How do we define old age? Why do some people lead healthy, productive lives well into old age, while others age prematurely? What can research in animals tell us about extending healthy human lifespan? What steps can individuals take to prolong their lifespans? MDI Biological Laboratory post-doctoral fellow Jarod Rollins, Ph.D., will discuss these and other intriguing questions in aging science at this café.
The development of sophisticated tools and technologies has given scientists an increased understanding of the mechanisms underlying aging. Since aging is the top risk factor for most major diseases, this newfound understanding raises the prospect that new therapies can be developed that prolong healthy lifespan while also delaying the onset of most major diseases.
“In the last 20 years, there’s been a revolution in our understanding of aging,” Rollins said. “Scientists are now able to peer into the complex molecular machinery that regulates lifespan in ways that were previously impossible. As a result, we are closing in a cure not only for aging, but for age-related degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, heart disease and Parkinson’s.”
But in order for scientists to study aging effectively, Rollins notes, protocols need to be established to ensure that scientists are “on the same page.” For instance, in order for aging to be the target of future drug therapies, aging needs to be approved by the FDA as an “indication.” In particular, Rollins will talk about the role of the upcoming TAME (Targeting Aging with Metformin) study in establishing such protocols.
The TAME study, to which the FDA gave the go-ahead last year, will be the first clinical study of a drug, metformin, that specifically targets human aging. The TAME study is important because of the role it will play in helping to legitimize aging as a target for drug development. But it is just one of many studies of potential anti-aging therapies that are expected to move into clinical trials in the coming years.
Rollins’ talk will also include the role played by MDI Biological Laboratory scientists in the revolution in aging research. Using the tiny roundworm — an important animal model in aging research because its short lifespan allows scientists to quickly assess the effects of an intervention — these scientists are making discoveries that may one day be used to develop new drugs to prolong healthy human lifespan.
Finally, he will discuss how the quest for effective anti-aging products and therapies is becoming a big business — Google co-founder Sergei Brin and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel have both jumped onto the anti-aging bandwagon, as has J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., who is known for sequencing the human genome. He will also discuss how consumers can separate hype from the legitimate advances in this rapidly developing field.
For your convenience, you may preregister for this event.
MDI Science Cafés are offered through the MDI Biological Laboratory in fulfillment of its mission to promote scientific literacy and increase public engagement with science. The popular events offer a chance to hear directly from scientists about the latest research trends. Short presentations delivered in everyday language are followed by lively, informal discussion.