Earlier this year the Aging Research and Drug Discovery meeting was organized as a part of the broader BASAL LIFE scientific conference. As is traditional for such events, the organizers put together a paper reviewing the proceedings. A few of the early highlights are noted below, but many more presentations are briefly discussed in the open access paper. It is a representative selection of the present distribution of projects and research goals in the scientific community focused on intervention in the aging process.
Aging poses profound health-related challenges that need to be tackled to reduce the social and economic burden on our aging society. Multidisciplinary perspectives will be of tremendous importance to understand the underlying molecular processes of aging and to accelerate the discovery and development of effective aging interventions. It is therefore indispensable that industry and academia develop deeper cooperation and greater interchange of knowledge and technology. For this purpose, world leading experts from diverse research fields and various sectors came together at the 6th installment of the Aging, Drug Discovery and Artificial Intelligence conference, which was held from the 10th to the 12th September 2019 in Basel as part of the Basel Life Science Week.
Although great progress has been made towards the understanding of aging mechanisms, effective drug interventions are still missing for most age-related disorders. Targeting the aging process contrasts the traditional approach of "one disease-one drug"; thus, multiple challenges need to be overcome, as discussed by Nir Barzilai from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, NY, USA. In particular, the political attention needs to be further strengthened by highlighting the clinical and economic benefits of aging interventions. However, no party will cover intervention costs without an indication for which simple and reliable biomarkers are still lacking. Towards a resolution of this issue, the Targeting Aging with Metformin (TAME) study driven by Nir Barzilai may represent a proof-of-concept that could pave the way to clinical trials leading to healthy aging.
How can we fill the gap between lab animal research, which has traditionally stopped at murine studies, and human clinical trials? Matt Kaeberlein from the University of Washington, Seattle, USA, and colleagues several years ago initialized the dog aging project to overcome this barrier. Companion animals like dogs as model organisms provide multifarious advantages including a faster aging pace than humans, high genetic diversity, and a shared environment with humans. The dog aging project aims to investigate the influence of genetic and environmental determinants on the life- and healthspan of domestic dogs based on survey, sequencing, blood biochemistry and -omics data collection. Further, the project provides the opportunity to test aging interventions, as already initiated for the mammalian Target Of Rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitor rapamycin. Notably, the completed phase 1 for the rapamycin intervention trial revealed no-side effects and improved cardiac function in treated dogs
Aubrey de Grey from the SENS Research Foundation, Mountain View, California, USA, emphasized that placing the focus on healthspan and not on lifespan will help to rebut societal concerns for longevity investigations. Further, he discussed that human diseases with a higher prevalence at older ages should be treated and explored differentially than communicable diseases. In this regard, he introduced the SENS Research Foundation (SRF) and their concept of maintenance by targeting mechanisms that mitigate cellular damage accumulating during aging. Notably, treatments of age-related diseases directed by spinouts of SRF aim to increase the healthspan of elderly - increased longevity is considered as a positive side-effect.