Heath and Aging

Biology of Aging

THE PROMISE OF RESEARCH: Past, Present, and Future

So, in the end, what causes aging? Clearly this question has fascinated medical researchers, philosophers, anthropologists, and the general public for centuries. This booklet offers you just a glimpse of the journey to understand the science of aging.

In a sense, we are all aging experts—every day we get older. It’s true that most of us cannot explain what’s happening under the microscope, but the little girl can still be curious about her vivacious grandmother without knowing that the grandmother’s good health may be a sign of what to expect during her own golden years. And, the man in middle age can know that he looks and feels better when making healthy food choices and staying physically active without understanding the intricacies of metabolism and biological stress. Aging is part of us, it’s part of life.

As the field of gerontology matures, scientists will continue to learn about what happens deep inside our bodies during our passage from child to older adult. Experiments involving animal models that on the surface seem so different from us—yeast, fruit flies, worms, and mice—will yield insights into aspects of aging that could one day lead to important clinical, pharmacological, or behavioral interventions for humans.

What is the future of biology of aging research? It is not likely that we will see a modern-day fountain of youth, that mythical elixir promised to restore people to their younger selves. But research may very well offer us the means to a healthier, longer life. And, with that, we may have the opportunity to spend more time with our loved ones, the opportunity to meet our great-great-grandchildren, and the opportunity to enjoy more life experiences.

Publication Date: November 2011
Page Last Updated: January 25, 2012