Members of the Geroscience Network have produced six manuscripts that map strategies for taking new drugs that target processes underlying aging into clinical trials. Researchers believe that these agents hold promise for treating multiple age-related diseases and disabilities. The articles have been published online in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.
The Geroscience Network was formed by James Kirkland, MD, PhD, director of the Mayo Clinic Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging; Steve Austad, PhD, a distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Nir Barzilai, MD, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. It consists of 18 academic aging centers, along with the participation of more than 100 investigators from across the U.S. and Europe. The network is funded by the National Institutes of Health.
“Aging is the largest risk factor for most chronic diseases, including stroke, heart disease, cancer, dementias, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, blindness and frailty,” said Kirkland. “Recent research suggests that aging may actually be a modifiable risk factor. The goal of our network’s collaborative efforts is to accelerate the pace of discovery in developing interventions to delay, prevent, or treat these conditions as a group, instead of one at a time.”
Kirkland is senior author on manuscripts that explore the challenges of developing these interventions:
The first manuscript summarizes discussions held at a 2014 Geroscience Network Retreat. While research efforts have successfully identified new drugs that extend lifespan in animals, the authors discuss the need to develop a consistent preclinical pipeline for drug development that focuses on best practices for drug discovery, development of lead compounds, translational preclinical biomarkers, funding and support for preclinical studies, and integration between researchers and clinicians.
In the second manuscript, Kirkland and others acknowledge that aging therapies may hold “great promise” for enhancing the health of a wide population, with clinical trials being a critical step for translating therapies from animals into humans. The manuscript is built on the outcomes of an international meeting funded through the National Institutes of Health R24 Geroscience Network.
The other manuscripts published are:
“Strategies and Challenges in Clinical Trials Targeting Human Aging”
“Resilience in Aging Mice”
“Evaluating Health Span in Preclinical Models of Aging and Disease: Guidelines, Challenges, and Opportunities for Geroscience”
“Moving Geroscience Into Uncharted Waters”
Felipe Sierra, PhD, director of the Division of Aging Biology at the National Institute on Aging and a member of the Geroscience Network, described the potential impact of aging discoveries in his manuscript, “Moving Geroscience into Uncharted Waters.”
“In addition to the direct health issues, it has been calculated that care for the elderly currently accounts for 43 percent of the total health care spending in the US, or approximately $1 trillion a year, and this number is expected to rise as baby boomers reach retirement age,” Sierra said. “Reducing these costs is critical for the survival of society as we know it, and a 2013 paper by Dana Goldman and colleagues calculated that a modest increase in lifespan and healthspan (2.2 years) could reduce those expenses by $7 trillion by 2050.”
Other authors in the manuscripts published in The Journals of Gerontology’s special issue are Jordan Miller, PhD, Shahrukh Hashmi, MD, and Michael Stout, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic; Jamie Justice, PhD, of the University of Colorado Boulder and Wake Forest School of Medicine; John Newman, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco; Jeffrey Halter, MD, of the University of Michigan; Steve Austad, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Nir Barzilai, MD, Derek Huffman, PhD, and Sofiya Milman, MD, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Christin Burd, PhD, of The Ohio State University; and Matthew Gill, PhD, Laura Niedernhofer, MD, PhD, and Paul Robbins, PhD, of The Scripps Research Institute.
“While significant work has already been accomplished, there is much more to be done as we focus on translating findings into practice,” said Kirkland. “The Geroscience Network is a collaborative way to overcome barriers and move us closer to our shared goal of increasing healthspan – the healthy, independent years of life for the elderly.”
In addition to Mayo Clinic, members of the Geroscience Network are the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, National Institute on Aging, The Scripps Research Institute, Stanford University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Arkansas, the University of Connecticut, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, the University of Southern California, the University of Washington, and Wake Forest University, as well as members from other institutions across the U.S. and Europe.