A third geroscience summit on the horizon
I’m very pleased to report that only seven short years after taking our first steps in geroscience, we’re now ready to expand the reach of the field into new areas with a third Summit on Geroscience. While the concept of geroscience—seeking to understand the genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms that make aging a major risk factor and driver of common chronic conditions and diseases of older people—has been well accepted within the aging biology research community, the goal of the upcoming Summit is to extend our reach into new areas of scientific endeavor and to involve new participants, including disease advocates and policymakers.
The Summit will take place on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland on November 4–5, 2019. You may recall that this past May, I wrote a blog post asking for your input on topics to feature at the Summit. That post described a Request for Information (RFI) which asked for input on the focus of the Summit. The response was fantastic. Thanks to those of you who responded and to the advocates who helped us disseminate the request. In fact, we received more than 70 written responses, in addition to numerous papers, PowerPoint presentations and other supporting documents. As we hoped, we heard from active researchers in aging biology, along with many disease-focused organizations, several of which expressed their interest in helping NIH with planning and outreach activities.
An unexpected response
We expected that we’d hear from individuals working on cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease and other life-threatening conditions. And, we did hear from those groups. But we also heard loud and clear that there are many other areas in which we can focus our attention. In fact, the topics that received the most interest from the respondents were musculoskeletal diseases and oral health. Each of these topics received two to three times more attention than the diseases mentioned above.
As a result of the RFI responses and discussions among staff from several NIH Institutes, we chose to devote some time and attention to conditions that—while not identified as major causes of death—nevertheless have significant effects on quality of life in older people.
An agenda emerges
Based on this feedback, we’ve developed a preliminary Summit agenda. We plan to start by discussing the general concepts and recent advances in geroscience so that everyone is on the same page. Then we’ll have several sessions covering a variety of topics:
- Three sessions devoted to particular diseases, covering the major killers: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and COPD.
- A session on musculoskeletal diseases and neurodegeneration, followed by another session on diseases of the senses, focusing mainly on hearing and vision. These conditions are not usually considered as major causes of death, but their importance is significant in terms of decreased quality of life.
- Two sessions on age-related conditions not recognized as actual diseases, including oral health, sleep, pain, frailty, and fatigability.
The final Summit session will explore the regulatory issues that we must consider as we strive to bring the concepts of geroscience to the clinic and to older patients.
Again, I’d like to thank everyone who provided input on discussion topics. With your help, I believe we have a truly interesting and relevant Summit planned for next year. In the meantime, mark your calendars and keep an eye out for details in the months ahead.