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Feature Health and Ageing

Geroscience’s coming of age

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: (Published 28 August 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m1323
  1. Bob Roehr, freelance journalist
  1. Washington, DC, USA
  1. bobroehr{at}

The search for a fountain of youth endures across cultures. But the time is coming when we treat ageing as a disease, not an inevitability, reports Bob Roehr

The lifespan of worms can be increased 10-fold through a single mutation to the insulin signaling pathway. The lifespan of a mouse can be upped by 50%. As for humans, however, “There is still this notion among physicians and the public in general that ageing is an inevitable universal process, that there’s not much you can do about it,” says Joao Pedro de Magalhães, a professor at the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease at the University of Liverpool, UK. “And that’s not true.”

Enter geroscience: a discipline that first emerged in the 1990s as “a fundamentally different approach” to thinking about ageing, says Linda Partridge, a leader in the field with appointments to the Max Planck Institute in Cologne, Germany, and University College London, UK. In geroscience, she tells The BMJ, the appearance of one chronic condition associated with ageing predicts the emergence of another, and another, and so on. Many of these diseases share common signaling pathways and biological mechanisms such as inflammation.1

De Magalhães tells The BMJ, “We can retard ageing as a whole [by treating] multiple ageing diseases as one. Given that we can do it in so many different species, there is no reason to think that we cannot do it in humans.”

Geroscience has identified signaling pathways to diseases of ageing that often are shared, overlap, or differ a bit between cell and tissue types. Modulating these pathways, often less intensively and at more multiple points than with traditional drugs, may simultaneously ameliorate multiple medical conditions and do so with less toxicity to the whole body.

Cardiovascular use

The geroscience approach to ageing has already …

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