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Nearly everyone who does medical research works on one disease at a time: cancer, or AIDS, or Alzheimer’s, or what have you. One problem with this approach is that even dramatic success would do surprisingly little to improve human health: a complete cure for human cancer, for example, would extend average human lifespan by about 2.6 years, i.e. only about 3%. In contrast, biogerontologists have shown, over the last two decades, that fiddling with the basic mechanisms of aging can increase the lifespan of mice by up to 40%, i.e. about 10-fold the change you’d expect from a cancer cure in people. The healthy lifespan of mice can be increased dramatically by at least half a dozen genetic mutations, by at least two forms of dietary intervention, and more recently by at least two drugs. These discoveries refute the assumption, commonly held by most scientists and the lay public alike, that aging cannot be slowed.
Richard A. Miller, Professor of Pathology, University of Michigan Medical School, Richard Miller is a Professor of Pathology, University of Michigan Medical School Associate Director for Research, Geriatrics Center, University of Michigan Director, Nathan Shock Center in the Biology of Aging, University of Michigan