It’s a condition that kills millions all over the world. Some estimate it’s responsible for 100,000 deaths every day. It takes decades to show symptoms. It attacks the whole body, leaving no part unravaged. So what is this killer plague? Aging.
The natural process of aging is something most will eventually undergo, so much so that medical science consigns it to medical inevitability. More scientists and doctors are thinking otherwise, though, and as one medical expert writes in a recently published article in The Scientist, viewing aging as a disease that we can cure makes sense.
Dr. Mutaz Musa is a health-care consultant and a physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center. He contends that we should pathologize aging — view it as a physically abnormal condition that can be treated. The same way we treat the gradual build up of lipids and cholesterol to prevent heart problems, we should try to treat the subtle damage caused by aging.
Musa says that we actually already do this in a way. When doctors prescribe healthy diets, exercise, and medications to prevent or address heart problems, they are essentially trying to battle aging itself or at least delay the onset of its symptoms.
Musa is not alone in his view that aging is a disease that should be treated. In his article he cites Aubrey de Grey, a computer scientist and self-taught biologist and gerontologist who has also campaigned for aging to be treated as a pathologic disease. A recently launched startup, Unity Biotechnology, made headlines after securing millions in funding for research on diseases brought on by aging. In particular, it is looking for ways to stop the process of our cells aging and slowing down.
This added attention to what was long considered an inevitability means new discoveries directly linked to stopping or reversing aging are being made. Some new studies target particular proteins that play a role in cellular aging, while others involve the creation of compounds that compensate for the natural energy loss brought by aging. If this research and innovation continues, living a long, healthy life could mean something very different in the near future.