How close is medicine to an anti-aging pill? Can anti-aging therapies delay the onset of age-related degenerative diseases? What lifestyle choices can individuals make to prolong healthy lifespan?
These are some of the tantalizing questions that will be addressed in a lecture series for the public by leading scientists in the field of aging research entitled “Live Longer, Live Better.” The lecture series will be held Aug. 6 through 10 at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine (see also Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory).
The lecture series will address scientific breakthroughs on the horizon that will allow people to lead longer, healthier lives. The lecture series is part of a biomedical innovation course that attracts top scientists in these fields to the institution, which is a global leader in the study of aging and regeneration.
The 2018 course, Comparative and Experimental Approaches to Aging Biology Research, is a two-week intensive training research course with sponsors including Life Biosciences, the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research and the Gerontological Society of America.
“The public’s understanding of aging biology lags behind the extraordinary developments in the field,” said Kevin Strange, Ph.D., MDI Biological Laboratory president. “In this lecture series, top scientists from around the country will discuss advances that are expected to lead to new therapies to extend healthy lifespan.”
The average American lifespan has increased by about 30 years since 1900 – from about 50 to about 80. But health hasn’t kept pace: about two-thirds of older Americans suffer from multiple age-related degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson’s.
The development of sophisticated new tools that allow scientists to identify the cellular pathways that control aging is leading to new therapies to prolong healthy lifespan. Indeed, the first FDA-approved study of a drug therapy to treat aging as a modifiable condition is due to get underway soon.
Recent research, including studies at the MDI Biological Laboratory, is finding that the cellular pathways that control aging also regulate age-related degenerative diseases, raising the prospect that anti-aging therapies can extend the healthy, productive years of middle age right up until the end of life.
“Medicine has traditionally tackled degenerative diseases on a disease-by-disease basis,” said course director Aric Rogers, Ph.D. “But since the common risk factor is old age, an increased understanding of the biology of aging means that a single medicine may be able to address many of these diseases at once.”
The lectures will be held in Maren Auditorium on the institution’s Bar Harbor campus at 4 p.m. as follows:
David Sinclair, Ph.D.: “Why Reversing Aging is Easier Than Reversing Baldness” (Kinter Lecture, Monday, Aug. 6)
David Sinclair, Ph.D., a professor at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging, is known for his work on why we age and slowing aging’s effects. The goal of his work is to establish new biological approaches that can be translated into radically different medicines to promote longer, more productive lives. He is especially interested in how genetic and epigenetic changes drive aging, common diseases and disorders such as cancer, heart disease, inflammation, neurodegeneration, infertility and diabetes. Another interest is sirtuins, a family of proteins that is a key regulator of longevity. Sinclair is the co-founder of several biotech companies. He is also co-founder and co-chief editor of the journal Aging. His work has been featured in books and documentaries and on television shows, including “60 Minutes.” He is an inventor on more than 40 patents, has received more than 25 awards and was listed by TIME as one of the “100 most influential people in the world.”
Judith Campisi, Ph.D.: “Aging and Cancer: Rival Demons?” (Cserr Lecture, Thursday, Aug. 9)
Judith Campisi, Ph.D., is known for her contributions to an understanding of why age is the largest single risk factor for developing diseases ranging from cancer to neurodegeneration. Her research integrates the genetic, environmental and evolutionary forces that lead to aging and age-related diseases and identifies pathways that can be modified to mitigate basic aging processes.
Campisi has made significant contributions to understanding why aging is the largest single risk factor for cancer. She is widely recognized for her work on senescent cells — older cells that have stopped dividing — and their influence on aging and cancer. She joined the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as a senior scientist in 1991 and established a second laboratory at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in 2002. At both institutions, she has established a broad program to understand various aspects of aging, with an emphasis on the interface between cancer and aging.
Heinrich Jasper, Ph.D.: “Finding Rejuvenating Interventions: Immunity and Stem Cells” (Orkand Lecture, Friday, Aug. 10)
The research of international molecular biologist Heinrich Jasper, Ph.D., is focused on the age-related decline of stem cell function and regenerative potential. Stem cells are critical to the process of tissue regeneration. Jasper is interested in whether the aging process can be influenced by optimizing stem cell activity. A related avenue of investigation involves enhancing innate immune function to promote tissue repair and regeneration. The long-term goal of his research is the development of therapies to restore regenerative potential.
Jasper heads a laboratory in the Immunology Discovery group at Genentech, where he studies the pathways and processes involved in a wide range of age-related inflammatory and degenerative diseases. Genentech, a member of the Roche group, has been at the forefront of the biotech industry for more than 40 years. He is also a professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, where his current projects focus on the role of insulin and stress signaling pathways in the control of tissue regeneration, metabolic homeostasis and cell death.