Sunday, July 27, 2008

Boston Globe Article on Aging

The Boston Globe has an interesting piece on aging here.

The interview with David Sinclear is of particular interest. Here is a sample:


David Sinclair is an associate professor of pathology and director of the Sinclair Lab at Harvard Medical School.

Is aging a disease?
As I define it, disease is a process that prevents you from functioning in an optimal way. And that's what aging is. I think of aging as a collection of diseases.

So we need to change our paradigm?
Absolutely. The medical establishment regards aging as something we really can't do much about. The new science of aging says that's wrong and that we can intervene in the process.

Sinclear then goes on to address what I think is perhaps one of the most important practical issues facing longevity scientists- how could we establish the case for the safety and efficacy of anti-aging interventions in humans? Part of the solution might be that anti-aging interventions may actually help in the treatment (and not just prevention) of a specific disease of aging (like diabetes). And so testing these novel interventions in a clinical trial for the treatment of disease will be extremely valuable in terms of providing more information on the safety and efficacy of such interventions. Here is a bit more from Sinclear's interview:

We'll probably find that one of the drugs we're working on to increase lifespan will also treat a specific disease - probably a disease of aging. The scenario I hope to see is that a doctor prescribes a medication for diabetes, and then says to the patient, "I have to tell you that as a side effect that you'll be protected against cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Are you willing to live with that?"

How do the new drugs work?
They're targeting the body's natural pathways against aging. We've learned in the past 15 years that there are key genes that control the pace of aging; when one of them, SIRT1, is activated, in yeast or worms or flies or mice, it improves health. SIRT1-activating drugs are now in clinical trials for specific diseases. One of the nice side effects of these molecules is that they increase endurance.

So these drugs might represent actual cures?
The misconception is that because we study aging, the only drug we'd come up with is one that would prevent disease. But clinical trials have found that they can also treat disease. That's important because making drugs that prevent disease is extremely difficult and takes a long time to prove, but for something like diabetes, you can see results in three months.