The National Institute on Aging shared that as we grow older, we are more likely to be diagnosed with one or more chronic ailments. These ailments include life-threatening diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, as well as debilitating conditions like arthritis, fatigue, and frailty. These ailments rob us of our quality of life. The question is: How does the aging process affect the disease process and susceptibility—and vice versa?
Over the years, researchers studying the basic science of aging have sought to answer this question, but their work was confined primarily to investigations of the specific activities and mechanisms that contribute to the aging process, and not as much on the effects of the aging process on various diseases. While aging itself isn’t a disease, the aging process represents a major risk factor for several chronic diseases and conditions, including frailty and lack of resilience.
Geroscience takes a different approach, seeking to understand the genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms that make aging a major risk factor and driver of common chronic conditions and diseases of older people.
An NIH-wide initiative
One of the first steps in advancing geroscience was to demonstrate that this approach is likely to affect research in many fields. Traditionally, biomedical research has focused primarily on specific diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and, more recently, Alzheimer’s and related dementias. But aging affects the onset and progression of all of these diseases and is a common risk factor for them. By studying what happens during aging at the genetic, molecular, and cellular levels, investigators hope to discover the similarities and differences among these conditions as they relate to aging. Read more