Academic journal article Generations

Introduction

Academic journal article Generations

Introduction

Article excerpt

Modern biological science is at an incredibly exciting crossroad. On the one hand, we have at our disposal new and enormously powerful tools that have come to us from molecular biology and molecular genetics. These tools offer us the possibility to understand and even effect basic changes in the biology ofliving beings. Such changes have the potential to improve the life and health of most human beings. This science, however, is seen by many as enormously dangerous.

The arrogance it takes to contemplate changing the biology (altering the genome) of living creatures may not always be accompanied by the wisdom and humanity needed to choose wisely Indeed, a significant portion of our population believes that any research in this direction is misguided. Discussions ofwhat is genuinely scientifically desirable are rarely well presented in the popular media. Promises about dramatic increases in human lifespan, the eradication of age-related disease, and the achievement of healthy old age for everyone are usually counrerpoised with horrific projections ofa society bankrupted by "greedy geezers"

Aging is clearly a complex, multifactorial process. Individuals age differently Many 9o-yearolds exhibit a better agingrelated healthspan and are more active than younger individuals. Genetically identical animals, reared in controlled environments, also exhibit very different mortality. Only a small number live to the "maximum" lifespan of the species. The big question is, Why are the differences in mortality and health so large for mice or men? In this issue of Generations, we have a chapter that addresses this important question. We have also attempted to highlight areas of aging research that we believe offer the greatest promise for improving the healthspan of the elderly The population of aging individuals continues to grow in our society, and we have included chapters that address the policy and ethical issues that result from this growth.

Since aging is so complicated, scientists have attempted to design simpler model systems with which to pursue such studies. …

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