Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sage Crossroads Podcast on Longevity Science

My Podcast interview on why longevity science should be a priority is available at the Sage Crossroads website here. Here is a sample from the interview:

Sage Crossroads: You argue that aging is the most important neglected problem of our time. Why do you feel this way?

Farrelly: Humanity faces many challenges this century…. And it's often difficult to distinguish between the biggest problems and those that are less pressing. I think three important considerations can help us make this distinction.

(1) Magnitude of the harms in question
(2) their certainty
(3) and the likelihood that we could do something to mitigate those harms

I think aging scores very high on all 3 of these issues.

The sheer number of humans that will suffer the diseases of aging this century is staggering and unprecedented. So aging scores very high on the magnitude of harm criterion.

Secondly, aging scores very high on the certainty factor: the scientific consensus is in— we know that senescence causes disease and death.

And thirdly, we must ask- what is the likelihood that we could actually do something to remedy the situation. The greater the likelihood that we could successfully mitigate the harms in question the stronger the case for taking action.

We now know that aging is not immutable… and thus longevity science could provide us with effective and efficient strategies for dealing with the many problems that aging populations face.


Sage Crossroads: How are we going to convince the public that this is worthy of pursuit and that aging is a disease?

This is a very important question. Rather than label aging as a disease, I think it might prove more useful to strive to go beyond the “disease model” of medicine.

We have already seen this happen in other disciplines like psychology. The rise over the last decade of what is called “positive psychology” has legitimized the study of what makes people happy rather than just what causes mental illness.

You could draw an interesting parallel with longevity science. Medicine should not just be concerned with why people develop disease, but we should also be interested in the question of why some people can live to a 100 years old without developing disease. And so centenarians provide us with an excellent focal point for shifting the current medical paradigm.

And if we can convince the public that they and their children will not have to suffer the same diseases that ravaged their own parents and grandparents, then perhaps we can get the public seriously behind this science.