In the 1920s demographers confidently asserted that average life span would peak at 65 ‘without intervention of radical innovations or fantastic evolutionary change in our physiological make-up’. In 1990 they predicted life expectancy ‘should not exceed … 35 years at age 50 unless major breakthroughs occur in controlling the fundamental rate of ageing’. Within just five years both predictions were proved wrong.
Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist
Nowadays, the average life expectancy continues to move upwards worldwide, and the healthy life span has increased by about ten years since the 1950s. These days, “people are not only spending a long time living, but a shorter time dying,” but we still know very little about aging.
At present, there is no general picture of aging processes whatsoever. Many studies have investigated certain aspects of aging, but they are relatively narrow and fragmentary.
Let’s take, for example, research of expression of a specific protein. Some level of understanding might be reached of how this protein participates in the cell processes related to aging. However, very often, we are still in the dark whether the increased or decreased level of expression of this protein in the cells triggers aging, or it is a result of aging. Another example is that we cannot tell if sugar overconsumption leads to aging or aging leads to sugar overconsumption.
Aging is a very complicated issue. More than one gene and more than one process are responsible for it. To get a full and clear picture of aging mechanisms and create a system model of their interplay we need to study many correlated processes that occur in cells and tissues altogether and measure whatever is possible in different physiological systems on a large number of people.
Our vision is that a global Human Aging Project should be launched to collect and analyze all available data to achieve a comprehensive knowledge of aging processes.
It should work similarly to the Human Genome Project in which many scientists and organizations were engaged and whose results changed the tenets of biology forever. Likewise, there is cancer research in the last decades where scientists already understand a lot about how a cell becomes cancerous, what changes it undergoes, what processes are relevant, and how we could interfere to stop cancer.
In aging research, something has been done so far by governmental institutions and private companies’ efforts. However, we are still far away from a global Human Aging Project and an international database for achieved results. Although the problem is already overdue, the scientific community and potential investors have not joined their efforts to launch such a vital and essential global project.
Through a series of pilot projects followed by a call for grant applications, we aim