Graphic: Cathleen Heard
No one can escape one of the few risk factors common to neurodegenerative diseases, heart disease, and many cancers: age. Within the last decade or so, research on aging, once seen as unfeasible and impractical, has become the legitimate purview of many scientists who hope to prolong life, improve quality of later life, and delay humans' decay at the cellular and genetic level. By viewing aging as a fundamental root of other diseases, researchers studying the mechanisms of aging hope to have an impact not only a range of maladies, but on the average person's general health and well-being.

Yet most private and government funding continues to go toward treating diseases rather than aging per se, a philosophy that, according to some, ignores the real problem. "I think people are going to realize that just curing one disease after another isn't getting at the fundamental problem," says...

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