Scientists have identified genes which control the ageing process in findings which could lead to new drugs to prevent illnesses from heart disease to Alzheimer's. Mutations have been found to extend the lifespan of animals in the lab such as worms, fruit flies and mice – and appear to play the same role in humans. Professor Linda Partridge, director of the Institute of Healthy Ageing at University College London, claims the research could help treat or delay many diseases simultaneously with medication.
Prof Partridge, who will present a public lecture at the Royal Society in London on Tuesday, said tackling the very causes of ageing rather than treating the symptoms offers the best prospects for dealing with the diseases that result from it.
She believes these scientific advances are offering up hope to improve health during ageing in humans and inspiring a new wave in ageing research.
Prof Partridge said: “Research on the diseases associated with ageing is generally done by separate communities of research workers who read different journals, attend different conferences and generally do not communicate with each other.
“But by tacking the causes of ageing itself we could treat, or at least delay, a broad spectrum of conditions simultaneously.”
Drugs which inhibit the nutrient pathways in humans could replicate the effects of a healthy diet and act not only to increase lifespan but to target a broad range of ageing related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and Alzheimer's.
Prof Partridge said this research means a new approach to the treatment of age-related conditions.
She added: “The major burden of ill health is in the older section of the population. The new discoveries about ageing have raised the prospect of increasing the number of years that people enjoy in good health, with broad-spectrum preventative medicines for the diseases of ageing.