NATURE OutLook. AGEING. - 2012. - Vol. 492. - Issue No 7427

NATURE OutLook

AGEING

6 December 2012 / Vol 492 / Issue No 7427

CONTENTS

S2 DEMOGRAPHY

To the limit The drive to increase life expectancy

S4 COGNITION

The brain’s decline What happens to our cognitive functions when we get old?

S6 CENTENARIANS

Great expectations The genetic link to a long, healthy life

S9 Q&A

Ageing proactively Eva Kahana explores healthy ageing

S10 COMPARATIVE BIOLOGY

Looking for a master switch Species with long lifespans might hold the key to extending our own

S12 STEM CELLS

Repeat to fade The regeneration game

S14 MICROBIOME

Cultural differences A gut reaction to our diet

S16 TECHNOLOGY

Dancing with robots High-tech help for later life

S18 INTERVENTIONS

Live long and prosper Eating less and the pathway to old age

AGEING COLLECTION

S21 Recruiting adaptive cellular stress responses for successful brain ageing

Alexis M. Stranahan and Mark P. Mattson

S29 Gut microbiota composition correlates with diet and health in the elderly

Marcus J. Claesson et al.

S36 Impact of caloric restriction on health and survival in rhesus monkeys from the NIA study

Julie A. Mattison et al.

S40 Shorter telomeres are associated with obesity and weight gain in the elderly

OT Njajou et al.

 

Ageing is inevitable. Yet for centuries people have tried to slow or stop it, from bathing in the blood of virgin girls to concocting an elixir of life. These days, anti-ageing research is on a more scientific footing. And while we are no closer to finding the fountain of youth, humans — for a variety of reasons — are living longer than ever before (page S2). Hitting the biologically arbitrary 100-year milestone used to be the preserve of the lucky few, who would often reach it in rude health. In theory, studying these centenarians might reveal the secrets of healthy ageing. But as life expectancy increases, more people are reaching their eleventh decade, muddying the gene pool. Might more valuable data be gleaned from the supercentenarians who reach 110 (S6)? Scientific efforts to extend lifespan are progressing on several fronts. A short-lived species can evolve into a long-lived one, and researchers are keen to find out how (S10). Studies in other species have already shown that a severely restricted diet can add years of healthy living (S18). Diet affects ageing in humans too — how our food influences our gut microbes, and how they in turn affect our health and longevity, is under investigation (S14). Another line of enquiry focuses on harnessing the regenerative powers of stem cells (S12). But what does healthy ageing mean? Sociologist Eva Kahana talks about this “slippery concept”, which she says is different for each individual (S9). With the threat of Alzheimer’s disease looming large, there is a lack of data on how the brain changes over time — a deficit that a new long-term study aims to correct (S4). In the meantime, for those of us who need a little help in our later years, new technologies can support, predict and possibly prevent some of the worst health problems associated with ageing (S16). We are pleased to acknowledge the financial support of Nestlé Research Center in producing this Outlook. As always, Nature retains sole responsibility for all editorial content.

Michelle Grayson

Senior editor, supplements