The #LivingLongerBetter seminar series, led by Dr Rob Salguero-Gomez, is going to be posted to YouTube. For the Trinity Term 2021 Alumni Newsletter, Rob explains more about this monthly seminar series which looks into the science of ageing, and the research done to improve the quality of life as life expectancy increases.
The final frontier in the progress of human societies is our health over increasingly extended lifespans: for how long and with what quality do we remain healthy? Even those of us with the healthiest and most positive lifestyles will inevitably age, a condition that is associated with a raft of changes in the body and brain, and increased risk of diseases that lower our quality of life. For instance, ageing is associated with cognitive decline, frailty and degeneration of reproductive functions with severe repercussions for fertility, and the health of children and grandchildren.
For the longest time, ageing research has remained primarily silo-ed behind different fields of expertise (e.g. medicine, evolutionary biology, psychology, religion, architecture). Little cross-pollination among these disciplines has taken place, despite multiple calls talking about the opportunities that would emerge in doing so. My own training as an evolutionary biology and ecologist has taught me in the last decade the value of bringing some of these disciplines together for synergistic activities and research findings.
The negative effects of ageing are now all too familiar within modern society. Individuals in most modern human populations are reproducing later in life, while their fertility rates continue to rapidly decline. These patterns are particularly apparent in developed countries, including the UK. What causes ageing and its associated neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? To what extent are such diseases human-unique, resulting from specific evolutionary trade-offs in our lineage, and what is the nature of the interplay between genetic and environmental risk factors? What can we do to minimise the negative effects (e.g. loss of cognitive and physical abilities) and to maximise the positive effects (e.g. wisdom, more time for oneself, etc.) that our extending longevity brings to us and our societies? While more and more people continue to live longer, thanks in part due to transformative improvements in health care and food provision, a better understanding of the Biology of Ageing in humans is urgently needed. We need to discover ways to Live Longer, Better.
The motivation for this monthly online seminar series is to expose cutting-edge research, explained to nonexperts, to as broad a field of researchers and the general public as possible. One of the silver-linings of the pandemic is that sharing knowledge online in an interactive way is both possible and increasingly normalised, and by sharing this seminar series to YouTube we’re using this to feature the research of leaders in the field of ageing around Oxford, the UK, and the World. Every month, an invited researcher provides a 30 min presentation of their work in ageing to improve our understanding of how to live longer better, followed by an open forum for the audience to ask questions to the speaker.
The Living Longer Better online seminar series also features work within ARCH, the Ageing Research Collaborative Hub at Oxford (https://www.archub.ox.ac.uk). ARCH is an online platform that highlights some of the most exciting investigations and applications on ageing across all the University of Oxford, and partners academic institutions with industrial partners.
My personal motivation for Living Longer Better is to help disseminate the knowledge that we are acquiring (which often times sits behind a paywall, regrettably), while also bringing together research disciplines that historically have not had the time to cooperate in solving one of the most pressing challenges: ageing of individuals and of societies. The great medical and societal advances in modern human populations have allowed us to live longer, but not necessarily taught us how to live longer better. This new understanding will provide a much-needed breakthrough in ageing research.