Public Agenda Report Provides Snapshop of Current Aging Research as Well as Glimpse of Future
Having reached middle age, at times I hear the ticking of an internal clock. It’s not the clock that has to do with having children. Instead, it’s the clock that heralds the approach of old age. I find myself wondering when my body will start to betray me through a rogue cancerous cell, an Alzheimer’s disease plaque, or a crazed heartbeat that will lead to a heart attack.
Therefore, I was very interested in reading a 2005 report entitled “The Science of Aging Gracefully: Scientists and the Public Talk about Aging Research,” which was produced by Public Agenda for the Alliance for Aging Research and the American Federation for Aging Research. I’m going to focus this sharepost only on the perceptions of top researchers about the current state of aging research and its future featured in the report.
First of all, these scientists stated that progress in aging research was resulting because of three major factors – genetic research, development of new technology, and integration of knowledge of different fields. In genetic research, researchers are finding that altering a single gene can allow them to dramatically increase lifespan in lab tests. Furthermore, researchers believe that by understanding the genetic differences between individuals, protective strategies and potential cures for diseases such as diabetes, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and age-related macular degeneration may be developed. The creation of new technology is helping scientists analyze large bodies of information in areas such as gene sequencing; additionally, imaging technologies are helping scientists better understand Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. And the integration of knowledge from different fields is causing researchers to believe that breakthroughs will emerge due to a more holistic view of the field of aging research.
The scientists also see great progress in several areas of research involving stem cells, metabolic functions, progress with age-related diseases, the power of pharmaceuticals, as well as choices, behaviors and environment. Noting the promise inherent in stem cells, the Public Agenda authors stated, “Stem cells can potentially yield human cells for testing new pharmaceutical and biological interventions against specific diseases of aging. Scientists believe that the study of stem cells also offers insights into the body’s own regenerative process and into the relationship between the aging process and cancer.” As far as metabolic functions, scientists hope to manipulate the metabolism through caloric restriction to help individuals live longer. Scientists also reported increased opportunities for advancement in treating many age-related illnesses, such as dementia and Parkinson’s. In some instances, advances have been made in earlier detection, developing more effective treatments, and progress towards cures. The report’s authors stated that the power of pharmaceuticals may help treat age-related diseases, with some researchers even predicting the development of medicines that are tailored to specific diseases and individuals. Finally, the focus on choices, behaviors and environment is refers to scientists who are trying to create links between lifestyle choices (such as diet, exercise, and a sense of meaning and purpose) and age-related illness.
Knowing that scientists are seeing progress in these areas of research is great news for those of us who are entering menopause. Hopefully, we’ll be the beneficiaries for the outcomes of this research, which will help us live long and healthy lives.