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A third geroscience summit on the horizon

Felipe SIERRA [Former NIA Staff],
Division of Aging Biology (DAB).

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.


Submitted by Chor S Khoo on October 17, 2018

if the session on oral health can also include taste and smell decline with aging this will be much needed. The role oral microbiome plays in taste and smell has not been well studied.
Another area for consideration is Food intake assessment in elderly and disable sunjects. Current methods for food intake assessment does not apply well to sibjects with disability.

Submitted by Peg Graham on October 17, 2018

Really appreciate that your process allowed musculoskeletal to bubble up as an issue of concern. As a family caregiver for someone who aged with post-polio syndrome, I can speak from experience that the impact of mobility-related disability has been under-appreciated for far too long. My family took on the challenge of pursuing improvements in toileting options, knowing from hard experience that the daily, multiple need for assistance with this particular ADL is particularly challenging.

So in addition to the underlying science of the musculoskeletal conditions, PLEASE include the need to better understand the role of equipment design in mitigating the need for personal assistance by promoting FUNCTIONAL INDEPENDENCE. For a real world example, please see We hope that NIH will open up research opportunities for family caregiver advocates who are working hard to address "aging in place" challenges that cut across conditions.

Support for this request can be found in the work of Vicki Freedman at

Respectfully, Peg Graham, MBA, MPH

Submitted by LEONARD HAYFLICK on October 17, 2018

When will the NIA recognize that little, or close to no, effort is expended by their leadership to encourage research on the fundamental biology of the etiology of aging? All of the age associated conditions described in this blog may have a common etiology in the milieu of old cells that distinguish them from young cells. Isn't it unreasonable to call it the National Institute on Aging when the biology of aging is virtually ignored and emphasis placed on pathologies better covered by all of the other NIH institutes? In view of the imbalance in NIA funding resources should it not be renamed the "The National Institute on Alzheimer's Disease?"

L. Hayflick
Founding member of the Council of the NIA and Chair of it's Executive Committee.

Submitted by ALBERTO SOMMER… on October 17, 2018

I believe complete nutritional foods and some supplements can help delaying or even preventing certain age related disease.

Submitted by Dr. Judith Ashley on October 17, 2018

The Geroscience Meetings and topics are relevant and expanded to key areas affecting the geriatric population. Looking forward to the session publications.

Submitted by dr marshall zablen on October 17, 2018

I am very interested in the root causes of aging.

Submitted by Judith Campisi on October 17, 2018

Please consider inviting Gordon Lithgow, who invented the term geroscience, and Pankaj Kapahi, one of the few scientists in aging research who works with nematodes, flies, mice and human cells. Both have a broad perspective, interesting new findings and -- in response to Len Hayflick's comment -- Pankaj can even talk about 'old' (senescent) cells!

Submitted by Jeffrey Ram on October 17, 2018

I look forward to participating in the Summit. I agree with Dr. Hayflick that basic mechanisms of aging, healthspan, and longevity are not included in the outline of topics. I would encourage the program to encompass fundamental studies of these topics in the best models. Many lessons have been learned from the study of healthspan extension in some excellent models including fruit flies, nematodes, honey bees, dogs, and others. Studies on the evolution of aging also have lessons to teach as cells are fundamentally self-renewing, and yet mechanisms evolved in organisms to limit both healthspan and lifespan. I hope the Summit will also include sessions in which frailty and other diseases of the aged can be considered within the context of these fundamental mechanisms.

Submitted by James Cypser on October 22, 2018

Given the recent evidence that senolytics may actually reverse aging in specific tissues, I'm surprised there is not more interest (see for example Niedernhorfer and Robbins, 2018, for review). Perhaps an effort could be made to include senolytic results in the context of the downstream categories already spoken for?

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