Friday, May 09, 2008

EMBO Reports Article on Aging

My article "A Tale of Two Strategies: The Moral Imperative to Tackle Ageing" has been accepted for publication in Nature's EMBO Reports. This paper should be published in the next few months. Here is a brief sample:

Research into ageing is a fascinating field of scientific study, not least because it addresses a topic that, sooner or later, affects everyone. At the same time, the science itself is rapidly progressing with a constant flow of publications that help to elucidate the numerous causes of ageing, such as DNA damage, the shortening of telomeres, oxidation processes in the cell, and so on. Based on this wealth of information, scientists have begun to explore interventions that could modify the biological processes that lead to ageing, thus creating opportunities for people to live longer and healthier lives. However, the biology of ageing is very complex and involves many molecular and physiological processes that, though they eventually lead to ageing, still have important functional roles. It is therefore not surprising that, while scientists basically agree that ageing itself is not immutable, they continue to disagree significantly as to what might constitute the most promising strategy for retarding human ageing. Such scientific disagreement is, of course, neither novel nor specific to ageing-related research—it rightly permeates all branches of scientific inquiry.

But there is another disagreement that currently embroils researchers studying ageing, which is a debate about how they ought to frame the moral imperative to retard human ageing. Is ageing actually a disease? If so, should we invest more public money to find a cure for it, or are the medical interventions that could retard ageing best classified as ‘enhancements’ rather than therapies? Does this really matter and, in any case, do the answers to these questions have an impact on the prioritization of research into human ageing?