcriptionnaly unefficient - then it means DNA that contains the code - and the genes - is dictating the speed of aging - on how fast that DNA is destructed and disappears from the chromosome and its telomeres which also have DNA.
Depending on - where - that code is read (where those genes are positioned in the DNA telomere coding 'ladder') is its 'lines' it makes for a different aging phenotype and different gene silencing or activation. By now, we know the bad death genes seem to be overlyactivated when the telomere drops low. IN a sense, it's basically the same code repeating itself (same DNA all over) over the chromose telomeres - but it is read - differently depending on where its positioned in the chromosome telomere (activating different death genes that accelerate inflammation and aging/damage/death).

Thus, I think of aging being a (death) programm is close.

Posted by: CANanonymity at November 19th, 2015 2:12 PM
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