Podcast Alert!

What can we do to offset age? Dr. Steven Austad joins Dr. Heather Sandison on Collective Insights to shed light on the aging process. He is an award winning researcher seeking to discover the underlying causes of aging with a long-term goal of developing medical interventions that slow the age-related decay in human health. He joins us to explain the science behind aging and to debunk common myths around what makes people age. We discuss:

  • Anti-aging lifestyle tips

  • How DNA methylation and several protein signatures tell us more about calculating age than telomeres

  • Aging research with Metformin, Rapamycin, Senolytics, Acarbose and 17alpha-Estradiol

  • Hope for advancements in science to reverse our biological age

Dr. Austad shares his predictions for what lifespan might look like in the future, and offers a glimpse into the future of aging therapies. Listen now to hear the discussion.

Featured Video

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Are you as old as you feel, as old as you look or as old as your birth certificate says? The best answer may be “none of the above.”

Actually, you may be as biologically old as your blood says you are.

For many years, aging researchers have sought markers of biological a...

Thursday, July 25, 2019

On July 20, America commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Not only was the mission arguably one of the greatest human achievements of all time, it set the course for discoveries on how the body ages in space, and back on earth.

Neil Armstrong...

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Next Avenue 

Featured Columns

“Fall in love with some activity – and do it.”  

                                   - Richard Feynman

  About Me  

I am a scientist/writer.  Look for my new book, Methuselah's Zoo, coming soon.  An assortment of my newspaper columns can be found below.

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AL.com Columns


Dogs or mice?

The possum, like the North American opossum, only have a short lifespan – they live for between 2 to 4 years.

So a New York City cab driver, a newspaper reporter and a big cat trainer walk into an interview with Longevity.Technology…

From a UCLA English Literature grad, to a taxi driver, reporter, then onto a wild animal trainer for TV and film, the arc of Dr Steven Austad’s picaresque career trajectory eventually finds its inflection point at a PhD in Biological Sciences at Purdue University.

After earning his PhD, Austad began a three-decade career in evolutionary and zoological research. It was in the late 1980s, while conducting field-work on opossums near Sapelo Island, that he discovered marked differences (of 25%) in the forest-dwelling marsupial’s lifespan depending on its exposure to predators.

This, and the fact that opossums lived aberrantly shorter lives in comparison to animals of a similar size (up to a slender two years of age in the wild and four in captivity) drove Austad to investigate the various evolutionary strategies animal biologies have adapted to fend off the symptoms of age-related decline. As examples, Quahog clams (whose ingenious ability to prevent their proteins unfolding can see them living for more than 500 years) and freshwater creatures called hydra (who, given the right environment, can express genes that make them effectively immortal) feature prominently in Austad’s research.

Just as many anti-aging therapies are, for the first time, attempting the translational leap from mice to humans there is a growing awareness in the aging community of the need for other models. With this in mind we spoke to Austad — now a distinguished professor and department chair at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Biology, as well as the scientific director of the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) — about his insights into new and old animal models for aging, rapamycin, the TAME trial, and his ‘lifespan bet’ with fellow gerontologist Stuart Olshanky.

Tattletale ancestors: Lessons from our DNA

A frame from a video explaining how DNA copies itself during cellular division in a process that keeps us alive and passes heredity to the next generation. (DNA Learning Center)

I recently sent off a tube of saliva containing enough of my DNA for one of those companies to tell me about my ancestry. I thought I knew my ancestry pretty well and it turns out that I did. The only surprise was that I have more Neanderthal genes - genes, that is, from a species that died out around 35,000 years ago -- than 99.9% of living people. Apparently, some of my distant ancestors were not particularly discriminating about their choice of mates. I also discovered a couple of previously unknown second cousins.

Police in California recently used similar techniques to those the company used to discover my ancestry to apprehend a vicious serial killer, 32 years after his last known crime. I've been critical of what passes for science in many crime labs, but the science that caught this murderer was -- to use an overused phrase -- game-changing.

The first conviction for, as well as the first exoneration from, serious crimes using DNA evidence occurred more than thirty years ago. Two teenage girls had been savagely raped and murdered in separate incidents just outside a small English village. Police were certain both were done by the same person who was thought to live in the village. They initially arrested a mentally-deficient 17-year-old, who confessed to the second murder but not the first. To confirm that he had committed both crimes police contacted a young geneticist, Alec Jeffreys - now Sir Alec Jeffries - whose research lab was at the nearby University of Leicester. Jeffreys had recently claimed that he could identify individual people from a DNA sample.



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© 2017 Steven N. Austad

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