Extending Life: Scientific Prospects and Political Obstacles
Version of Record online: 12 AUG 2002
The Milbank Quarterly
Volume 80, Issue 1, pages 155–174, March 2002
How to Cite
Miller, R. A. (2002), Extending Life: Scientific Prospects and Political Obstacles. Milbank Quarterly, 80: 155–174. doi: 10.1111/1468-0009.00006
- Issue online: 6 JUN 2003
- Version of Record online: 12 AUG 2002
In the last two decades, biogerontologists have found that the pace of aging can be decelerated in mammals by dietary or genetic means. Though still largely unappreciated by the lay and scientific public alike, these discoveries belie the common assumption that human aging probably cannot be slowed and prompt the question of whether we can use our growing knowledge about aging to produce 90-year-old adults who are as healthy and active as today's 50-year-olds. This article explores three related issues: first, why discussions of antiaging medicines are no longer silly; next, why the development of antiaging strategies is making so little headway; and last, whether further work in this area would be worthwhile.
By “aging” I mean a process that converts healthy young adults into less healthy older ones with an increasing risk of illness and death. This definition, which seems fairly innocuous, is careful enough to be controversial, because there are many interesting areas of investigation—studies of childhood development; specific late-life diseases; death or proliferative ennui of cells in culture; leaf abscission; and time-dependent changes in the chemical composition of wines, cheeses, and bones—that are sometimes proposed in various combinations as worthy of gerontological attention and governmental funding.