longevity

Could epigenetic reprogramming reverse aging?

A range of strategies are being explored to reprogram the body's cells to an earlier state. Most scientists aren't betting on a new fountain of youth just yet - but, in theory, epigenetic reprogramming is a recipe for self-renewal.

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Ten thousand years ago, the average human spent a maximum of 30 years on Earth. Despite the glory of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, most of their inhabitants didn’t surpass the age of 35. Between the 1500s and 1800, life expectancy (at least in Europe) fluctuated between 30 and 40 years.

Public health advancements like control of infectious diseases, better diet and clean sanitation, as well as social improvements have made it possible for human lifespans to double since 1800. Although lifespan differs widely today from country to country according to socioeconomic health, the average has soared to 73.2 years.

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Stav Dimitropoulos
Stav Dimitropoulos's features have appeared in major outlets such as the BBC, National Geographic, Scientific American, Nature, Popular Mechanics, Science, Runner’s World, and more. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter @TheyCallMeStav.
Why we need to get serious about ending aging

With the population of older people projected to grow dramatically, and the cost of healthcare with it, the future welfare of the country may depend on solving aging, writes philosopher Ingemar Patrick Linden.

Photo by Alessio Lin on Unsplash

It is widely acknowledged that even a small advance in anti-aging science could yield benefits in terms of healthy years that the traditional paradigm of targeting specific diseases is not likely to produce. A more youthful population would also be less vulnerable to epidemics. Approximately 93 percent of all COVID-19 deaths reported in the U.S. occurred among those aged 50 or older. The potential economic benefits would be tremendous. A more youthful population would consume less medical resources and be able to work longer. A recent study published in Nature estimates that a slowdown in aging that increases life expectancy by one year would save $38 trillion per year for the U.S. alone.

A societal effort to understand, slow down, arrest or even reverse aging of at least the size of our response to COVID-19 would therefore be a rational commitment. In fact, given that America’s older population is projected to grow dramatically, and the cost of healthcare with it, it is not an overstatement to say that the future welfare of the country may depend on solving aging.

This year, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced that it will spend up to 1 billion dollars per year on science with the potential to slow down the aging process. We have also seen important investments from billionaires like Google co-founder Larry Page, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, business magnate Larry Ellison, and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

The U.S. government, however, is lagging: The National Institutes of Health spent less than one percent of its $43 billion budget for the fiscal year of 2021 on the National Institute on Aging’s Division of Aging Biology. When you visit the division’s webpage you find that their mission statement carefully omits any mention of the possibility of slowing down the aging process.

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Ingemar Patrick Linden
Driven by a passion to probe the fundamental questions we are confronted with, Dr. INGEMAR PATRICK LINDEN has been on a journey of discovery taking him from Lund University in Sweden, to UCL in London, to University of California, to New York, where he has taught philosophy for almost a decade. Death. It does not get more fundamental than that. One of the ideas that has remained a firm conviction of the author’s since childhood is that we do not have enough time. We are but the beginnings of complete humans, fragments of what we could be. It was the realization that not all share this view, in fact, surveys show that most do not, that inspired, and necessitated, the writing of THE CASE AGAINST DEATH.
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This video explains the science behind the longevity of a 105-year-old sprinter.
NSGA

No human has run a distance of 100 meters faster than Usain Bolt’s lightning streak in 2009. He set this record at age 22. But what will Bolt’s time be when he’s 105?

At the Louisiana Senior Games in November 2021, 105-year-old Julia Hawkins of Baton Rouge became the oldest woman to run 100 meters in an official competition, qualifying her for this year's National Senior Games. Perhaps not surprisingly, she was the only competitor in the race for people 105 and older. In this Leaps.org video, I interview Hawkins about her lifestyle habits over the decades. Then I ask Steven Austad, a pioneer in studying the mechanisms of aging, for his scientific insights into how those aspiring to become super-agers might follow in Hawkins' remarkable footsteps.

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Matt Fuchs

Matt Fuchs is the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. He is also a contributing reporter to the Washington Post and has written for the New York Times, Time Magazine, WIRED and the Washington Post Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @fuchswriter.

Podcast: Has the First 150-Year-Old Already Been Born

In today's podcast episode, Steven Austad explains why we should want to live a long time as long as that involves longer healthspans.

Photo by Casey Andersen on Unsplash

Steven Austad is a pioneer in the field of aging, with over 200 scientific papers and book chapters on pretty much every aspect of biological aging that you could think of. He’s also a strong believer in the potential for anti-aging therapies, and he puts his money where his mouth is. In 2001, he bet a billion dollars that the first person to reach 150-years-old had already been born. I had a chance to talk with Steven for today’s podcast and asked if he still thinks the bet was a good idea, since the oldest person so far (that we know of), Jeanne Calment, died back in 1997. A few days after our conversation, the oldest person in the world, Kane Tanaka, died at 119.

Steven is the Protective Life Endowed Chair in Health Aging Research, a Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Biology at the University of Alabama Birmingham. He's also Senior Scientific Director of the American Federation for Aging Research, which is managing a groundbreaking longevity research trial that started this year. Steven is also a great science communicator with five books, including one that comes out later this year, Methuselah’s Zoo, and he publishes prolifically in national media outlets.

See the rest of his bio linked below in the show notes.

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Matt Fuchs

Matt Fuchs is the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. He is also a contributing reporter to the Washington Post and has written for the New York Times, Time Magazine, WIRED and the Washington Post Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @fuchswriter.

The Cellular Secrets of “Young Blood” Are Starting to Be Unlocked

Fabrisia Ambrosio (center) surrounded by her lab staff.

