Commentary: To save Medicare, spend more to research aging

Promising research could limit the diseases of aging, but it’s not getting enough federal funding.

By Patti Harter

For The Herald

Bernie Sanders and other politicians have been warning about the risk of Medicare and Medicaid going bankrupt.

Concern for insolvency is certainly real. It’s expected that the number of Americans over the age of 65 in the United States will “double from roughly 50 million today to nearly 100 million by 2060,” according to a commentary in Forbes.

However, the evolving science of molecular biology that may hold the key to solving this problem. According to nature.com, “the science of aging has grown in molecular detail. It is now becoming clear that changes at the levels of DNA, protein, cells and tissues all contribute to organismal aging. Intriguingly, despite the diverse inputs, there are some common molecular themes and a few pathways and genes that have emerged as important modulators of aging.” In other words, molecular biology may well be on the path to slowing and possibly ending aging. In 2010, Harvard Medical School already demonstrated it could partially reverse aging in mice by toggling their telomerase gene.

Surprisingly, the National Institute of Health states “that aging is neither a disease, nor a non-disease. Instead, it combines all age-related diseases and their pre-clinical forms, in addition to other pathological changes.” Unfortunately, this definition makes funding anti-aging research extremely difficult if not impossible through the National Institute on Aging, which doesn’t fund “abstract” concepts. Our ability to slow or even reverse the aging process depends on how quickly it can be funded. It could take 10 years or as long as 50 years if funding is difficult to secure.

According to an article in Science, “U.S. government share of basic research funding falls below 50 percent,” “ there has been significant rise in corporate funding of fundamental science since 2012. The first is a familiar story to most academic scientists, who face stiffening competition for federal grants. But the second trend will probably surprise them. It certainly flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which paints U.S. companies as so focused on short-term profits that they have all but abandoned the pursuit of fundamental knowledge, an endeavor that may take decades to pay off.”

If the government would spend just $3 billion dollars on anti-aging research (about 3 percent of the Medicare budget), the ability to slow if not reverse the aging process itself could become a reality and prevent Medicare and Medicaid from going bankrupt in the future. If we slow down the aging process we begin to eliminate diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cardio-vascular disease and age-related cancers to name a few.

Since the modern ascension of molecular biology, Mark Sackler, a senior foresight analyst with the Omansky Group, has forecast that by the year 2040 “there is a 50-50 chance of there being widely available affordable rejuvenation therapy.” As mentioned in LifeExtension magazine, it appears there are Silicon Valley billionaires already invested in anti-aging research, but not to the extent that’s needed. Organizations such as sens.org and Centagen.com who are developing anti-aging rejuvenation therapies have been forced to seek private funding to support their research which has severely restricted their progress. It also appears that biotechnologies are becoming the new venture capital of the future.

Our government is doing little about anti-aging research while the aging community continues to suffer. The Holocaust during War World II killed more than 6 million people. Worldwide, 36 million people will die at the rate of 100,000 per day within a year because of aging.

We need to spread the word to our elected officials about the need to end aging and all its related suffering; demanding our government fund this vital research. Otherwise it will cost trillions of dollars to manage the care of the 70 million baby boomers who are already beginning to experience the degenerative declines of aging. Which makes more sense? Idly standing by as millions of people suffer and die through the aging process or slowing it down and healing it?

Patti Harter is a retired long-term health care adviser for SPEEA. She is author of “Announcing the Coming End of Biological Aging and Disease.” She lives in Ephrata.

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