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Professor Rich Miller on Delaying Aging

August 14, 2008   |   Alliance for Aging Research Team   |   Aging Research

University of Michigan’s Rich Miller has a telling eye for the symmetry and beauty of the natural world. Spend time appreciating his nature photography – which he brings back from the Galapagos Islands, Kenya, Patagonia and the Antarctic – and you will be entranced and enriched

And if you like the idea of more years of this good life in which to enjoy such glories, then listen closely to Rich Miller’s views about extending the human life span.

You see, Prof. Miller is a “Unitarian” in the great divide that separates the major camps of Biogerontolgists, the scientists who study aging. The opposing “Multitarian” position holds that aging is such a complex process, involving dozens of cell types and tissues, and so subject to the infinite things that go wrong in the environment, that aging is inevitable, unchangeable, and impossible to moderate.

Tell that to the Unitarians. Miller’s central argument is that researchers have been demonstrating for decades that aging can be slowed dramatically by single interventions: by diet, genetic or hormonal manipulation. Even better, the mice and other lab animals subject to experimental regimes retain good vision, muscles, immunity, joint mobility, kidney function; they resist cancer, arthritis and memory loss. They do age and eventually die, but much later than control groups.

The claim that aging can be slowed has gone from crazy to conventional wisdom in about the past decade or so, at least among scientists most familiar with the experimental results. Miller and his fellow Unitarians say severe calorie restriction and genetic manipulations are not recommended for humans, but the underlying mechanisms they reveal can guide research leading to drugs and other means to delay aging and its consequences in humans to age 100 and beyond (which already occurs naturally in a few lucky individuals).

Miller says the barriers to our living triple-digit healthy lives are 15% scientific and 85% political. We’ll take up what he means by that, and how to overcome political hurdles to healthy aging, in an upcoming post.

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