Geroscience is an interdisciplinary field that aims to understand the relationship between aging and age-related diseases. Because aging is the major risk factor for most non-genetic chronic diseases, an understanding of the role of aging in the onset of disease should open up new avenues for disease prevention and cures. This term describes the interrelated activities of molecular biologists, neuroscientists, protein chemists, cell biologists, geneticists, endocrinologists, pharmacologists, mathematicians, and others. They have the common goal of explaining and intervening in age-related disease.
Age-related disease is arguably the single greatest challenge for biomedicine in the 21st century. Statistics from numerous sources highlight the fact that age-related diseases increasingly represent a true worldwide emergency: for example, by 2030 the national healthcare bill in the US is projected to reach four trillion dollars, with fully 50% of that being required for Americans 65 years and older (based on statistics supplied by the National Institute on Aging and the Alliance for Aging Research).
A traditional approach in research on aging is to investigate single-disease conditions in isolation. While this approach will continue to yield important information, understanding age-related disease poses a unique set of challenges, as well as opportunities. To prevent a catastrophic outcome, by the year 2050 scientists studying diseases like Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, and adult cancer need to understand why aging is the largest risk factor for developing such conditions. Studying the role of aging mechanisms across a wide variety of disease states is wider in scope than traditional disciplines such as neurodegeneration, cancer biology, and geriatric medicine. It is also distinct from the traditional discipline of gerontology, which has large patient care and social sciences components.
Many human clinical trials have failed in part due to an incomplete picture of the nature of complex chronic diseases of the elderly. The biology of aging field has developed spectacularly over the last twenty five years, and yet little headway has been made in preventing the diseases of aging. The manipulation of longevity in simple laboratory animals by genetic modification or pharmacological interventions is now commonplace. However, a central concept of geroscience is that multiple human diseases arise from a common cause: aging itself. The term "geroscience" was coined by scientists at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in 2007. The scientific discipline was recognized in the U.S. Senate Appropriations on the FY2010 Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Bill.
Geroscience was the organizing principle of the Interdisciplinary Research Consortium on Geroscience established at the Buck Institute. This Consortium was funded by the National Institutes of Health Common Fund. The IRC on Geroscience was also discussed in the Senate Report 110-527; quote "The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Interdisciplinary Research Consortium in Geroscience fosters collaboration among biologists, biochemists, geneticists, physicians, physiologists, statisticians, and chemists that will help scientists to better understand age-related diseases and disorders. Examples include studies of the effects of diet on aging and why the aging brain recovers less easily from traumatic brain injury."
In 2011 the term "geroscience" was adopted by a trans-NIH team interested in the same concepts, the Geroscience Interest Group (GSIG). The NIH, with support from the Alliance for Aging Research and the Gerontological Society of America, hosted “Advances in Geroscience: Impacts on Healthspan and Chronic Disease” on October 30–31, 2013. This scientific conference, which took place on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD, examined the extent to which the physiological effects of aging represent a common major risk factor for chronic diseases.
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- FY2010 Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Bill. Senate Report 111-66, August 4th, 2009
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