AgingAging: unlocking the secrets to a long and healthy life

Over the past century, the average life expectency of Americans increased by three decades. Forecasters predict that, by 2050, the elderly population will outnumber younger people for the first time in history. This rise in our aging population is placing an increasing demand on our health care system—driving scientists to rapidly develop new treatments for age-related conditions like osteoporosis, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Because of their genetic similarity to humans, ONPRC scientists use rhesus macaques to explore the effects of aging. With the care and attention given to our primates—which rarely survive into old age in the wild—we can extend their lifespan beyond thirty years. This lets us closely examine the causes of normal and pathological aging and leads us into creating new cures and therapies.

We’ve developed new, non-invasive technologies like bone densitometry, magnetic resonance imaging and remote activity measurements to let us closely monitor changes in cognition, sleep, behavior and other physiological functions. We are discovering how hormones can aid in cognitive and emotional health. Our latest studies are helping us understand how diet modification can help hinder age-related declines in immune function, learning and memory.

Our cross-disciplinary approach ensures that we are making the most effective use of our valuable animal resources and gives us the ability to reveal the important interrelated mechanisms that underlie human aging. Through our research, we hope to redefine “old age” and enable everyone to lead long, healthy lives.