Studying aging in humans 1 - methodology

Published on December 28, 2016   49 min

Other Talks in the Series: Aging

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Hello, I'm David Melzer. I'm an epidemiologist and a public health physician. I work at the University of Connecticut Center on Aging in the United States as well as the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom and I'm going to talk about methods of studying human aging.
The talk is based on five key ideas or five key issues that I'm going to give you a taster of now and then work through in the remainder of the talk. The first is that the human aging process, of course, is driven by both biological aging but also a lot of disease and disability processes which are, indeed, potentially avoidable and rather different, and at the moment we find it very difficult to measure just the biological part of aging and we end up, when we talk about human aging, we're talking about those various processes together. The second issue is that although human aging at the group level, if you look at a group of people, it appears to involve progressive declines in physiological systems over long periods of time, actually if you look in individuals, the trajectories are very variable. Some people remain active and their systems remain at high levels of capacity right into very advanced ages, other people age much more rapidly. There is no standard pattern of aging, which makes studying aging in humans much more challenging. The third assertion is a little more startling but there's an awful lot of evidence now that perhaps the majority of published scientific literature is, in fact, false and that's not just human studies or epidemiological studies, it's lab studies too. There's ample evidence that many of the papers we see in the scientific journals can't be replicated, and we'll explore some of the reasons for that and talk about how to undertake well-designed studies of human aging and to build up evidence of causality. So I'll try to convince you, the randomized controlled trials, genetics, and good study design linked to laboratory studies can build very strong evidence base to discover new ways of helping people to age well. And finally, we are living in an age where very large cohorts are becoming available and I'll talk about some cohorts of half a million or a million people where electronic clinical record systems are providing data on literally millions of people over very long periods of follow-up and where we have promising new biomarkers to study, to provide very powerful research opportunities. So the main idea of this talk is: "It's a great time to be studying human aging!", perhaps the best time there's been.