Science is closing in on the frailties of old age (FT)

Always good to see longevity science being covered in the major press:

Research is finding ways to extend animal lifespans but regulators are still wary of treating ageing as a disease

Do you fancy becoming immortal? Me neither. Silicon Valley titans who lust after “escape velocity from death” leave me cold. But most of us would love to stay younger for longer — preferably without Botox. A stream of breakthroughs suggests that the science of ageing is now at an inflection point. Already, our perceptions of old age are changing. People who packed out concert halls in their youth to hear the Beatles sing “will you still need me . . . when I’m 64?” now think that old age starts at 74. According to a big German study, those in middle or older age today have an elevated idea of “old” compared to previous generations. This mirrors increases in life expectancy, especially for the better-off half of the population in rich countries. The big prize now is to improve the final decade for everyone — rich and poor. Few of us want to live forever, even if it was on offer; but we’d give a great deal to avoid a grim descent into the twilight zone of crippling frailty. Ever since I interviewed scientists for a book about ageing, I am regularly asked for my advice on what substances to take, including “off-label”. Everyone wants a longevity short-cut. American men in high-powered jobs are especially keen to experiment with products, including supplements, which are available in the US not Europe. I myself am taking one of them, with no visible results — but then they wouldn’t be visible.

Some teams are experimenting with drugs that are already prescribed to humans. Rapamycin, an immunosuppressant used in human transplant operations, has been shown to significantly extend the lives of mice, including very old ones. It seems to work by suppressing the mTOR complex, a set of genes that regulate metabolism. Meanwhile, a trial is looking at whether metformin, commonly prescribed for type 2 diabetes, might delay the development of other chronic diseases. Studies have found a correlation between metformin and delaying cancer, for example, but causation is not yet proven, nor has metformin been tested on healthy, non-diabetic older people.

Full story: Science is closing in on the frailties of old age


Camilla is a good journalist who I have done some work with in the past. She is also a member of the UK House of Lords (a form of mainly appointed, but partially hereditary second chamber like the US Senate, but without elections - or at least without elections beyond the hereditary peers.)

She has written other pieces in this subject area.