by Carmen Heredia Rodriguez
Kaiser Health News
Do people get disease from aging or are certain aspects of aging caused by disease? This is one of the central questions of geroscience, an emerging field in aging research. The question is explored and elaborated on in a special issue of the Journals of Gerontology: Series A – Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, published online. Six papers by researchers working at or funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, present the opportunities and challenges of moving this multidisciplinary approach forward.
"These papers are a testament to the concentrated and collaborative work of several distinguished scientists," said NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. "We have long been challenged by the interaction of aging and chronic disease. This series of papers points to important ways we can integrate our thinking and approach toward aging and disease."
Geroscience seeks to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms responsible for aging being a major risk factor and driver of common chronic conditions and diseases of older people. While aging itself is not a disease, the aging process represents a major risk factor for a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, many cancers, arthritis, and frailty, among many others. The goal of geroscience is to increase the years of healthy life – the healthspan – rather than simply lifespan.
"We hope that research in this area will ultimately translate the findings about aging biology into clinical interventions," said Felipe Sierra, Ph.D., director of NIA's Division of Aging Biology. "For example, we know some of the risk factors specific to cardiovascular disease and we have interventions to modify and reduce those risk factors. But a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease is aging, and we hope to identify specific risk factors that derive from the process of aging, so we can develop interventions against them."
The NIA-funded Geroscience Network is a national interdisciplinary network of aging centers whose goal is to understand and exploit links between aging and genesis of chronic disease. The papers in the special issue describe the work of the Geroscience Network, produced through a series of meetings and workshops over two years and can be read at https://www.geron.org/