Geroscience is a new popular science of aging online magazine supported by the Apollo Ventures investment fund, devoted to longevity science startups. The principals there became involved in this space and raised a fund both because they are enthused by the field of therapeutics to treat aging and want to see it succeed, but also because they recognize the tremendous potential for profit here. The size of the market for enhancement biotechnologies such as rejuvenation treatments is half the human race, every adult individual. Publishing a magazine on aging research is a way to help broaden their reach within the community, find more prospective investments, talk up their positions, and raise the profile of the field as a whole, all of which aligns fairly well with the broader goals of advocacy for longevity science. Many hands make light work, and we could certainly use more help to speed up the growth of this field of research and development.
Modern health and medicine have all but eradicated the poxes and plagues that fixed the life expectancy of a person in the 19th century at 40 years old, but despite long and expensive struggles like "The War on Cancer" and over a hundred clinical trials for Alzheimer's treatments, our attempts to control the diseases of aging have borne little fruit. In the last thirty years, our understanding of the underlying pathology of Alzheimer's disease has deepened, yet billions of dollars invested in research have not significantly slowed the course of the disease. Most existing treatments for cancer require swift detection, are extremely invasive and expensive, and cause debilitating side effects. And our defenses against heart disease, stroke, and general frailty remain, at best, crude.
Up to now, most approaches have focused on acute treatment of disease, waiting until a patient has obvious or life-threatening symptoms before intervening. The central tenet of geroscience, however, is that the molecular and cellular damage that leads to the diseases of aging begins long before people appear sick. Our risk of getting these diseases peaks after sixty years of age, but the incremental buildup of damage starts in our twenties or thirties. The geroscience approach aims to target the molecular processes that underpin aging here, and fix them at their roots, stopping aging before it starts.
But what are these processes? What are the threads linking all of the ails of aging together to slowly break down our bodies and minds? Over several decades, researchers have unraveled this mystery to find nine interwoven "hallmarks of aging": genomic instability, telomere attrition, epigenetic alterations, loss of proteostasis, deregulated nutrient sensing, mitochondrial dysfunction, cellular senescence, stem cell exhaustion, and altered intercellular communication. Already interventions targeting one or more of these factors are being developed, from small molecule drugs to genetic alterations, and over fifty have been found to extend lifespan and healthspan in mice, with more being discovered every year.
In the past few years, a rapidly growing industry has sprung up around the geroscience approach, with both companies producing individual technologies like UNITY Biotechnology, and tech giants like Google and Facebook making broader moves into the space. Google's Calico, an independent R&D biotech company partnering with AbbVie and numerous academic institutes, was founded in 2013 to promote "health, well-being, and longevity", and in 2016 Mark Zuckerberg pledged $3 billion to Chan Zuckerberg Science with the goal of curing or preventing all disease by 2100. In addition to these large investments into basic research, more commercially focused endeavors like Genentech and Eli Lilly's Alzheimer's trials and GenSight's efforts to replace defective mitochondrial genes have been popping up as well. We are on the verge of a paradigm shift in how we treat the diseases of aging. The first medicines to make us live longer and healthier lives already exist, and massive investments are catalyzing the creation of many more. We are poised to be either the first generation to live for over a century, or the last generation not to. We've created Geroscience to share our enthusiasm for this space, and to cultivate a source of accessible science and realistic discourse.