Aging as a new therapeutic frontier: a call for collaboration

Could looking at aging in a new way be key to the development of therapeutics for a wide range of age-related disorders? Authors of a recent report into aging as a new ‘therapeutic frontier’ certainly believe so.

The 35th US President, John F Kennedy famously used the term “new frontier” in his acceptance speech in the 1960 presidential election. He said: “We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier,” as he looked ahead to the start of his presidential term along with a new decade. We’ll spare you any moonshot parallels.

Longevity.Technology: Could it be that we are now standing on the edge of a different kind of new frontier in 2020 as the world looks ahead to another new decade, potentially one of the most disruptive in modern history? Is it possible that by approaching aging in a new way we stand on the edge of a new therapeutic frontier?

There are many differing opinions and theories about aging and there are many different ways to age. The World Health Organisation (WHO) points out that changes associated with aging are “neither linear nor consistent, and they are only loosely associated with a person’s age in years,” adding: “While some 70-year-olds enjoy extremely good health and functioning, other 70-year-olds are frail and require significant help from others.” [1]

However, a recent paper, Aging: therapeutics for a healthy future, published in the Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews journal suggests that looking at therapies in a different way: by approaching aging as a target, could lead to a longer healthspan for a greater percentage of the world’s aging population.[2]

“We are at an exciting juncture where the realities of anti-aging therapies are upon us … thinking in the context of a systemic impact as we age provides wholly new opportunities …”

The study accepts that a “golden bullet” single drug to impact biological aging may not be a realistic scenario. However, where there are common underlying mechanisms at play, such as cellular senescence, it could be that a single therapeutic could be effective in halting, or delaying, a wide range of age-related disorders. 

Longevity.Technology has reported on a number of trials, studies and initiatives designed to develop a wide-use therapy to delay the aging process. For example, a new company SENISCA, based out of the University of Essex, has demonstrated that cells can be brought out of senescence and rejuvenated for aesthetic and health reasons. And only yesterday we reported on a positive senolytic trial update from a team at the Mayo Clinic.

Authors of the new report certainly believe that studies like this, and many more, mean we are living in exciting times for the development of anti-aging therapies. “We are at an exciting juncture where the realities of anti-aging therapies are upon us, and discussing how we can practically advance such approaches is a necessity. 

“Even though a majority of research and therapeutic development focuses on individual domains such as neuroscience or behavior alone, thinking in the context of a systemic impact as we age provides wholly new opportunities, not only to tackle neurological disorders, but a spectrum of age-related ailments.” 

However, their study also points out that in order for this approach to be a success, multiple disciplines, perspectives and constituents in the field of aging will need to come together with a shared vision and aims. The worlds of academia, industry, funding and regulation will need to collaborate to navigate the challenges of science, translation, economics and regulation in order to develop wide-use anti-aging therapeutics and to bring them to market.

For example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently requires that clinical trial endpoints should be related specifically to impacting health and quality of life rather than changing biomarkers. Gary Hudson, co-founder of Oisin Biotechnologies, which is looking at the development of several age-related therapies by removing senescent cells, has previously spoken to Longevity.Technology about the dilemma faced by any company that wishes to attack aging as a disease

Only through new thinking and further collaboration can the potential of modifying aging processes be realised in a way which is transformative for medicine and patients. “This collaborative approach,” say authors, “must be triggered so that quality of life for all can be improved in the near future.”  


Image credit: Gerd AltmannPixabay