In today’s podcast episode, I talk with Nir Barzilai, a geroscientist, which means he studies the biology of aging. Barzilai directs the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
My first question for Dr. Barzilai was: why do we age? And is there anything to be done about it? His answers were encouraging. We can’t live forever, but we have some control over the process, as he argues in his book, Age Later.
Dr. Barzilai told me that centenarians differ from the rest of us because they have unique gene mutations that help them stay healthy longer. For most of us, the words “gene mutations” spell trouble - we associate these words with cancer or neurodegenerative diseases, but apparently not all mutations are bad.
Centenarians may have essentially won the genetic lottery, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us are predestined to have a specific lifespan and health span, or the amount of time spent living productively and enjoyably. “Aging is a mother of all diseases,” Dr. Barzilai told me. And as a disease, it can be targeted by therapeutics. Dr. Barzilai’s team is already running clinical trials on such therapeutics — and the results are promising.
More about Dr. Barzilai: He is scientific director of AFAR, American Federation for Aging Research. As part of his work, Dr. Barzilai studies families of centenarians and their genetics to learn how the rest of us can learn and benefit from their super-aging. He also organizing a clinical trial to test a specific drug that may slow aging.
Age Later: Health Span, Life Span, and the New Science of Longevity https://www.amazon.com/Age-Later-Healthiest-Sharpest-Centenarians/dp/1250230853
American Federation for Aging Research https://www.afar.org
Metformin as a Tool to Target Aging
Benefits of Metformin in Attenuating the Hallmarks of Aging https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7347426/
The Longevity Genes Project https://www.einsteinmed.edu/centers/aging/longevity-genes-project/
Lina Zeldovich has written about science, medicine and technology for Popular Science, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Scientific American, Reader’s Digest, the New York Times and other major national and international publications. A Columbia J-School alumna, she has won several awards for her stories, including the ASJA Crisis Coverage Award for Covid reporting, and has been a contributing editor at Nautilus Magazine. In 2021, Zeldovich released her first book, The Other Dark Matter, published by the University of Chicago Press, about the science and business of turning waste into wealth and health. You can find her on http://linazeldovich.com/ and @linazeldovich.