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Slower Aging On The Horizon

There will be no other issue of consequence facing the human species in 100 years. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Kristyn Ecochard
UPI Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Oct 19, 2006
New studies on the aging process may lead to preventions that could improve quality of life and reduce healthcare costs for those over 65, researchers say. In the last century the average lifespan has increased by about 30 years. Most people spend the last years of their lives in a fragile state, Anna McCormick, director of the biology of aging program at the National Institute on Aging, said at a recent conference on Capitol Hill.

"We're trying to stretch the mid-life, not trying to add 15 years of very frail life at the end," McCormick said.

Representatives from several research institutions including the Kronos Longevity Research Institute discussed the roles some of their ongoing studies are playing in understanding aging.

Current studies include the Longevity Assurance Gene initiative, which has been working since 1993 to find and identify the specific genes and molecular processes that are involved with aging. McCormick's research involving a species of worms has shown an insulin-signaling gene is connected to aging.

Research is also being done in preventing age-related illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, frailty and Alzheimer's disease. The NIA has sponsored six studies in the last three years; however, the translation of the studies from animals and basic research to clinical research on humans is a long and expensive process and difficult to get through, experts said.

Opponents to funding aging research argue that aging is just a part of life, and time and money would be wasted investments, since aging cannot be prevented or stopped like heart disease, cancer or diabetes.

So much is still unknown about aging -- what causes it, how genetic and environmental factors react, what exactly happens -- so no one knows whether there could be a way to prevent aging or not, said Donald Ingram, professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University and adviser to KLRI.

Several studies have already shown that certain measures can increase lifespan and decrease signs of aging in organisms from yeast to mice to primates. So far, however, the only significant changes have been found in cases where calorie intake has been drastically reduced, experts said.

Other opponents maintain that research could possibly lead to a so-called fountain of youth, and with overpopulation already an issue, it could escalate into a crisis.

In the next five years baby boomers will become "budget busters" as the percentage of the population over 65 continues to increase. A surge of seniors is a problem abroad, such as in China and Japan, as well as in the United States.

Currently, treatment for Alzheimer's alone costs the United States $100 billion a year. Funding for aging research is only a small fraction of the National Institutes of Health budget. KLRI, along with other groups, is advocating for more funding.

Some studies have produced evidence that in societies where people live longer, overpopulation is not a problem, proponents counter.

"There's something about the kind of conditions that produce longer, healthier lifespan, people stop having large families," Mitchell Harman, founding director and president of KLRI, told United Press International.

More research is needed to translate the ongoing studies into data that applies to humans.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
Kronos Longevity Research Institute
All About Human Beings and How We Got To Be Here

American Population About To Pass 300 Million Mark
Washington (AFP) Oct 12, 2006
Boy or girl, prince or pauper, no one knows -- but the 300 millionth American is expected to arrive at about 7:45 am (11:45 GMT), October 17, the US Census Bureau announced Thursday. The Census Bureau has for years calculated one birth of a US citizen every seven seconds, one death every 13 seconds and a nationalized citizen every 31 seconds, and will chalk up the 300 millionth on Tuesday.

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