Letter to the Editor: Anti-Aging Technology and Pseudoscience

Ref: Science, Vol. 296, No. 5568, p. 656 (April 26, 2002).

Constance Holden accurately describes the range of opinions in the field of aging research concerning the possible efficacy of future life-extension technologies and the lack of any Anti- Aging medicines today [Bodybuilding: The Bionic Human, "The Quest to Reverse Time's Toll," February 8, 2002; p. 1032]. However, it is crucial to be aware that the term "Anti-Aging" means different things to different people and that, in spite of its misuse by some, the term can be and has been used by reputable scientists conducting research designed to understand and eventually modify the rate of aging [1]. There are thousands of legitimate scientific publications devoted to the study of aging, and we enthusiastically support such research, as successful efforts to delay the onset of age-related chronic diseases and frailty have the potential to yield dramatic improvements in the health of older persons. This legitimate effort must be clearly distinguished from the antiaging quackery that has made its way into the contemporary lay literature. For example, two so-called scientific "journals" ( Journal of Longevity and The International Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine) that appear on the surface to be traditional refereed publications are in fact little more than advertisements for a pseudoscientific anti-aging industry. By contrast, the similarly titled Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine is a refereed scientific journal. We want to make sure that the public is aware of both the scientific and the nonscientific use of the term "Anti-Aging Medicine."

Those currently selling what they term "antiaging medicines" are promoting the use of products that may in some cases diminish the risk of certain diseases but that have not been shown even modestly to reduce the acceleration of mortality with age in the general population and that in some instances may be harmful [2]. This misuse of the term "Anti-Aging Medicine" has led many scientists (including some of the undersigned) to shy away from using the term at all, for fear of guilt by association. The term "longevity science and medicine" was recently introduced by a group of scientists now working in the field [3], but the fear remains that this term will be coopted by the pseudoscientific antiaging industry as well. As such, we urge the scientific and lay population to be sure that they understand that there are currently no scientifically proven antiaging medicines, but that legitimate and important scientific efforts are under way to develop them.

Aubrey D. N. J. de Grey, Ph.D.,*
Department of Genetics,
University of Cambridge,
Downing Street,
Cambridge, CB2 3EH UK.

Leonid Gavrilov, Ph.D.,
Center on Aging,
NORC/University of Chicago,
1155 East 60th Street,
Chicago, IL 60637, USA.

S. Jay Olshansky, Ph.D.,
School of Public Health,
University of Illinois at Chicago,
Room 885,
1603 West Taylor Street,
Chicago, IL 60612, USA.

L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D.,
Department of Surgery,
UCLA School of Medicine,
Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.

Richard G. Cutler, Ph.D.,
Kronos Longevity Research Institute,
4455 East Camelback Road,
Phoenix, AZ 85018, USA.

Michael Fossel, M. D., Ph.D.,
Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine,
9464 Conservation,
Ada, MI 49301, USA.

S. Mitchell Harman, M.D., Ph.D.,
Kronos Longevity Research Institute,
4455 East Camelback Road,
Phoenix, AZ 85018, USA.


* To whom correspondence should be addressed:
E-mail: ag24@gen.cam.ac.uk


1. A short list of examples can be found at www.src.uchicago.edu/~gavr1/antiaging-publications.html.

2. General Accounting Office, Anti-aging products pose potential for physical and economic harm, Special Committee on Aging, GAO-01-1129 (September 2001)
( aging.senate.gov/hr73gao.pdf).
Note: This is an 18-page pdf file that requires a freeware Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing.

3. Workshop Report: "Is There an Anti-aging Medicine?," (International Longevity Center, Canyon Ranch Series, New York, 2001)
( www.ilcusa.org/_lib/pdf/pr20011101.pdf).
Note: This is a 34-page pdf file that requires a copy of a freeware Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing.

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