Photo credit: Amanda Miller

The quest for an elixir to restore youthful health and vigor is common to most cultures and has prompted much scientific research. About a decade ago, Stanford scientists stitched together the blood circulatory systems of old and young mice in a practice called parabiosis. It seemed to rejuvenate the aged animals and spawned vampirish urban legends of Hollywood luminaries and tech billionaires paying big bucks for healthy young blood to put into their own aging arteries in the hope of reversing or at least forestalling the aging process.

It was “kind of creepy” and also inspiring to Fabrisia Ambrosio, then thousands of miles away and near the start of her own research career into the processes of aging. Her lab is at the University of Pittsburgh but on this cold January morning I am speaking with her via Zoom as she visits with family near her native Sao Paulo, Brazil. A gleaming white high rise condo and a lush tropical jungle split the view behind her, and the summer beach is just a few blocks away.

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Bob Roehr
Bob Roehr is a biomedical journalist based in Washington, DC. Over the last twenty-five years he has written extensively for The BMJ, Scientific American, PNAS, Proto, and myriad other publications. He is primarily interested in HIV, infectious disease, immunology, and how growing knowledge of the microbiome is changing our understanding of health and disease. He is working on a book about the ways the body can at least partially control HIV and how that has influenced (or not) the search for a treatment and cure.
Scientists Are Studying How to Help Dogs Have Longer Lives, in a Bid to Further Our Own

Feeding dogs only once a day is showing health benefits in a large study, scientists report.

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

The sad eyes. The wagging tail. The frustrated whine. The excited bark. Dogs know how to get their owners to fork over the food more often.

The extra calories dogs get from feeding patterns now used by many Americans may not be good for them from a health and longevity viewpoint. In research from a large study called the Dog Aging Project, canines fed once a day had better scores on cognition tests and lower odds of developing diseases of organs throughout the body: intestinal tract, mouth and teeth, bones and joints, kidneys and bladder, and liver and pancreas.

Fewer than 1 in 10 dog owners fed their furry friends once daily, while nearly three fourths provided two daily meals.

“Most veterinarians have been led to believe that feeding dogs twice a day is optimal, but this is a relatively new idea that has developed over the past few decades with little supportive evidence from a health standpoint,” said Matt Kaeberlein, PhD, Co-Director of the Dog Aging Project, a professor of pathology and Director of the Healthy Aging and Longevity Research Institute at the University of Washington. Kaeberlein studies basic mechanisms of aging to find ways of extending the healthspan, the number of years of life lived free of disease. It’s not enough to extend the lifespan unless declines in biological function and risks of age-related diseases are also studied, he believes, hence the healthspan.

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L. Michael Posey
A pharmacist-editor-journalist since 1980, L. Michael Posey is a regular writer and editor for The Gerontological Society of America, Postgraduate Healthcare Education’s PowerPak.com website, and other clients. The author of several books and many news and journal articles, Posey is a founding editor of a landmark textbook in pharmacy, Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiologic Approach, a McGraw Hill title now in its 11th edition. He holds a master's degree in health and medical journalism and baccalaureate degrees in pharmacy and microbiology from the University of Georgia. Posey is the father of four sons and a daughter and resides in the Wine Country north of San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @lmposey.
Picture of a naked mole rat

Naked mole rats have extraordinarily long lifespans and are extremely resistant to cancer.

Photo credit: Meghan Murphy, Smithsonian's National Zoo

Rochelle "Shelley" Buffenstein has one of the world's largest, if not the largest, lab-dwelling colonies of the naked mole rat. (No one has done a worldwide tabulation, but she has 4,500 of them.) Buffenstein has spent decades studying the little subterranean-dwelling rodents. Over the years, she and her colleagues have uncovered one surprising discovery after another, which has led them to re-orient the whole field of anti-aging research.

Naked mole rats defy everything we thought we knew about aging. These strange little rodents from arid regions of Africa, such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, live up to ten times longer than their size would suggest. And unlike virtually every other animal, they don't lose physical or cognitive abilities with age, and even retain their fertility up until the end of life. They appear to have active defenses against the ravages of time, suggesting that aging may not be inevitable. Could these unusual creatures teach humans how to extend life and ameliorate aging?

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Eve Herold

Eve Herold is a science writer specializing in issues at the intersection of science and society. She has written and spoken extensively about stem cell research and regenerative medicine and the social and bioethical aspects of leading-edge medicine. Her 2007 book, Stem Cell Wars, was awarded a Commendation in Popular Medicine by the British Medical Association. Her 2016 book, Beyond Human, has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction, and a forthcoming book, Robots and the Women Who Love Them, will be released in 2019.

New Tests Measure Your Body’s Biological Age, Offering a Glimpse into the Future of Health Care

A senior long jumper competes in the 80-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships Stadia (track and field competition) at Riccione Stadium in Riccione, Italy on September 6, 2007. From the book project Racing Age.

Angela Jimenez

What if a simple blood test revealed how fast you're aging, and this meant more to you and your insurance company than the number of candles on your birthday cake?

The question of why individuals thrive or decline has loomed large in 2020, with COVID-19 harming people of all ages, while leaving others asymptomatic. Meanwhile, scientists have produced new measures, called aging clocks, that attempt to predict mortality and may eventually affect how we perceive aging.

Take, for example, "senior" athletes who perform more like 50-year-olds. But people over 65 are lumped into one category, whether they are winning marathons or using a walker. Meanwhile, I'm entering "middle age," a label just as vague. It's frustrating to have a better grasp on the lifecycle of my phone than my own body.

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Matt Fuchs

Matt Fuchs is the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. He is also a contributing reporter to the Washington Post and has written for the New York Times, Time Magazine, WIRED and the Washington Post Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @fuchswriter.