The largest institutions are always the most conservative, late to the party. Even now, as clearance of senescent cells is shown in mice to increase life span and reverse measures of aging and many age-related diseases, and an industry of senolytic therapies is pulling in hundreds of millions in venture funding, support from the major institutions of aging research for targeting the causes of aging is lukewarm and very carefully worded. This is the way of things, unfortunately. Still, there is clearly movement in the right direction.
Medical care for older adults has long focused on preventing and treating chronic diseases and the conditions that come with them. But now, geriatrics researchers and clinicians hope a new understanding - one honed at a conference hosted by the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) - can lead to better and more effective interventions by targeting the aging process itself rather than discrete conditions or concerns. "Aging is complex and varies from one person to the next, but there's a growing body of evidence that aging itself is driven by interconnected biological factors we call 'hallmarks' or 'pillars'. We believe disrupting these hallmarks - which cover everything from the stability of our genes to ways our cells communicate - can contribute to chronic disease and frailty, which is why a better understanding of how they work is so important."
Rather than beginning with the discrete health conditions and concerns common among older adults, conference organizers took the unique approach of focusing on aging itself as a primary factor impacting multiple chronic diseases and the declining ability to rebound from health challenges (also known as "resilience"). In doing so, scholars advanced our understanding of the concept that targeting age-related mechanisms might delay, prevent, or even reverse geriatric syndromes, age-related chronic diseases, and declines in resilience. Conference sessions also focused on new methods and strategies for studying these aspects of aging, and reviewed the challenges of studying age when older people often have been excluded from medical research.