Wednesday, July 09, 2008

BMJ Articles on Tackling Aging

The BMJ has posted two Analysis articles on tackling aging here.

The first is "New model of health promotion and disease prevention for the 21st century" by Robert N Butler et. al. One of the co-authors, Jay Olshansky, has a very informative interview on the paper here.

The second Analysis article is my paper "Has the Time Come to Take on Time Itself?", which makes the case for taking seriously the arguments advanced by Olshansky et al in their earlier paper "In Pursuit of the Longevity Dividend". Here is a sample from my article:

Has the time come to get more serious about the effort to slow human ageing? The advocates of the longevity dividend believe it has.[1] On 12 September 2006 the not-for-profit citizen advocacy organisation Alliance for Aging Research held a Capitol Hill symposium entitled “Going for the longevity dividend: scientific goals for the world’s aging populations.” This campaign calls on Congress to invest $3bn (€2bn; $1.5bn) annually into understanding the biology of ageing. That would amount to about 1% of the current Medicare budget.

In an era where media headlines are dominated by the war on terror and global warming, and much of the world’s population live in conditions of poverty and disease, it might seem insensitive and unfair to suggest that we should divert more scarce public funding into tackling ageing. But such a knee jerk reaction can be overcome once you consider the science and ethics behind the proposal.

....The evolution of humans is an amazing story but one that may require (further) human intervention to help alleviate or postpone some of the intrinsic fallibilities we have inherited from our evolutionary legacies.

....Almost half (45.1%) of the current population over 75 years of age have their activity limited by chronic conditions.[13] Older people are less resistant to injury, whether from physiological events (for example, surviving a heart attack) or environmental trauma (for example, bone fracture), and they are less resistant to infection.[14]

....The ultimate goal of retarding ageing is the same goal that cancer therapies strive for—namely, to extend healthy living. This can be achieved by curing disease but it can also be achieved by increasing the duration of disease-free life. There is no reason why we cannot pursue both strategies—aggressively tackling individual diseases and ageing. Given the high stakes involved, policy makers must be both imaginative and ambitious. So given where the science actually is, the magnitude of the benefits of even modest success, and the certainty and severity of the costs of inaction, the longevity dividend campaign deserves a prominent place on the policy agenda.