Wednesday, August 24, 2011

UCLA Extension course in gerontology: ‘Secrets of the Oldest Old’

Introduction to Gerontology: Secrets of the Oldest Old,” a UCLA course taught by L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D, will meet Tuesday evenings, Sept. 20–Dec. 6. Anyone can attend the first lecture for free, he says.

Dr. Coles is a lecturer, UCLA Molecular Biology Institute, and co-founder of the Los Angeles Gerontology Research Group: physicians, scientists, and engineers dedicated to the quest to slow and ultimately reverse human aging within the next 20 years.

The course investigates a special demographic segment known as supercentenarians, persons who are 110 years old or older. As the oldest individuals in the human population, they seem to have escaped from the conventional diseases that afflict ordinary people, such as heart disease, cancer, lung disease, and stroke.

Because their extreme longevity is inherited from their parents, UCLA researchers have begun a project in collaboration with Stanford University to sequence their DNA (along with their first-degree family members–siblings and children) to compare their genomic endowment with that of ordinary controls and learn the secret to extreme longevity. The results may lead to interventions in the aging process that will help ordinary people to live longer and healthier lives.

Top ten questions to be answered during the first lecture

1.  What is a Supercentenarian and how many are there in the world today?
2.  Do humans have a maximum lifespan?
3.  Will average life expectancy continue to rise systematically, as it has in the past?
4.  Is there a female lifespan advantage?
5.  How do genetics [and epigenetics] and the environment separately influence our potential longevity?
6.  What are the current theories of aging?  Which ones have been discredited?
7.  Who were the most important gerontologists in history?
8.  What is “The Singularity”?
9.  What is the “Bridge Plan” (before we get to the Singularity)?
10. What are the long-term social implications of intervening in the aging process?


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