Reviewer Bani Sodermark. Bani has a Ph.D in mathematical physics and has been a teacher of physics and mathematics at the university level in both India and Sweden. For the last decade, her interests have been spirituality, healthy living and self-development. She has written a number of reviews on http://amazon.com. Bani is a mother to two children.
Author: Alex Zhavoronkov
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Author: Alex Zhavoronkov
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Priorities in Anti Aging Research
This is a futuristic book, attempting to bridge the gap between the present aging mindset and one that is yet to come as a result of advances in biomedical research. Hence, he advocates strongly the need for funding and promoting anti-ageing research.
“...the world is on the brink of paradigm shifting changes that ageing itself will become treatable, that major anti-aging breakthroughs are likely to occur in the next couple of decades. By New Year 2099...extreme longevity will be common throughout the developed world.”
The trillion dollar question investigated in this book, is how will the recent advances in regenerative medicine and the consequent increased population scenario, cover the cost of government spending on medicine and retirement benefits. To this end, the author researches the ageing question from the point of view of frontline scientific discoveries, and how scientists can, using stem cells, regenerate any organ, thereby making room in existing thought for pursuits like lifelong learning, or at the very least, retiring much later than is the norm today.
“Regenerative medicine research is one of our best hopes to avoid the impending financial meltdown created by senior entitlement programs”.
The material is divided into four sections. In the first, the author analyses the ongoing cutting edge anti-ageing research and shows how the prevailing social climate has not been able to keep pace with the changing biomedical scenario, which gives rise to a substantially increased life span. He takes up the history of longevity, showing, as an example, how drastically the demography itself has changed, for instance, with the advent of antibiotics, taking up individually the specific cases of USA, the European Union, Russia, China and Japan.
In the second section, the author attempts to understand the present ageing mindset by emphasizing the difference between actual ageing and age related changes, e.g. loss of function, showing that in many cases, a decline in physical functioning is offset by better cognitive ability. Next, the physiology of the biological ageing process is discussed in some detail. The author takes up a possible solution that could reverse the biological clock, i.e. regenerative medicine using stem cells, whereby entire organs can be regenerated. Ethical issues obstructing stem cell research can now be circumvented using IPSC (Individual Pluripotent Stem Cell) research, which means adult cells can be reprogrammed to be stem cells. Experiments using IPSC cells have been successful with mice and are ready to be tried on human beings.
In the third section, the author emphasizes the urgency of the problem of reprioritizing medical research. After putting forth frightening facts and figures of the actual costs of Medicare and Social Security, he goes on to explain why medical research priorities and hence, funding need to be redefined. He mentions the stranglehold of pharmaceutical companies who do not want newer drugs to enter the market in order to retain their profit margins. But the author also shows how governments too are guilty of unproductive spending and inefficient use of research funds.
Finally in the last section, the author talks of the need to redefine the entrenched retirement culture due to the advances in population longevity. Some solutions that have been proposed include the encouragement of lifelong learning and at least one alternative career for active seniors. Other suggestions are a greater investment in preventive medicine such as immunization, early detection screening tests and so on. Some of these methods advocated are a tad on the drastic side, as they address the paranoidal fears around death and the dying process.
In conclusion, the author presents his own solutions for our individual and collective survival, viz., that of adopting a proactive mindset and also generating awareness in others of the possibilities of regenerative medicine.
This is a book to be read and reread. There is plenty of very fascinating, relevant and even hard hitting scientific information, presented in bite sized very readable tidbits. It is also quite thought provoking, it stirs up sentiments and issues that are entrenched in our society, for instance, the accepted image of vacationing pensioners and psychological ageing, to name a few. It does not shun from mentioning hard facts and is definitely not based on nonscientific woo-woo. Oddly enough, the image of the end result I get from this book, fits my personal New Age vision of eternal youth, always growing, trying out new things, making mistakes but not getting weighed down by them.
On the whole, this book offered me hope. It offered me confirmation of a way to tread ahead as advocated in my favourite self help guru, Susan Jeffers in “Embracing Uncertainty”. Will it gel with you too? Read it to find out.