Q & A with the American Aging Association

Nikolich photoThis is the second Q & A with our various Healthspan Campaign partners. For this post, we highlight the American Aging Association (AGE). We spoke with Janko Nikolich-Žugich, M.D., Ph.D., (pictured at right) chairman of the Board for AGE, to learn more about its mission and how it promotes the concept of healthspan.

Q: Tell us more about the American Aging Association.

JN: The American Aging Organization is a professional society that gathers those interested in the biological aspects of the aging process, including the scientists endeavoring to understand the fundamental causes behind the processes of aging and age-related diseases. It was founded by the recently deceased Dr. Denham Harman, the father of the oxidative stress theory of aging. The mission of AGE is three-fold:

  • To promote biomedical aging studies directed toward increasing the functional life span of humans with one goal being to slow the aging process.
  • To keep the public informed of the progress of aging research and of practical means of achieving a long and healthy life.
  • To increase knowledge of gerontology among physicians and others in the health field.

Q: What are some of your most important activities?

AGE-logo-official-use-this1JN: AGE holds an annual meeting that gathers top biomedical scientists focused on the biological and biomedical aspects of aging at the end of May/early June each year. The meeting is a vibrant forum for an exchange of scientific data and ideas and for debate over basic and, increasingly, translational, aspects of research on aging. Moreover, the Annual Meeting is becoming a prime venue to inform the public of the advances in aging research and to discuss communication with lay public, decision-makers, and funding organizations in the form of public lectures, round tables, and discussion groups.

The association also publishes the Journal of the American Aging Association – AGE, which has grown into one of the premier journals in the field, with a strong impact factor and a wide readership.

Finally, AGE liaises with other national groups involved in performing, supporting or advocating for research on aging, with a goal of coordinated action to improve public knowledge of and support for aging research.

Q:  Why are you a part of the Healthspan Campaign?

JN: It follows from my answers to the first two questions that knowledge dissemination is an implicit and explicit goal of AGE. The Healthspan Campaign fully aligns with that goal of AGE. More importantly, however, AGE realizes that the extension of lifespan has resulted in many people living longer, but not necessarily better, lives. Chronic diseases associated with the advanced age, individually or in combination, erode quality of life for millions of people in the U.S. and many more around the world. They also cost an enormous amount the society in the form of lost productivity and health care costs. That situation will only get worse in the future unless societies invest into its prevention and alleviation.

Basic biomedical research on aging has several promising treatments that could radically change the above equation, but the funds that would allow us to test the validity of these treatments in humans and human-like models are currently nonexistent. We believe that the Healthspan Campaign has the potential to raise the awareness of this promise held by biomedical research on aging. To paraphrase the campaign’s own film, The Healthspan Imperative: “Can we afford not to participate?” We are the scientists who know and understand the problem and have come up with several solutions. We cannot afford not to let the society know that the answer(s) already may be here.

Q: What are some of the ways in which AGE is working to improve healthspan and healthy aging?

JN: Every single activity of AGE, as enumerated above, is aimed at improving aging and healthy living via biomedical research. As you can see, the prime purpose, as formulated in the first goal of our mission, is precisely that. We do it via the tireless work of our members in their laboratories and also together as a society and with other societies in coordination.

Q: How can people learn more about AGE?

JN:  As usual in the digital age, the most informative source is our website:  http://www.americanagingassociation.org/

I would also urge scientists and others to come join the Annual Meeting and the association itself.