Geroscience brings bench science to the real-world problems of aging



– Patients ask their doctors whether dietary manipulation can extend lifespan and promote healthy aging. Right now, basic scientists and clinicians from many disciplines are teaming up under the broad umbrella of the field of geroscience to try to answer these and other concerns relevant to an aging population.

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“The idea here is that, instead of going after each disease one at a time, as we do ... [we] instead go after disease vulnerability – and this is something that is shared, as a function of age,” Rozalyn Anderson, PhD, said of this new discipline. The work touches on disparate diseases such as cancer, dementia, and diabetes, she pointed out during a video interview at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

“I separate these things out into ‘front-end’ and ‘back-end,’ work,” said Dr. Anderson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s aging and caloric restriction program. She explained that the caloric restriction she researches is back-end work to support the rapidly evolving field of nutritional modulation of aging.

When the basic science builds the framework, physicians and scientists can turn to front-end research, looking at humans to see which dietary manipulations are effective – and which are achievable.

“Take a paradigm that works, and then try to understand how it works,” said Dr. Anderson. “So [for example], we have this paradigm, and it’s tremendously effective in rodents. It’s effective in flies, in worms, in yeast, in spiders, in dogs – and in nonhuman primates.” Then, she and her team try to pull out clues “about the biology of aging itself, and what creates disease vulnerability as a function of age,” she said.

“The most important thing of all is that we can modify aging. This is not a foregone conclusion – no one would have believed it. But even in a primate species, we can change how they age. And the way in which we change is through nutrition.”

Dr Anderson added that “the paradigm of caloric restriction is tremendously effective, but [in reality], people are not going to do it.” It’s simply not practical to ask individuals to restrict calories by 30% or more over a lifespan, so “things such as intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding come [into play] because they are achievable paradigms in normal human subjects.”

Dr. Anderson reported no relevant conflicts of interest or disclosures.

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