weekly blog--one for the ages
This week the Boston Globe had an interesting article on the emerging field known as geroscience whose advocates believe that the best way to treat cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, macular degeneration and other chronic diseases is to attack the aging process.
Researchers are warming to the idea that serious science can be deployed to increase human longevity. Ambitious efforts are underway to develop the first government-approved drugs to stretch healthy life spans. Some researchers are trying to repurpose a diabetes medicine to target age-related diseases. Others are working to boost levels of a key protein to increase blood flow and endurance, or to find a way to kill “zombie (senescent) cells” that can send out toxins that cause age-related maladies.
Some in the field are studying the habits of supercentenarians, people who live to 110 or older, and Seventh-day Adventists, whose average life spans surpass by almost a decade the American life expectancy of about 79 years. Most eat in moderation, don’t smoke, exercise regularly, and reduce stress through ties to family and faith. About 70 percent of aging is dictated by environmental and health-related behavior, and about 30 percent by genes, said one geriatrician.
He added that there are between 60 and 70 supercentenarians in the United States and about 350 worldwide. Many don’t encounter age-related diseases until after hitting the century mark. He said understanding the mechanisms of how they age supports a primary goal of researchers: “to compress morbidity till the very end of life” so people can be healthier and independent longer.