What is an anti aging treatment?
Key objectives of biogerontology are to understand the biology of aging and to translate scientific insight into interventions that improve late-life health – or anti aging treatment. In this context, when considering the problem of how to effect translational research, it is useful to have a clear, consensus view on what exactly constitutes an anti aging treatment. This essay critically assesses the understanding of this concept common among biogerontologists, and proposes a new definition. A current conception of anti aging treatment imagines a primary cause of aging that is causally upstream of, and the cause of, all age-related pathology. Intervening in this aging process thus protects against the totality of age-related diseases. However, this underlying aging process remains an abstraction. By contrast, what is demonstrable is that interventions in model organisms can improve late-life health and extend lifespan. Furthermore, a safe deduction is that treatments that extend lifespan do so by reducing age-related pathology, both florid and subtle. What is currently identifiable about aging (i.e. senescence) is that it is a very complex disease syndrome, likely involving a number of biological mechanisms. Treatments that substantially extend lifespan must suppress multiple pathologies that otherwise limit lifespan, but whether they suppress the entire aging process remains undemonstrated. A more pragmatic and realistic definition of anti aging treatment is any preventative approach to reduce late-life pathology, based on the understanding that senescence is a disease syndrome. This definition would encompass preventative approaches aimed at both broad and narrow spectra of age-related pathologies. Its adoption would facilitate translation, since it would shift the emphasis to medical practice, particularly the introduction of preventative approaches. Narrow spectrum anti aging treatments (e.g. the cardiovascular polypill) could establish a practice that eventually extends to broader spectrum anti aging treatments (e.g. dietary restriction mimetics).