Happy new 2018, a new year and new opportunities to do things! Setting aside the arbitrary fact of how we measure time, it is nevertheless important to reflect back on the past year!
During 2017 over 40 million people died world-wide of causes that would not have happened to them if they had been biologically less than 40 years old. I think it’s completely superfluous to add that this is unethical on all levels and will eventually go down in history books like the Black Death.
There are widespread worries about global risks in everything from politics to environment, however let’s look at the statistics as I like to point out: If you are a young person in your 20s or 30s living in the western world, and you don’t age but just carry out your normal daily life with all the normal risks, you are approximately expected to live 3000-5000 years, depending on country. Also there is a lot of improvement in living standards in the rest of the world, so most countries are heading for the same demographic problem.
So the world is a very safe place to be if you are biologically young!
During 2018 I will continue to follow the biomedical research that is ongoing, and I am co-organizing the Eurosymposium on Healthy Aging in Brussels in November of this year, to bring together researchers, investors, and other goal-oriented people active in the field of aging research.
Before that, in only 2.5 months, we have the Undoing Aging conference in Berlin, which is rapidly approaching starting on the 15th of March this year.
Now there are many other interesting conferences also, but these are at least the major ones I have in mind right now when writing, since I’m not in a position to attend everything (I wish I could).
During the upcoming years, we will see a vast market flourishing to try to repair aging damage in people and extend life; some will be purposeful deceits, other things will work great in mice but not in humans; moreover, there are therapies that will work but will have unacceptable side effects. Some discoveries will make great headlines and increase our understanding, perhaps even lead to a Nobel Prize, but be useless when it comes to any reasonably short-term applications. Media will continue to publish a lot of unspecific articles about “how you will live to 150” – simplifying science and creating hype and cult of personality. Some scientists will continue to pop up in media and spread false pessimism that nothing can be done about aging. But eventually what is going to happen is that translational medicine will continue to grow and generate an incremental improvement, what has been popularized as a “longevity escape velocity”, because here we have a complex problem which no single intervention will fix.
The question it all boils down to is, “How soon?” What can YOU do to have an impact here? How do we run clinical trials on the elderly while avoiding pitfalls that can easily hurt the field?
And here’s the thing I personally care about: there are a lot of scientists working on things that can be of use to combat pathologies and extend lifespan in the elderly, but they are themselves unaware of these applications! I’ve seen it so many times to my surprise. Is it due to archaic academic structures or a lack of transdisciplinary thinking? Nevertheless it’s an observation.
What 2018 brings remains unknown at this moment of writing, but I wish all of my friends to really make the best of it!
Victor Bjoerk has worked for the Gerontology Research Group, the Longevity Reporter, and the Fraunhofer-Institut für Zelltherapie und Immunologie. He has promoted awareness throughout Europe of emerging biomedical research and the efforts to reverse biological aging.