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October 08, 2013

Even marginal success in research delaying aging is a better investment than cancer, heart disease research

An analysis, from top scientists at USC, Harvard University, Columbia University, the University of Illinois at Chicago and other institutions, assumes research investment would conservatively lead to a 1.25 percent reduction in the likelihood of age-related diseases. In contrast to treatments for fatal diseases, slowing aging would have no health returns initially, but would have significant benefits over the long term. With even modest gains in our scientific understanding of how to slow the aging process, an additional 5 percent of adults over the age of 65 would be healthy rather than disabled every year from 2030 to 2060

The study showed significantly lower and declining returns for continuing the current research “disease model,” which seeks to treat fatal diseases independently, rather than tackling the shared, underlying cause of frailty and disability: aging itself.

Lowering the incidence of cancer by 25 percent in the next few decades — in line with the most favorable historical trends — would barely improve population health over not doing anything at all, the analysis showed. The same is true of heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide: About the same number of older adults would be alive but disabled in 2060 whether we do nothing or continue to combat cancer and heart disease individually. The findings are in line with earlier research showing that curing cancer completely would only increase life expectancy by about three years.

“Even a marginal success in slowing aging is going to have a huge impact on health and quality of life. This is a fundamentally new approach to public health that would attack the underlying risk factors for all fatal and disabling diseases,” said corresponding author S. Jay Olshansky of the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois-Chicago. “We need to begin the research now. We don’t know which mechanisms are going to work to actually delay aging, and there are probably a variety of ways this could be accomplished, but we need to decide now that this is worth pursuing.”

Health Affairs - Substantial Health And Economic Returns From Delayed Aging May Warrant A New Focus For Medical Research



Several lines of scientific inquiry have already shown how we might age more slowly, including studies of the genetics of “centenarians” and other long-lived people. Slowing the signs of biological aging has also been achieved in animal models, using pharmaceuticals or interventions such as caloric restriction.

But until now, no assessment has been made of the costs and health returns on developing therapies for delayed aging.

“We would be affecting every generation,” Olshansky said. “This study is a benchmark in the world of public health.”

The study showed that, with major advances in cancer treatment or heart disease, a 51-year-old can expect to live about one more year. A modest improvement in delaying aging would double this to two additional years — and those years are much more likely to be spent in good health.

The increase in healthy years of life would have an economic benefit of approximately $7.1 trillion over the next five decades, the researchers find. Their analysis did not account for the potential cognitive benefits for older adults with research in delayed aging.

However, the results of the study also showed that improving the population of healthy, older adults will not lower overall health care spending. With research advances in delayed aging, more people would be alive past the age of 65, which means significantly higher outlays for Medicare and Medicaid despite less per-person spending on medical costs.

ABSTRACT

Recent scientific advances suggest that slowing the aging process (senescence) is now a realistic goal. Yet most medical research remains focused on combating individual diseases. Using the Future Elderly Model—a microsimulation of the future health and spending of older Americans—we compared optimistic “disease specific” scenarios with a hypothetical “delayed aging” scenario in terms of the scenarios’ impact on longevity, disability, and major entitlement program costs. Delayed aging could increase life expectancy by an additional 2.2 years, most of which would be spent in good health. The economic value of delayed aging is estimated to be $7.1 trillion over fifty years. In contrast, addressing heart disease and cancer separately would yield diminishing improvements in health and longevity by 2060—mainly due to competing risks. Delayed aging would greatly increase entitlement outlays, especially for Social Security. However, these changes could be offset by increasing the Medicare eligibility age and the normal retirement age for Social Security. Overall, greater investment in research to delay aging appears to be a highly efficient way to forestall disease, extend healthy life, and improve public health.

Google's new startup could spend billion on antiaging research and development

Calico is considered the brainchild of Bill Maris, the Google Ventures managing partner who once was a biotech portfolio manager at Investor AB. Sources says that Maris looked at the life sciences landscape, and saw hundreds of companies all focused on curing or minimizing various diseases and conditions. In all cases, the goal was either to prolong life and/or improve the quality of life.

What didn't exist, however, were companies focusing on the root cause of so much of this disease and death. Namely, that we all keep getting older. Or, put another way, that our bodies begin to fail on a cellular level – largely due to degradation of our genetic materials.

Now that the entire genome had been coded, Maris wondered if it was possible to actually study the genetic causes of aging and then create drugs to address them (a question that was heavily influenced by talks with futurist and Googler Ray Kurzweil). For example, what if you examined the genomes of thousands of healthy 90 year-olds from all parts of the world? What genetic similarities do they have? Or, perhaps, what happens to most of us that didn't happen to them. Even if this didn't result in longer life, it perhaps could at least lead to an improved quality of life for folks on the back nine.

Google commitment to Calico is believed to be a minimum of hundreds of millions (tranched out, of course).

George Church describes a genetic and genome engineering approach to antiaging

George Church seems to be providing a technical proposal that is similar to Google is funding.

In the SENS6 Conference's keynote address, Harvard University's Dr. George Church describes recent advances in genomics and in the reading, writing, and interpretation of -omes fields. He also discusses PersonalGenomes.org, his initiative to glean new medical insights by gathering data on the genotypes, microbiomes, environments, traits, and stem cells of participants. He proceeds to cover various methods of improving RNA sequencing to gather data on transcriptomes, then provides additional detail on engineering therapeutics for individual patients. Before concluding, Dr. Church discusses protective alleles and offers a broad overview of genomic engineering strategies. In particular, he notes the considerable promise the CRISPR approach holds for the field.

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Mike Kope, President and CEO of SENS Research Foundation, delivers his SENS6 presentation in this video. He begins by showcasing SRF's updated website and messaging materials, including its new annual and research reports. Mike follows this with an overview of the fundamental research approach that SRF advocates: periodically repairing the damage that causes age-related disease instead of trying to intervene in metabolism and late-stage pathology. He then describes the challenges that face SRF in trying to build a rejuvenation biotech industry - in particular, the need to establish credibility and build support for the damage-repair paradigm. Mike explains how SRF is answering that challenge by highlighting SRF's research project to treat heart disease by degrading 7-ketocholesterol (a toxic molecule found in atherosclerotic plaques) as well as the new world-class scientific animations found on www.sens.org. In closing, he optimistically notes the effect that results-based healthcare systems (which are beginning to emerge in parts of the world without entrenched process-based systems) might have on regulatory bodies in the US and Europe.




In this interview, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, SENS Research Foundation's Chief Science Officer, talks about SENS6 and the ever-increasing impact of the SENS Conference series. First, Dr. de Grey discusses the accelerating scientific progress that makes each conference better than the last and highlights the growing contribution of SRF-funded research to the field of regenerative medicine. He then describes the dueling viewpoints that still debate the role of aging in age-related disease. Finally, Dr. de Grey closes by enumerating SRF's major achievements over the past couple of years and describes his hopes and expectations for the Foundation's future.




In this interview, SENS Research Foundation President and CEO Mike Kope describes the buzz and praise the SENS6: Reimagine Aging Conference generated from attendees. In particular, he mentions the excellent networking opportunities afforded to attendees by the Conference as well as inroads the Foundation was able to build in the scientific community. Dr. Church's endorsement of SRF is a bold example, and Mike looks forward to even more support for the Foundation's goals and message in the future.



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