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Extending Life, Enhancing Life: A National Research Agenda on Aging
The second priority research recommendation is that basic researchin the neurosciences (including the peripheral and central nervoussystems) and the current special research initiatives on Alzheimer's disease should be continued and expanded.
Funding allocations for the foregoing should supplement, not supplant, existing research support and should not detract from other areas of investigation. Fundamental studies on aging and the regulation of gene expression and macromolecular syntheses, postsynthetic modifications of proteins and protein degradation, membrane changes, and other fundamental research approaches are essential to the studies envisioned above and to all facets of biomedical exploration. To achieve the above-noted research goals, major new research resources are required for direct support of research projects, additional training programs, expansion of current centers devoted to studies on aging, and enlargement of the current infrastructure for basic biomedical scientific exploration. These are described later in this chapter.
ADDITIONAL RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES
The identification of two major research recommendations in no way is intended to detract from the importance of other areas of biogerontological research. Some promising research directions not included in the major recommendations also are worthy of encouragement and support. A brief discussion of some of these important research directions follows.
Although one major emphasis of this report is on proliferating cells, the role of nondividing cell types in the process of aging should be explored further. These studies should focus on postmitotic cells, such as neurons and cardiac and skeletal muscle cells, as well as on conditionally proliferating cells, such as hepatocytes (Martin, 1977), and will provide important information about aging mechanisms that have been neglected. Presently, little or no information is available about repair and regeneration in these cells. For example, does macromolecular turnover change with age? How are cell surface properties altered? Do signal transduction mechanisms change?
Another area of emphasis is that of systems physiology. Most gerontologists agree that aging is a multifactorial process, involving many cells, tissues, and organ types. Research must be carried out on the major integrative systems in physiology. The effects of aging on the endocrine/neuroendocrine and immune systems (Finch et al.,