Aging lies at the root of most human death and chronic disease yet its study is woefully underprioritized.
Senescence is the most prolific killer of the modern world. In developed nations, 90% of all deaths are caused by age-related diseases. Occurrences of dementia, heart disease, and cancer increase exponentially with age. Prior to death, old age steals away health and happiness. Loss of muscle and bone. Blindness and deafness. Cognitive decline. Depression and suicide. In the words of Philip Roth (d. 2018, congestive heart failure): “Old age isn’t a battle; old age is a massacre.”
Modern medicine continually fights against individual age-related diseases and society spends trillions of dollars on research, therapy, and care. However, the underlying mechanisms of aging are far from being fully understood. Historically, aging has been considered inevitable and outside the scope of medicine. Today, thanks to the relentless efforts of the geroscience community, these attitudes have begun to change.
We live in a new dawn of longevity and rejuvenation science. Despite only receiving a small portion of the NIH budget, the last decade has produced numerous breakthroughs in both basic research and potential therapies. Experiments have extended the health and lifespans of mice and other model organisms dramatically, and there is reason to hope that these gains may be extended to humans in the not-so-distant future. Pragmatists see a promising new approach to unburden the healthcare system. Futurists imagine prolonging healthy lifespans beyond anything previously possible.
Fundamental work remains. The institutional gap that exists in-between basic research and biotech prevents efficient progress. On the academic end of the spectrum, most studies are small-scale and hypothesis driven. On the pharmaceutical and biotech industry end, drugs targeting putative aging mechanisms have recently entered development, each a big bet on one compound or another. However, the fundamentals of longevity remain underinvested in at the level of data, infrastructure and tools. The field lacks comprehensive, systematic data that will provide critical insights into the mechanisms of aging.
The Astera Institute aims to benefit the aging-science community by promoting essential research that paints a fuller, more robust picture of the aging process and by supporting the next generation of longevity scientists.