Treating Aging as a Medical Condition Should Long Have Been a Priority

Aging kills most people in the world, and near all people in the wealthier parts of the world. It doesn't just kill, but also produces decades of declining health and capabilities, increased pain and suffering. Addressing the causes of aging, uncovering the mechanisms of aging and treating them, should have been the top priority in medicine ever since the advent of modern antibiotics allowed for control over the majority of infectious disease. Decades in which meaningful progress could have taken place have been wasted, and work on the mechanisms of aging is still only a small field within the life sciences, a small industry within the biotech space. This must change. The advent of senolytic treatments to clear senescent cells shows that rejuvenation therapies are possible and plausible, and the SENS proposals - for senolytics and more - point the way to those therapies. What is the world waiting for?

The widespread improvement in global life expectancy at birth was one of the greatest achievements of the 20th Century. Today, most children born in high-income countries will live into their ninth decade, and possibly beyond. This represents a new reality for humanity. In 1816, for example, French children had a 1 in 4 chance of making it to 70 years; today life expectancy in France is higher than 4 in 5.

The fact that a child born today is more likely to live to old age makes ageing well a new health priority. In fact, it's a multi-trillion dollar target. Imagine a health intervention that improved health and lowered mortality at every age such that overall life expectancy increased by one year. We calculate that such an intervention would be worth a staggering $37 trillion in present value terms in the United States (US). That's the total value of healthier ageing to the US population - both current and future - at an annual rate of $725 billion. Our research also shows that whilst longer lives are valuable, the most valuable health priority of all is to ensure that healthspan rises to match lifespan; and that the period many spend in poor health towards the end of life is made as small as possible.

Because ageing is a cumulative phenomenon, ageing well is a lifelong process. This process can be supported by critical shifts in public health, better individual life and career choices, and healthier living conditions. It will also require the development of new treatments that aren't just aimed at specific age-related diseases but which target ageing itself. This isn't reflected in current funding practices. The US spends more than $4 trillion on healthcare annually but only $2.6 billion is allocated to the National Institute of Aging, which mostly focuses on dementia. Given the scientific progress being made in the field of ageing, and the scale of the future health challenge, more resources need to be invested.

The need for more funding is based on recent scientific developments. Scientists understand the biological mechanisms of ageing now more than ever and agree on the factors that contribute to it. Drugs that target these factors are already being developed in laboratories and biotech companies around the world. Research and treatments aimed at single diseases, such as cancer and dementia, are important. But a broader focus on delaying or even reversing ageing has considerable advantages. Firstly, given the number of age-related diseases, any successful treatment to reverse or delay ageing will aggregate benefits across multiple disease fronts. And secondly, treatments that delay ageing are highly beneficial because they lessen the probability of disease. Most children born in high-income countries today will grow to be old. As a global community, we must ensure that our response to an ageing population goes beyond supporting the elderly to ensuring that the current young become the healthiest ever future old.



"Our research also shows that whilst longer lives are valuable, the most valuable health priority of all is to ensure that healthspan rises to match lifespan; and that the period many spend in poor health towards the end of life is made as small as possible."

Again the nonsense of compression of morbidity...

Posted by: Antonio at July 23rd, 2021 9:46 AM

Please explain the "nonsense". Otherwise you translate into trollhood.

Posted by: tonenotvolume at July 25th, 2021 12:29 PM

In my opinion, the NIH has brainwashed the gerontology community by refusing to fund any potential anti-aging treatment that claims to extend human lifespan. The result is much dancing around, in which proposers take an oath that they will extend healthspan only. This is so ingrained that many researchers spout the line automatically.

There may be some undiscovered doomsday clock lurking in the human genome that always lowers the scythe at 120 years or so, no matter what treatments we devise. But I really doubt that. I think that the clock, i.e., age-progressive epigenetic programming, as observed in DNA methylation, -has already been discovered, and that we already have in hand several ways of resetting it, e.g., burst Yamanaka OSKM doses, Katcher's E-5, and perhaps even GDF-11 infusions and GLA supplements.

Posted by: John G. Cramer at July 26th, 2021 3:58 PM

" … development of new treatments that aren't just aimed at age-related diseases, but which target AGEing itself."

AGEing itself is called ' normal' AGEing or sometimes Primary AGEing.
Calling it Normal reduces motivation to treat it. Why would anyone want to cure something that is 'normal'. I don't call it normal, because symptoms such as grey hair, wrinkled skin, weak muscles, weak and brittle bones reveals great Abnormality. Being normal means being young and functioning like a young person-rejuvenated human. What is 'normal' for your age is often very abnormal as compared to a young individual. I prefer to call it Primary AGEing. In the absence of age-related diseases one will still suffer and die of Primary AGEing.

Decades were waisted by not treating Primary AGEing, but billions and trillions of dollars were saved by not curing AGEing. Just as repairing an old vehicle is very costly and it is cheaper and more economical to scrap the old one and get a new one, so it is with old humans. Curing oldsters is uneconomical - it is cheaper to let them die without treatment and replace them with new humans - children. The economics doesn't favor repairing oldsters.
Perhaps in the future there will be a new technology that will help to continually maintain youngsters in the functionally young condition, or reversing aging in the middle aged.
Microscopic robots that will repair and restore youthfulness automatically - making it economically efficient, probably cheaper than raising and educating a new human - a child.
This kind of technology is still unavailable , may be decades in the future.

Posted by: Nicholas D. at July 28th, 2021 4:40 PM
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