n birds, 1 stone

(Summary of a session of the same title presented by Joe Betts-LaCroix at SciFOO 2013)


  1. Most healthcare money treats age-related diseases. 
  2. Aging is the single biggest risk factor for these diseases. 
  3. But spending on the biochemistry of aging is less than 0.01% of healthcare spending and thus too low

Wouldn’t it increase total social good to increase this percentage, and accelerate efforts toward therapies to prevent age-related diseases? Join this discussion about why this blind spot exists, how to change it, and some of the recent exciting science in this domain.

Difficulty in this conversation can arise from confusion over the definition of “aging”.  Multiple biochemical processes contribute, so it’s really a collection, and not a single thing.  One characteristic is that the results of these processes build up over time, and only late in life spill over into pathologies, as you can see from this diagram:

aging graph

One can refer to the “underlying causes of age-related diseases” for now.

Back to the n birds, 1 stone thesis:  

Item (1) is well-known.  Comment below if you’d like references; about 90% of healthcare money is spent here.

On (2), many studies have show that single processes that degrade cellular systems give rise to multiple pathologies. e.g. cancer and aging genes (a), common genes (APOE) for Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration (b)(g)(h), Senescent cells cause immune disfunction, cancer, sarcopenia, etc. etc. (c) (d), inflammation causing numerous diseases (including neurodegeneration), and anti-inflammatories reducing them (e), etc., etc. Comment below if you need more examples of this.

But for (3) — the issues are around perception, tradition, incentives, regulation — how to unravel this?  This is where we need help.
a. Budovsky, et al. Common gene signature of cancer and longevity
b. http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/APOE
c. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23140366
d. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v479/n7372/full/nature10600.html
e. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23474627
f. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1474-9726.2008.00414.x/abstract
g. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22279548
h. http://www.pnas.org/content/107/suppl.1/1718.short

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