Geroscience – Longevity and the COVID-19 upside

New paper examines using a geroscience approach, both in terms of fighting COVID-19 and towards a wider Longevity framework.

Geroscience is all about understanding the basic biology of aging and using this knowledge to develop therapies that treat multiple (age-related) chronic diseases at the same time. By targeting the biology of aging, the onset of multiple age-related diseases can be delayed.

Longevity.Technology: Hallmarks of aging have been established, their interconnectivity is beginning to be exploited and science is realising that tackling multimorbidity must lie at the heart of delaying aging. As the research world throws everything it has into the fight against COVID-19 and the health effects of a global pandemic, we should still appreciate that there will be significant benefits for Longevity, as geroscience makes huge strides in understanding the science of aging.

A paper published in Aging and Disease has thrown a spotlight on the need for a geroscience approach to tackle COVID-19.

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Healthspan and morbidity explainer: manage the onset of diseases; live longer and healthier; bow-out in style

The statistics make it clear: older adults are most vulnerable to hospitalisation, disability and death following C19 infection [1]. Therefore, if degenerative aging processes are the main risk factors, addressing them therapeutically should be a measure in fighting C19.

These therapies would also be important in tackling future infections, epidemics and pandemics, as well as helping to mitigate the strain on health services and and an economy burdened by an aging population. Age is the greatest risk factor for nearly every major cause of mortality in the developed world; for example, the risk of death from pneumonia increases approximately 1000 fold between ages 25 to 85 [2].

Targeting one hallmark of aging has a knock-on benefit for at least one of the others [3] and research has already shown that therapeutically addressing these hallmarks with new or repurposed drugs and with genetic tools can significantly increase both lifespan and healthspan [4]. The paper discusses the need for geroprotectors, such as metformin and mTor inhibitors, which are in clinical trials for this purpose at the moment.

The paper makes the point that: “Ongoing basic research on geroscience will produce a ‘pipeline’ into a whole raft of novel compounds that are being developed by biotech around the world. This may provide new insights into how we can modify the aging process and boost our immune response, perhaps even improving the performance of a vaccine for COVID-19 whenever it becomes available [5].”
Jim Mellon, chair and founder of Juvenescence
As Jim Mellon told us in this exclusive video interview: there is significant commercial opportunity in vaccine development and the market momentum or geroscience.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it apparent to the wider community that it is vital to prevent age-related multimorbidity and improve the healthspan of our aging population. Having biomarker consensus would assist with assessing aging and frailty status and tackling aging effectively.

“Research has shown that it is possible to treat aging as if it were a disease and so preserve youthful health.”

Appreciating multimorbidity is key when designing trials. The paper agrees: “The role of multimorbidities and interactions across diseases as synergistically affecting the outcomes should be addressed not only in retrospective analysis, but also when designing new experimental studies [6].”

If we're going to find robust solutions for aging, we may need more than mouse models — argues the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Dr Steven Austad.
Professor Steve Austad: Disparities in severe and fatal COVID-19 cases has focused the world’s attention like never before on how aging compromises every aspect of human health …

Professor Steve Austad, one of the paper’s lead authors, told Longevity.Technology: “The extreme age-associated disparities in severe and fatal COVID-19 cases has focused the world’s attention like never before on how aging compromises every aspect of human health. Research has shown that it is possible to treat aging as if it were a disease and so preserve youthful health. I hope focus on COVID catalyzes investment in geroscience, moving our successes in laboratory animals into human trials as quickly as possible.”

We feel this paper makes the case for geroscience, both in terms of its benefit for C19 and Longevity, eloquently and persuasively. As the authors sum up: “one of the most important lessons to be learned from this pandemic, is the need to therapeutically address degenerative aging processes to prevent aging-related ill health as a whole.

“This understanding should translate to public health and research policies supportive of geroscience research, development and clinical application, improving the funding, incentives, education and institutional support for the field. With sufficient support and deployment, the preventive geroscience approach may help avoid or mitigate the effects of this and current devastating pandemics of aging-related ill health, presently and for the future [7].”

[5], [6] & [7]