Given the increased interest in the treatment of aging as a medical conditions, and the establishment of a longevity industry focused on building therapies that target the mechanisms of aging, it is now the case that more people are writing on the topic. Thankfully! There are many more and better introductions to aging research and its potential application to extending the healthy human life span than was the case a decade ago. Today's example is a good article, well worth keeping around and handing off to interested friends who want to know more about the exciting work that is presently taking place in academia and industry.
Inasmuch as one enjoys being alive, waiting longer until the signs of frailty and old age occur seems an appealing proposition, and so there is an entire field of research dedicated to understand the aging process. A recent summary for a popular audience is in David Sinclair's recent book Lifespan. But I wanted to provide a deeper and more concise explanation, plus communicating not only the results but also their robustness. There is also a previous Longevity FAQ from Laura Deming, but I thought something a bit longer that explains the field from the ground up should exist.
At first, reading about research regarding longevity can seem like magic: "We knocked out Sirt1 in mice, leading to reduced lifespan". That sentence is not only compressing a lot of information (What does it mean to knock out? What's Sirt1?) but also once we know that knocking out Sirt1 means to stop a gene from being expressed (i.e. stopping the cell from manufacturing the protein associated with that gene), we may want to know things like "Are there different ways of knocking out genes? How do different genes related in the genetics of aging relate to each other? If we do the same things in dogs, does it work?"
My goal here is to demystify what seems initially obscure, and to make available a summary of the current state of the art, the quality of the evidence available so far, and what promising avenues of research are being pursued at the moment.
Longevity research is an exciting area that has been making great progress in recent years. From the early discoveries that ageing can be modulated to the current advances in understanding how aging works, and how therapies could be developed to live longer, healthier lives. Progress seems easier on the "healthier" side of things, with many of studies showing that it is easier to prolong healthspan or expected lifespan and cure certain conditions that occur in the old age rather than the maximum lifespan of our species. Current research seems like it could enable most people to live past 100 years in reasonably healthy conditions, a feat that, to a lesser degree, is accomplished today by a tiny fraction of supercentenarians.