This presentation will focus on the emerging field of geroscience, an interdisciplinary field that aims to understand the relationship between the basic biology of aging and age-related diseases. Geroscience is “coming of age.” Originally coined by Gordon Lithgow, “geroscience” was just entered into Wikipedia in June of 2013. A central concept of geroscience is that multiple human diseases arise from a common cause, aging itself. Thus, slowing down the process of aging (as it has been done in animal models) represents a potentially fruitful approach to concurrently address and combat the many chronic conditions affecting the elderly.
Over the past few decades, researchers studying the biological underpinnings of the aging process have made impressive progress in understanding the genetics, biology and physiology of aging. As a result, basic research in animal models has demonstrated the plasticity of lifespan, with several genetic, behavioral and pharmacological means of extending lifespan in rodents and other model organisms. Most importantly, with some notable exceptions, extension of lifespan is accompanied by a significant delay in the appearance and progression of multiple morbidities, as well as a slowing in age-related functional decline. That is, slowing the aging processes leads to an increase in healthspan, the portion of life spent in good health.
This presentation will describe the development of the Geroscience Interest Group (GSIG), a collaborative effort across several NIH Institutes to support the development of new tools, models and paradigms that address the basic biological underpinnings of these multiple diseases. Originally conceived by Felipe Sierra, this NIH Interest Group has quickly become one of the largest such trans-NIH groups. By pooling resources and expertise, the GSIG identifies major cross-cutting areas of research and proposes coordinated approaches to identify hurdles and envision solutions to the health problems of our burgeoning elderly population. While most of the effort of the GSIG focuses on increasing awareness within and across the NIH, some activities are also open to the scientific community at large, and these will be discussed.