early-life consequences (Jenkins et al., 2004) and even the most extensively documented life- and health-extending treatment (calorie restriction) may increase susceptibility to some common infectious diseases (Gardner, 2005). Furthermore, treatments such as chronic exercise that appear to enhance health but have negligible impact on lifespan have received little interest or attention from biogerontologists (Holloszy, 1997).
The aim of this task group is to provide strategies for assessing the lifelong health and functional capacities of animals traditionally used in aging research and thus to aid in the discovery of new medical treatments that improve health and healthspan irrespective of their effects on lifespan.
How should we define health and healthspan? Are they simply the lack of specific disabilities or should they encompass positive measures of functionality?
To what extent can the typical laboratory environment with its superabundant food; its constant, benign, pathogen-defined environment; and its limitations on physical activity allow the assessment of animal health and well-being?
How might the living environment of the laboratory be altered to reveal more about animal health?
In addition to designing a living environment that is more revealing about animal health, would periodic challenges be useful to assess cognitive, sensory, and physical capacities as well?
How much can we infer about animal health from demographic information alone?
Would alternative animal models allow better assessment of health measures relevant for humans?
Bartke, A. 2005. Minireview: Role of the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor system in mammalian aging. Endocrinology 146(9):3718-3723.
Bartke, A., J. C. Wright, J. A. Mattison, D. K. Ingram, R. A. Miller, and G. S. Roth. 2001. Extending the lifespan of long-lived mice. Nature 414(6862):412.
Burger, J. M., and D. E. Promislow. 2006. Are functional and demographic senescence genetically independent? Experimental Gerontology 41(11):1108-1116.