Monday, January 26, 2009

60 Minutes Report on Anti-Aging Pill

The wealth and prosperity of a nation is only as strong as its citizens are healthy. The history of humanity is a history of civilizations ravaged by diseases of one kind or another; diseases that took the lives of loved ones prematurely and robbed society of productive individuals who could have helped generate more knowledge and wealth.

Whether it be the "Black Plague", small pox, malaria, cancer or heart disease, human populations are susceptible to a diverse array of chronic and infectious diseases that threaten both the lives of individuals and the prosperity of nations. And so it is imperative that we think rationally about how we can best respond to these diverse threats to our health and survival. We need accurate data concerning the probable risks of disease facing the world's populations this century and an open mind about the potential strategies for dealing with these threats.

The greatest threat facing the world's existing 6.7+ billion population are the chronic diseases associated with aging. In the year 2005, approximately 55 million people died. Of that number, 35 million died of chronic disease. That number is twice the number of deaths due to infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria), maternal and perinatal conditions, and nutritional deficiencies combined. 35 million deaths a year dwarf the estimated deaths caused by climate change-- approximately 150 000 deaths.

So the current rate of cellular and molecular damage caused by aging kills approximately 230% more humans than the temperature rises experienced since the 1970's. Furthermore, the death toll of aging will continue to outstrip that associated with climate change given that the world's populations continue to age, with a projected 2 billion people expected to reach the age of 60 in 2050. Furthermore, numerous experiments have been conducted on various organisms that demonstrate the aging can be decelerated. So the science of modifying the biology of aging is much, much further ahead than the science of modifying the global temperature (indeed there is no science of the latter). And this is a good thing as the benefits of the former will far surpass the benefits of the latter (and only cost a fraction of the latter).

Given all this, one might expect governments to be showering scientists with huge grants to tackle aging, and that researchers would be eager to cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries to help make the discipline of applied gerontology a reality. And you might also think that there would be a booming "grass roots" movement among the general population championing the importance of utilizing science to help aging populations enjoy more health. Sadly, none of this is the case.

If we really want to significantly improve the health prospects of the majority of humans alive today, and if we really want to help prevent the most prevalent diseases of the 21st century, and if we really want to invest in the economy of the future then we must get behind aging research.

Last night 60 Minutes aired this excellent video on the advances being made with resveratrol and similar sirtuin activating compounds.