Leading scientists identify research strategy for highly intertwined "pillars of aging" as next step in supporting the trans-NIH Geroscience Interest Group's efforts to integrate aging into research on chronic diseases

November 6, 2014 Scientists who have been successful in delaying mammalian aging with genetic, dietary and pharmacological approaches have developed a research strategy to expand Geroscience research directed at extending human healthspan. The strategy comes at a critical time, given the dramatic increase in the elderly population and a growing recognition that aging is the greatest risk factor for a majority of the chronic diseases that drive later-life disability and death. The strategy is set forth in a commentary published in the November 6th edition of Cell.

The scientists took part in the first summit of the NIH Geroscience Interest Group (GSIG) held last year on the NIH campus. The National Institutes of Health is made up of 27 different components called Institutes and Centers. Each has its own specific research agenda. The GSIG is aimed at promoting new pathways for collaboration, both within the NIH and with its funded researchers, specifically within the context of aging. The NIH was created and organized long before scientists began seriously exploring the possibility of altering the aging process.

“We have high hopes that our research strategy will help move collaborative efforts to the next level,” said Brian Kennedy, PhD, President and CEO of the Buck Institute and the lead author of the commentary. “What has come out of our work is a keen understanding that the factors driving aging are highly intertwined and that in order to extend healthspan we need an integrated approach to health and disease with the understanding that biological systems change with age.”

The “Pillars of Aging” and research goals are detailed in the following table:

Pillars of Aging Table

The group focused on a limited set of short-and intermediate-term scientific goals that would accelerate Geroscience and launch novel approaches to reduce the impact of the healthcare burden associated with the chronic diseases of aging. The scientists call for Geroscience to be merged with ongoing research on human chronic disease states; an expansion of interventions that extend lifespan and healthspan; an elaboration of environmental and random factors driving aging; an integration of human genetic and epigenetic studies with animal models; a comparison and contrast of inflammation in aging and disease; and the development of new animal models of aging.

“The trans-NIH GeroScience Interest Group (GSIG) and this Geroscience initiative hope to mobilize the research community about considering prevention of multiple age-related chronic conditions by targeting common mechanisms underlying these conditions, rather than improving the management of diseases one by one,” notes Felipe Sierra, Ph.D., Director of the Division of Aging Biology at the NIH’s National Institute on Aging.

“Our current approach to researching and treating chronic diseases is inadequate and fragmentary,” said Kennedy. “By the time chronic diseases are diagnosed, much damage is done and undoing it is difficult.” Pointing out that 46 percent of Medicare spending is for people with six or more chronic conditions, Kennedy added, “Targeting aging may allow early intervention and allow us to maintain vigor and activity, while offsetting the economic burdens of a burgeoning aging population hampered by multiple chronic diseases.”

Citation: Aging: a common driver of chronic diseases and a target for novel interventions
Cell, November 6, 2014

Additional authors include: Shelley L. Berger, Penn Epigenetics Program; Department of Cell and Developmental Biology; Department of Genetics and Department of Biology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Anne Brunet, Department of Genetics, Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA; Judith Campisi and Gordon J. Lithgow, Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Novato, CA USA; Ana Maria Cuervo, Department of Developmental and Molecular Biology, Institute for Aging Research, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, USA; Elissa S. Epel, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA; Claudio Franceschi, IRCCS Institute of Neurological Sciences of Bologna, Bellaria Hospital, Bologna, Italy, C.I.G., Interdepartmental Center ‘L. Galvani’ for Integrated Studies on Bioinformatics, Biophysics, and Biocomplexity, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy, DIMES, Department of Experimental, Diagnostic and Specialty Medicine, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy; Richard I. Morimoto, Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology, Rice Institute for Biomedical Research, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA; Jeffrey E. Pessin, Department of Medicine and Molecular Pharmacology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, USA; Thomas A. Rando, Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA, Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305; Center for Tissue Regeneration, Repair and Restoration, Veterans Administration Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA USA; Arlan Richardson, Donald W Reynolds Endowed Chair of Aging Research, Professor of Geriatric Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Science Center, Oklahoma City VA Medical Center, Oklahoma City, OK USA; Eric E. Schadt, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences and the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology, New York, NY USA; Tony Wyss-Coray, Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305; Center for Tissue Regeneration, Repair and Restoration, Veterans Administration Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA USA; and Felipe Sierra, Division of Aging Biology, National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, MD, USA

About the Buck Institute for Research on Aging

The Buck Institute is the U.S.’s first independent research organization devoted to Geroscience – focused on the connection between normal aging and chronic disease. Based in Novato, CA, The Buck is dedicated to extending “Healthspan”, the healthy years of human life and does so utilizing a unique interdisciplinary approach involving laboratories studying the mechanisms of aging and those focused on specific diseases. Buck scientists strive to discover new ways of detecting, preventing and treating age-related diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration, osteoporosis, diabetes and stroke.  In their collaborative research, they are supported by the most recent developments in genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics and stem cell technologies. For more information: www.thebuck.org

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