Bullish on Longevity

By Chris Mooney | August 6, 2010 12:13 pm

About seven years ago, I reported regularly on the science of longevity, and the prospect of human life extension, for a site called Sage Crossroads. And then I stopped—pretty much dropping the topic for a while and going on to other things.

So when I attended the Techonomy session yesterday entitled “The Longevity Dividend,” it was a perfect chance to hear just how far scientists think their field has come since I last reported on it closely. And I have to say, I was struck by the difference in tone.

Seven years ago, scientists who study aging—so-called biogerontologists—already thought it was possible or even likely that at some point in the future, we would find a way to retard its rate in humans. After all, there were already numerous studies showing that genetic interventions could lengthen the lifespan of other species, particularly mice and roundworms. And caloric restriction—reducing dietary intake by about 1/3—had also been shown to extend lifespan in a number of animal species. (That’s why some humans themselves are already trying it.)

So there were reasons to think that human life extension was coming—and more specifically, that a means of slowing the rate of human aging would be possible. But most mainstream scientists weren’t so bullish then. So optimistic. In particular, they were very worried about giving false hope, and encouraging anti-aging quackery.

I detected a different tone yesterday….read on


Comments (4)

  1. Sorbit

    I would recommend three new books on aging and longevity, all of which are readable: Jonathan Weiner’s “Long for this World”, Greg Critser’s “Eternity Soup” and Stupp’s “The Youth Pill”.

  2. @ Chris Mooney: Thanks for your post but did they report any news about the political progress of the longevity dividend at the Techonomy session because originally it was an intitiative of S. Jay Olshansky and other age researchers to get far more funding for their field from the U.S. Government!??

    (For the background see the last chapter ‘The Recommendation’ of the article ‘In Pursuit of the Longevity Dividend’ in The Scientist back from 2006: http://www.grg.org/resources/TheScientist.htm)

    Without this massive increase in funding I doubt that we will see such a 7 year pill any time soon.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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