Are dry wrinkled skin, hearing loss, arthritis, cataracts, dementia and the other traits associated with old age just a natural result of the body falling apart, or are they symptoms of a single underlying biological program? Recent research on aging suggests the latter. Old age and life span seem to be part of a genetically controlled biological program. Further, evidence suggests this process can be altered to change lifespans and ameliorate the effects of aging.
Dr. Linda Partridge has been a leader in uncovering the biological mechanisms controlling the aging process. She is a Founding Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Ageing in Germany and the Director of the Institute of Healthy Ageing at University College of London, maintaining active laboratories at both locations.
At the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) meeting earlier this week, I was fortunate to have a chance to talk with her about her research and hopes on how her and her colleagues work might improve healthcare. Her particular concern is the imminent health crises occurring in developed nations as a result of the rapidly aging populations in these countries.
As Dr. Partridge points out, age is the main risk factor for a host of diseases, notably, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and dementia. If these are related to a more fundamental biological aging program, it suggests there the possibility of a "broad spectrum preventative" to ameliorate age-related illness.
For more information about Dr. Partridge's research and her perspective on possibly curing age-related illness, take a look at the recently posted article, Sorting Out the Genetics of Aging.