Geroscientist: a new holistic profession for an old reality

In this page, geroscience will be distinguished from biogerontology, its cousin discipline and a few other fields concerned with longevity (Section A). Thereafter, a more complete understanding of this new field as a holistic science will be broached. (Section B).

Section A

Distinction between a Geroscientist and a Biogerontologist

Geroscience is new field of study.  It is emerging as an interdisciplinary field of knowledge that aims to understand, at the molecular and holistic levels, the relationship between aging, age-related diseases and other conditions that diminish or increase human quality of life. The term “geroscience” was coined by Buck Institute for Research on Aging scientist Gordon J. Lithgow, in 2007. (1) This new field is both recognized and promoted by the National Institute of Health. (Source)

Biogerontology, on the other hand, is a sub-field of gerontology which is concerned with the biological aging process, its evolutionary origins, and potential means to intervene in the process.

While it does share common fields of analyses with geroscience, biogerontology focuses more on the molecular and biochemical causes of aging.

As for biomedical gerontology, also known as experimental gerontology and life extension, this field is a sub-discipline of biogerontology that endeavors to slow, prevent, and even reverse aging in both humans and animals. Most “life extensionists” believe the human life span can be increased within the next century, if not sooner. Biogerontologists vary in the degree to which they focus on the study of the aging process as a means of mitigating the diseases of aging or extending lifespan, although most agree that extension of lifespan will necessarily flow from reductions in age-related disease and frailty. On the other hand, some biogerontologists, the more conservtive ones,  argue that maximum life span cannot be altered or that it is undesirable to try.

In contrast with biogerontology, geriatrics studies the treatment of disease in aging people.

Conservative biogerontologists such as Leonard Hayflick have predicted that the human life expectancy will peak at about 92 years old  (2), while others such as James Vaupel have predicted that in industrialized countries, life expectancies will reach 100 for children born after the year 2000. (3). More audacious biogerontologists have predicted life expectancies of two or more centuries (4) while scientists like Aubrey de Grey wildly claims that that we have a fifty-fifty percent chance, “ to stop people from dying of aging at any age”, leading to life expectancies of 1,000 years. (5).

Section B

 Geroscience’s scope is vast, has a holistic prism to it and is centrally concerned with the challenge of Chronic Diseases

Geroscience research spans multiple disciplines including molecular biology, neuroscience, protein chemistry, cell biology, genetics, endocrinology, pharmacology, mathematics, and others. The common goal is to understand the role of aging in age-related loss of quality of life and susceptibility to disease Because aging is the major risk factor for most common chronic diseases, an understanding of the role of aging in the onset and progression of disease  opens up new avenues for disease prevention, amelioration, and cures. 

Age-related disease is arguably the single greatest threat to human health in the 21st century. Statistics from numerous sources highlight the fact that age-related diseases increasingly represent a true worldwide emergency: for example, by 2030 the national healthcare bill in the US is projected to reach four trillion dollars, with fully 50% of that being required for Americans 65 years and older (see statistics supplied by the National Institute on Aging and the Alliance for Aging Research). (6)

The traditional approach in biomedical research is to investigate single-diseases and conditions in isolation.

A more efficient approach would be investigating holistically the cause(s) of aging itself. Treating aging (the major risk factor for most chronic conditions) the way we currently approach other medical conditions such as hypertension (the major risk factor for CVD), holds the possibility of delaying or preventing many diseases and conditions of later life as a group, one consequence of which would help people to achieve longer lifespans.

Geroscience addresses a wide variety of disease states, including non-life-threatening conditions such as fatigability, resilience and frailty. As such, geroscience is broader in scope than traditional disciplines such as neurodegeneration, cancer biology, and geriatric medicine. It is also distinct from the traditional discipline of gerontology, which has large patient care and social sciences components.

Many human clinical trials have failed in part due to an incomplete picture of the nature of complex chronic diseases of the elderly. The biology of aging field has developed spectacularly over the last twenty-five years, yet the potential impact of these new findings has yet to be achieved.

In this perspective, the manipulation of longevity in simple laboratory animals by genetic modification or pharmacological interventions is now commonplace. (7) However, a central concept of geroscience is that multiple human diseases arise from a common cause: aging itself.

The Scientific Recognition Itinerary of Geroscience

Geroscience as a scientific discipline was recognized in the U.S. Senate Appropriations on the FY2010 Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Bill. (8) In addition, it was also recognized in the U.S. Senate Appropriations on the FY2010 Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Bill. (Source)  (9, 10) Furthermore, Geroscience was the organizing principle of the Interdisciplinary Research Consortium on Geroscience established at the Buck Institute. (11, 12). This Consortium was funded by the National Institutes of Health Common Fund. The IRC on Geroscience was also discussed in the Senate Report 110-527, one pertinent extract of which is as follows:

“The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Interdisciplinary Research Consortium in Geroscience fosters collaboration among biologists, biochemists, geneticists, physicians, physiologists, statisticians, and chemists that will help scientists to better understand age-related diseases and disorders. Examples include studies of the effects of diet on aging and why the aging brain recovers less easily from traumatic brain injury. (13) Furthermore, In 2011 the term “geroscience” was adopted by a trans-NIH team interested in the same concepts, the Geroscience Interest Group (GSIG). (14) GSIG works with NIH and external stakeholders to promote geroscience research through activities that include workshops, seminars, and publications.

