Although we do not know everything about aging, we now know enough to start its pharmacologic suppression using clinically approved drugs. Aging turns out to be driven by sensing-signaling pathways (such as the mTOR pathway). Given that some inhibitors of the mTOR pathway are already in clinical use, there is a unique opportunity to suppress aging, while treating and preventing diseases. By itself this will answer some burning questions in gerontology. Here I discuss a proposal, starting from retrospective clinical studies to animal and cellular models to drug screens in order to develop non-toxic and effective schedules and drug combinations for extending healthy life span in our lifetime.
Healthy life span is rapidly increasing and human aging seems to be postponed. As recently exclaimed in Nature, these findings are so perplexing that they can be dubbed the ‘longevity riddle’. To explain current increase in longevity, I discuss that certain genetic variants such as hyper-active mTOR (mTarget of Rapamycin) may increase survival early in life at the expense of accelerated aging. In other words, robustness and fast aging may be associated and slow-aging individuals died prematurely in the past. Therefore, until recently, mostly fast-aging individuals managed to survive into old age. The progress of civilization (especially 60 years ago) allowed slow-aging individuals to survive until old age, emerging as healthy centenarians now. I discuss why slow aging is manifested as postponed (healthy) aging, why the rate of deterioration is independent from aging and also entertain hypothetical use of rapamycin in different eras as well as the future of human longevity.
The progress of medicine 60-100 years ago (in prevention and treatment of non-age-related diseases) allowed slow-aging individuals to survive long enough to die from late onset age-related diseases (in other words to die from postponed aging). Civilization increased a proportion of slow-aging persons among the elderly, without actually slowing the aging process. Rapamycin will be used to slow down aging itself, further extending healthy lifespan. The extent of lifespan extension will depend on the future discoveries. And future discoveries are predictably unpredictable