Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Interview on Aging and Longevity Studies

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This is to invite you to comment here on new interview on aging and longevity studies, published recently by the 'Rejuvenation Research' journal:

Rejuvenation Research, 2009, 12(5): 371-374.

Any comments and suggestions are welcome!

Please feel free to post your comments and suggestions below by clicking here.

-- Leonid Gavrilov

-- Leonid Gavrilov, Ph.D. , GSA Fellow
Center on Aging, NORC/University of Chicago
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Also, here are some excerpts from this published interview (original non-edited text):
1. How, in general, can demographers contribute to the effort to develop medical treatments to combat aging?

There are several ways how human population studies could be very useful for efforts to extend healthy life span.

First, there is an area of biodemography - a science, which integrates biological knowledge with demographic approaches in attempt to understand the dynamics of vital events in human populations, including mortality and longevity [1-4]. Looking back at the history of science we can see that such important health findings as the discovery of long-term harmful effects of smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol levels and hyperglycemia all came from statistical (epidemiological) studies on human populations. These significant findings from population studies served as a guide and justification for subsequent development of specific medical treatments and health policies already saving many human lives now.

Looking forward at the future of biodemographic studies, we anticipate 'unraveling the secrets of human longevity' -- the discovery of determinants for exceptional human survival, which allow some individuals to delay dramatically many diseases of aging, and to live a remarkably healthy long life (sometimes beyond 100 years). When we find out why some people are so resilient to aging, these findings could serve as a guide and justification for development of new medical treatments and health policies to combat aging. To make this happen we developed a new research project 'Biodemography of Exceptional Longevity', which was recently awarded a grant from the U.S. National Institute on Aging, NIA. Information about the progress of this research project is continually updated at our scientific website 'Unraveling the secrets of human longevity' ( ), and it is opened for comments and public discussion at our blog 'Longevity Science' ( ). Some preliminary findings on this topic are already published [5-7].

Second, there is an area of traditional demography, which has tools to make demographic projections for different scenarios of life extension. This is an important issue, because a common objection against starting a large-scale biomedical war on aging is the fear of catastrophic population consequences (overpopulation). This fear is only exacerbated by the fact that no detailed demographic projections for radical life extension scenario were published so far. What would happen with population numbers if aging-related deaths are significantly postponed or even eliminated? Is it possible to have a sustainable population dynamics in a future hypothetical non-aging society? These are important questions, which could be answered through traditional demographic studies.

Recently we made a new study, which explores different demographic scenarios and population projections, in order to clarify what could be the demographic consequences of a successful biomedical war on aging. The results of this study supported by the Methuselah and SENS foundations were presented at the SENS4 conference in Cambridge, UK, this September, and are expected to be published [8]. In brief, we found that defeating aging, the joy of parenting and sustainable population size are not mutually exclusive. This is an important point, because it can change the current public perception that life-extension necessarily leads to overpopulation. Amazingly, when we were returning back to the USA from the SENS4 conference in England, the passport control officer asked us exactly the same question about overpopulation during the interview about the purpose of our international travel! This example indicates how deep is the penetration of overpopulation scare in the fabrics of modern society, and hence how important are the demographic studies on this topic.


1. Curtsinger JW, Gavrilova NS, Gavrilov LA. Biodemography of Aging and Age-Specific Mortality in Drosophila melanogaster. In: Masoro E.J. & Austad S.N.. (eds.): Handbook of the Biology of Aging, Sixth Edition. Academic Press. San Diego, CA, USA, 2006, 261-288.

2. Gavrilov L.A., Gavrilova N.S., Olshansky S.J., Carnes B.A. Genealogical data and biodemography of human longevity. Social Biology, 2002, 49(3-4): 160-173.

3. Gavrilov, L.A., Gavrilova, N.S. Biodemographic study of familial determinants of human longevity. Population: An English Selection, 2001, 13(1): 197-222.

4. Gavrilova, N.S., Gavrilov, L.A. Data resources for biodemographic studies on familial clustering of human longevity. Demographic Research [Online], 1999, vol.1(4): 1-48. Available:

5. Gavrilova N.S., Gavrilov L.A. Can exceptional longevity be predicted? Contingencies [Journal of the American Academy of Actuaries], 2008, July/August issue, pp. 82-88.

6. Gavrilova N.S., Gavrilov L.A. Physical and Socioeconomic Characteristics at Young Age as Predictors of Survival to 100: A Study of a New Historical Data Resource (U.S. WWI Draft Cards). Living to 100 and Beyond: Survival at Advanced Ages [online monograph]. The Society of Actuaries, 2008, 23 pages.

7. Gavrilova N.S., Gavrilov L.A. Search for Predictors of Exceptional Human Longevity: Using Computerized Genealogies and Internet Resources for Human Longevity Studies. North American Actuarial Journal, 2007, 11(1): 49-67.

8. Gavrilov L.A., Gavrilova N.S. Demographic Consequences of Defeating Aging. [Meeting Abstract]. Rejuvenation Research, 2009, 12( Suppl. 1): 29-30.

Key words:
Rejuvenation Research, Interview, Overpopulation, Reliability Theory, Predictors of Exceptional Longevity, Leonid Gavrilov, Natalia Gavrilova, ageing, aging, gerontology, longevity, centenarians, parental age

Longevity Science Blog
New Interview on Aging and Longevity Studies
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