IRVINE, Calif. -- More than 160 participants gathered this week for the fifth annual National Academies Keck FUTURES INITIATIVE conference. This year's topic, "The Future of the Human Healthspan: Demography, Evolution, Medicine and Bioengineering," drew scientists, engineers, and medical researchers to discuss new interdisciplinary approaches in the fields of aging, longevity, and healthspan -- the period of a person's life during which they are generally healthy and free from serious or chronic illness.
We have made great progress in extending the length of life and now must focus on the quality of those added years, said John W. Rowe, M.D., professor of Health Policy and Management, Columbia University, New York, and this year's conference chair. We need to be bold and target innovative ways to help people sustain skills and abilities throughout extended lifetimes, assuring enhanced brain health as well as physical well-being.
To encourage further interdisciplinary work, the National Academies announced the availability of $1 million in seed grants up to $100,000 each to speed new lines of research identified at the conference. Recipients of the competitive grants will be announced in April 2008.
As one way to bridge communication gaps among researchers from different fields, the organizers held pre-conference Webcast "tutorials" in which speakers provided an overview of their fields in language that scientists, engineers, or medical researchers from other disciplines could understand. Topics included life expectancy; social and behavioral determinants of healthy life; stress, lifestyle and the prevention of decline; prolonging life through replacement, repair, and regeneration; animal models in aging research; quality of life technology; and the cellular and molecular causes of aging. These tutorials are available online at www.keckfutures.org.
During the conference, rese
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