Use the future to build the present
Radical Health Extension
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1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy
1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy

Emerging Topic:

2.3Radical Health Extension

Associated Sub-Fields

In the past few decades, research has begun to suggest that there is an underlying biology of ageing that drives the diseases of ageing. One consequence of this is that, rather than accept the ageing process as a natural consequence of life, an increasing body of research is beginning to treat it specifically as a risk factor for disease, and target it for treatment. Experiments have identified ways to delay, stop and even in some cases reverse the process. A range of interventions, from small-molecule drugs to stem cell injections, is now under investigation. The goal is to use these insights to develop an entirely new kind of public health programme based on radical health extension.

Benefits won’t accrue only to old people. Ageing processes get under way the moment we are born and their fingerprints are being found in surprising places, from pregnancy complications to childhood cancer treatment to the long-term effects of prophylactic HIV drugs. Finding ways to mitigate these processes is important across age cohorts.

The goal of these programmes is not to create billionaires that live to 500, but a society-wide eradication of frailty, high health expenditures in old age, and low quality of life. The goal is not years added to lifespan, but to “healthspan”, where health, wellbeing and quality of life remains high until death.

Selection of GESDA best reads and further key reports

In 2013, López-Otín et al published “The Hallmarks of Aging”, which detailed better ways to identify the progression of the ageing process at the molecular level, including cell senescence.1 In 2014, Kennedy et al published “Geroscience: linking ageing to chronic disease,” which argued that these fundamental processes of mammalian ageing can be delayed with genetic, dietary, and pharmacologic approaches.2 This became the basis of the approach now pursued by the US National Institute of Aging. Kirkland reviewed the work targeting senescent cells with senolytics.3 Barzilai’s investigations of the diabetes drug metformin as a potential tool to target the metabolic processes associated with ageing and thereby reduce mortality, has led to the creation of what will be the first major clinical trial to test drugs to slow the fundamental processes of ageing.4

Much of the work focused on keeping people healthy into older age builds on decades of research in medicine and the life sciences. As a result, respondents predicted that future breakthroughs in this area are likely to rely on highly-interdisciplinary research that combines advances from across fields. This means progress here is likely to have broad impact across society. Diagnostics and assistive technologies are likely to have more modest effects in the near future. Efforts to slow and even reverse ageing are considerably further off —12 and 23 years respectively — but have the potential to be highly transformative and will require significant planning to manage their effects.

GESDA Best Reads and Key Resources