Mme Calment's Other Secret?

(Dec 9, 2018)

Favourite stories can, in the process of retelling, turn into legends. But might it eventually become difficult to distinguish between legend and myth? Indeed, are we longevity watchers about to lose a favourite story? Consider what follows, dear readers, and decide for yourselves...

Claims to extreme lifespan require independent verification for good reason. If practitioners are to make sense of the course of human longevity, the data gathered on centenarians and supercentenarians must be of high quality. Take for example, Mbah Gotho, who purportedly died aged 146 years old in 2016. Since Indonesia didn't officially record births until 1900 there existed something of a verification deficit. That deficit…

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Tags: longevity, supercentenarian

Thymus of the essence?

(Apr 6, 2018)

We've considered cancer and its relationship to aging on a number of previous occasions. Studies published in the British Journal of Cancer in 2011 and 2018 concluded that around 40% of cases are attributable to known modifiable lifestyle and environmental factors, which is a substantial minority. Whilst risk for specific cancer subtypes will be more or less amenable to lifestyle and environment interventions than this, it is beyond doubt that the longer we live, the higher our risk of cancer becomes. But why?

A 2014 analysis of analysis of age and cancer risk proposed the view that "For most adults, age is coincidentally associated with preventable chronic conditions, avoidable exposures, and modifiable…

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Tags: longevity, research, cancer, immunotherapy, immunosenescence

Solid Progress

(Feb 8, 2018)

When we previously discussed the progress of immunotherapy within cancer treatment, some of the most exciting results were in the field of leukaemia and melanoma, with progress in other solid cancers lagging somewhat behind. In the UK, solid tumour-forming cancers account for the overwhelming majority of cancer mortality for both females and males, so similar progress in these areas could have a transformative impact on the prognosis for sufferers.

The CAR-T approaches so successful with blood cancers are undergoing active trials in the UK and have already been approved as a treatment by the US FDA. Such techniques extract, modify and reintroduce the patient's immune cells after engineering the ability…

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Tags: longevity, research, cancer, immunotherapy

Occupational Hazard

(Jan 25, 2018)

We previously considered Sir Michael Marmot's landmark Whitehall Studies, which looked at health and mortality outcomes for UK civil servants. Sir Michael continues to research UK mortality, and has recently been drawing attention to the fact that improvements in UK life expectancy appear to be slowing down. Since 2010, life expectancy, previously increasing at around one year for every four, appears to have down-shifted to one year in every six-and-a-half for men, and every ten for women. The big question, of course, is why?

It goes without saying that national populations are never homogeneous. We've seen evidence of this both within US subpopulations and between different areas in the UK. It is therefore…

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Tags: longevity, research, mortality, employment, Scotland, socio-economic group

Priority Clearance

(Nov 14, 2017)

We previously discussed the clearance of senescent cells as a plausible treatment for multiple diseases of aging. The theory goes that senescent cells drive systemic inflammation, and that this inflammation underlies aging pathology. In August 2017 the latter part of this theory was underscored by results from the CANTOS study. These showed the addition of the anti-inflammatory ACZ885 reduced major adverse cardiovascular events by 15% above the best available standard care, and also appeared to bring a 50% reduction in cancer mortality for patients on the higher dose. However, suppressing inflammation with ACZ885 carried a stark downside: a significant increase in the risk of fatal infections that…

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Tags: longevity, research, inflammation, disease

Of Mice and (Space)Men

(Jul 20, 2017)

It may seem obvious, but when encountering longevity research, it bears repeating: human biology is not mouse biology. For this reason, one of my resolutions for 2017 was to minimise blogs centered around rodents. But longevity science, much like Disney, finds functioning without the mouse more or less unthinkable. Our recent foray into the world of monkeys, was only delaying the inevitable. When it became obvious that mice were turning the wheel, not just for medical progress, but also towards the stars, well, I realised there's always 20181.

DNA damage has been found to accumulate with advancing age. This is unsurprising. Since simple sunlight and other aspects of our environment are considered mutagenic,…

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Tags: mortality, longevity, DNA, mice

Universal Prescription

(May 26, 2017)

In April 2017 the UK Government unveiled its Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS), the first binding legislation ensuring government investment in cycling and walking provision in England. CWIS commits 1.2 billion GBP of spending by 2020/2021, coming from central and local government as well as from local enterprise partnerships. While clearly falling within transport planning, and despite being less directly revenue-friendly than the recent UK tax on sugar sweetened beverages, it is appropriate to view CWIS as a public health initiative. Indeed the foreword to the policy cites better health and improved air quality among the benefits sought by doubling cycling activity by 2025.

We'll consider…

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Tags: longevity, research, exercise, public health

Making Sense of Senescence

(Oct 23, 2016)

Historical research we discussed previously proposed that significant increases in average life expectancy would require the cure of multiple diseases of aging. Without considering the detail of cause-of-death calculations conducted more than two decades ago, it certainly seems implausible even now that we'll cross such a dramatic Rubicon in the near-term. Of course, while complete cures grab headlines, any form of simultaneous progress against aging disease could still provide substantial improvements in healthy lifespan.

One way to target simultaneous progress against multiple diseases of aging would be to find plausible common factors to act against. Increasingly, researchers believe a plausible…

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Tags: longevity, research, inflammation, disease

Definitions of Age

(Jun 29, 2016)

When modelling longevity, age is well-known to be a crucial risk factor. However it is also well-known that the life-expectancy upon attaining any specific age will differ between populations. A seventy-year-old life-long smoker from France may reasonably regard the future with less optimism than a non-smoking Okinawan of the same age (allowing, of course, for the occasional highly noteworthy exception). We sometimes describe such variations in life-expectancy between populations as differences in the rate of aging, although chronologically, we all ( barring celebrities!) age at precisely the same rate. For this reason, there has long been a search for a biological measure of aging that could be used…

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Tags: longevity, research, genetics, centenarians, age

Assumed or Presumed?

(Apr 24, 2016)

Mortality modelling and research is often critically dependent upon assumptions, but certainty over whether those assumptions are well-founded may come only with hindsight. Human beings are prone to a number of biases, and checking if an assumption is appropriate means looking beyond our preconceptions and searching for corroborative evidence.

I was reminded of the importance of evidence whilst reading some mortality research from Olshansky, Carnes and Cassel (1990). This paper attempted something inherently tricky - it tried to construct a method for estimating plausible upper limits to human life expectancy. This paper has been cited many times, including somewhat negatively in a landmark…

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Tags: longevity, research, models, expert

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