Over the past ten years, understanding of the physiological changes that occur as people age has greatly improved. Common mechanisms seem to support several age-related diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. A review of more than 400 studies of people and animal models indicates that similar processes are the basis of DNA damage, cellular senescence, or inflammation and autophagy. Over the years, studies have shown that one age-related disease can accelerate the onset of others. Until now, aging research has focused mainly on single diseases or on delaying death, meaning that the fundamental mechanisms of aging are being missed as targets for the treatment or prevention of several age-related conditions. What’s more, patients multiple diseases are being exposed to many drugs at once, often with adverse effects.
A class of drugs called geroprotectors might be able to delay the onset of concurrent age-related diseases (multimorbidity) and boost resilience. In various animal models, these drugs can ward off problems of the heart, muscles, immune system and more. However, there are various factors, such as agreeance on definitions and desired metrics, preventing these drugs from reaching the clinic. With an ever-increasing aging population and the social and health-care systems of many nations close to a crisis point, we must take a different approach. Proof-of-concept clinical studies could demonstrate the value of geroprotectors as boosters of resilience in frail patients within the next decade. If successful, such studies could catalyze efforts to advance definitions, animal models, and the characterization of measurable outcomes against which to test the drugs.
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