Learning About the Genetics of Longevity at The Osborn

The Osborn welcomed over 120 people last Wednesday to hear researcher Dr. Nir Barzilai talk about his findings into genetic connections with longevity and current studies in treatments for aging.

Dr. Barzilai is the founding director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The event, part of The Osborn’s WellSpring series, was presented in association with the American Federation of Aging Research (AFAR). Dr. Barzilai is AFAR’s Deputy Scientific Director.

Dr. Barzilai has discovered several “longevity genes” in humans that appear to protect centenarians against major age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and dementia. Although environmental and lifestyle factors play a role in which of the age-related diseases occur, Dr. Barzilai’s research makes the case that genetics determine which comes first.

Dr. Barzilai explained, “Aging itself is the strongest risk factor for all age-related diseases.”

“Healthspan, the amount of time living independently and free of disability, can be extended,” said Dr. Barzilai. According to a 2013 study published in Health Affairs, there is a major economic impact of longer healthspans. The analysis showed that even a 20% reduction in the rate of aging could save more than $17 trillion over the next 50 years – in the United States alone.

Encouraging Longevity

Treatments for age-related diseases based on Dr. Barzilai’s work are currently in clinical trials. His focus is on Metformin, a generic drug currently used to treat Type 2 diabetes. It has shown promise in improving the lifespan of animals, as well as reducing incidences of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Dr. Barzilai is leading a six-year clinical trial at 14 leading research institutions across the country that will engage over 3,000 individuals between the ages of 65-79. Dr. Barzilai provided handouts about his research. Click here to download:  AFAR_OsbornHandout

During the lively Question and Answer period, guests inquired about various over-the-counter and “neutraceutical” remedies promising to reduce aging. Stephanie Lederman, The Executive Director of AFAR, stressed the importance of basing purchase and usage decisions on scientific research and your physician’s recommendations.

Dr. Barzilai added, “Hang in there, be healthy, because help is on its way.”

WellSpring at The Osborn

The WellSpring program is The Osborn’s integrated approach to wellness that inspires everyone in our community to enjoy life to the fullest by embracing the seven dimensions of wellness that enrich our lives at every stage. These include:  Intellectual, Social, Physical, Emotional, Occupational, Spiritual, and Environmental.

About AFAR

The American Federation for Aging Research was established in 1981 to support and advance healthy aging through biomedical research.  To date, AFAR has awarded approximately $175 million in grants to more than 4,400 scientists and students in the U.S. and abroad. For more information, call 212-703-9977 or visit www.afar.org.

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