Programmed aging refers to the idea that humans and most other species possess biological mechanisms or programs that purposely limit their internally determined lifespans in order to obtain an evolutionary advantage. Until recently programmed aging was widely considered scientifically ridiculous because it directly contradicted Darwin’s survival of the fittest concept and many health professionals still reject programmed aging. However, recent developments in theoretical gerontology support programmed aging. See: Why programmed aging seems “nuts” but is now the best science on aging.
Modern programmed aging theories and earlier non-programmed theories point medical researchers in very different directions. Non-programmed theories suggest that attempts to treat or prevent age-related diseases and conditions like heart disease and cancer must be separately devised for each disease or condition. Aging, per se, is an untreatable condition. Non-programmed theories also largely consider non-mammals to be irrelevant to human aging.
Programmed theories suggest that, in addition, aging is itself a treatable condition and that therefore anti-agents agents and protocols can be found that generally delay aging by interfering with the aging program. Because they consider lifespan regulation to be a very general evolutionary need they suggest that aging mechanisms in simple organisms like worms or yeast may be relevant to human aging. Mammals may have inherited elements of their aging mechanisms from distant ancestors.
Substantially funded medical research efforts based on programmed aging are now underway. Here is a summary of some of these efforts.
The Google Calico Aging Research Company is performing medical research based on programmed aging concepts. Calico has partnered with pharmaceutical giant AbbVie in a joint effort funded at $1.5 billion. Leading programmed aging experimentalist Cynthia Kenyon is Vice President for aging research at Calico. Kenyon was formerly Chief of a laboratory at the University of California San Francisco that performs programmed aging research
The U.S. National Institutes of Health/ National Institute on Aging (NIH/NIA) is operating an Interventions Testing Program for testing proposed anti-aging agents in mice.
Dean V. P. Skulachev at Moscow State University in Russia is directing a research program based on programmed aging. This activity includes human clinical trials and has resulted in at least one pharmaceutical product.
If aging is the result of a biological program like the reproduction program or growth program it presumably involves blood signals (e.g. hormones) that coordinate the aging process in various tissues and systems. Prof. Harold Katcher at the University of Maryland has proposed that Heterochronic Plasma Exchange (HPE) could be used to study the aging program in humans and other mammals and might form the basis of an anti-aging treatment. The company Turritopsis Corp. has been founded to carry out this activity.
The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine claims 26,000 physician and researcher members and conducts conferences and educational activities. Its existence suggests gradually increasing acceptance of anti-aging medicine (and research) in the medical community.
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