The NIH, with support from the Alliance for Aging Research and the Gerontological Society of America, hosted “Advances in Geroscience: Impacts on Healthspan and Chronic Disease” on October 30–31, 2013. This scientific conference, which took place on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD, examined the extent to which the physiological effects of aging represent a common major risk factor for chronic diseases.. (15) A subsequent Summit, held in New York City under the auspices of the New York Academy of Sciences focused on the reverse side of the issue: attendees at the “Disease Drivers of Aging” meeting discussed how some chronic diseases and/or their treatments accelerate the aging process, thus rendering patients more vulnerable to additional diseases and ailments most commonly seen in elderly individuals. (16, 17).

Discussion and Conclusion

With the official definition of Geroscience mentioned above, which includes diet, we can advance the proposition that there is some progress in the NIH’s understanding of diseases, longevity and science. Out of 27 Institutes and Centers that have been established and that are presently governed by the NIH, there is not one that is devoted to nutrition, let alone holistic, Chinese, Ayurvedic and naturopathic medicine including dozens of other medical systems that are recognized by the World Health Organization. (18) Worse, the Government Research system seldomly focuses on the importance of nutrition in medicine. However, with the introduction of Geroscience in the HIH’s jurisdiction, there seems to be some scientific progress as one of Geroscience’s major focus is on the role of lifestyle factors and nutrition insofar as lifespans and chronic dieases are concerned.

Christian Joubert (HMI director)

References & Precision Notes

(1). Hayden, EC (2007). “A New Angle on “Old””. Nature. 450 (7170): 603–605.

(2). Watts G (June 2011). “Leonard Hayflick and the limits of ageing”Lancet377 (9783): 2075.

(3). Christensen, L; Doblhammer, K; Rau, G; Vaupel, JW (2009). “Ageing populations: the challenges ahead”Lancet374 (9696): 1196–1208. 

(4).  Richel, Theo (December 2003). “Will human life expectancy quadruple in the next hundred years? Sixty gerontologists say public debate on life extension is necessary”. J Anti-Aging Med6 (4): 309–314. 

(5).  De Grey, Aubrey D. N. J.; Rae, Michael (October 14, 2008). Ending Aging. St. Martin’s Griffin. p. 15. De Grey’s claim is “wild” because it appears quite speculative and wishful thinking like,  I have not seen any evidence that humans have a fifty fifty percent chance of reaching 1000 years within couple of decades.  

(6).  The Silver Book: Chronic Disease and Medical Innovation in an Aging Nation” (PDF). Alliance for Aging Research. Washington DC. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-26. 

(7). Molecular Biology of Aging (Cold Spring Harbor Monograph Series 51), Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; 1st edition (October 30, 2007).

(8). Hayden, EC (2007). “A New Angle on “Old””. Nature. 450 (7170): 603–605. doi:10.1038/450603a.

(9). FY2010 Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Bill. Senate Report 111-66, August 4th, 2009

(10). “Appropriation Bill, 2010 (H.R. 3293)” (PDF). Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies. 2009-08-04.

(11).  “Geroscience”. National Institutes of Health. 

(12). “Geroscience”. The Interdisciplinary Research Center on Geroscience. Archived from the original on 2013-06-12.

(13). “Recognition of Excellence in Aging Research Committee Report” (PDF). United States Senate. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-02-24.

(14). “SIGS: Geroscience Interest Group”. National Institutes of Health.

(15). “NIH to host October 2013 geroscience summit”. NIH National Institute on Aging. 2013-06-03.

(16).  Disease Drivers of Aging 2016 Advances in Geroscience Summit

(17).  Disease drivers of aging. The New York Academy of Sciences.

(18). The NIH did in 1999 established the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). But this appears to be more to debunk and discredit this field than to report it’s solid scientific backbone. For example, on detoxification, the Government’s experts mislead on the science of detoxification. “There isn’t any convincing evidence that detox or cleansing programs actually remove toxins from your body or improve your health”. (Source)   Furthermore, under there table of contents, there is nothing on nutrition or diet. (Source)

At its inception, this Center was called National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine”. Then with big pharma financed (i.e., regarind election campaigns) lawmaker, the Center was greatly underfunded and ceased for a while and now it changed its name to Complementary and Integrative Health….so from Medicine, we downgrade to “Health” and from Alternative, the Government experts attempt to integrate, seemingly to better control and manipulate consumers to stay away from holistic Lifestyle medicine and contiue with the Government’s failed “medicine”, as failed it is, the evidence is overwhelming, both in terms of Costs and in terms of ethics and science. (Source)

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