Date: October 1st, 2003
In the August 12th issue of the New York Times, writer Nicholas Kristof editorialized on what he sees as the ambiguous, and often rogue nature of aging research. In his article, he gave readers the unfortunate impression that researchers on aging are careening along on a dangerous road to human immortality. The Alliance for Aging Research felt compelled to post our reaction to this column.
In fact, America's aging researchers are targeted on much more immediate targets than human immortality: curing the diseases like Alzheimer's and stroke that strike older Americans disproportionately, and improving quality of life of people over 65. They are making vital contributions to the nation's health that are growing more and more important as our population ages.
To be sure, preventing or curing Alzheimer's will likely allow brains not only to function normally, but also to function longer. Curing or preventing cancer or heart disease or stroke will certainly lengthen our life span. Yet it's hard to see what's wrong with this kind of research.
Kristof is right that new technologies, such as genetic research, require new regulatory structures. Congress and the federal government need to work with older Americans, researchers and other stakeholders to make sure that happens. And citizens definitely need to be better informed about aging research. The way to do that is to take a close look at what researchers are actually doing, and avoid horror stories and worst-case scenarios.