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Searching for the location of the 'replicometer'


Alzheimer's disease is not a major cause of death
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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In the 50 years or so that I've been in the field of the biology of aging, there has been a significant change that I have seen, not only in the meetings – the many dozens, if not hundreds of meetings I've attended worldwide – but also in the literature of the field, that Alzheimer's disease has, as I think I've put it even in print, become attached at the hip to aging. Why, I do not know. It's usually thought that because Alzheimer's disease is such a popular... area of popular discussion, and obviously care and concern, that it should be part of any discussion of the biology of aging. In my view, that's a non-argument, because there are more people who die in more definite terms from cancer and cardiovascular disease and stroke than die from Alzheimer's disease. As a matter of fact, if you do the math, if Alzheimer's disease is resolved as an alleged cause of death, even, then there will be an additional 19 days added to human life expectancy. So why Alzheimer's disease, alone, is often a part of meetings on biogerontology, or books written on biogerontology – not geriatric medicine, which is the study of the pathologies, the disease-associated pathologies of older people – then it's hard to understand why that attachment continues, and I'm often left bewildered by this development. If we're going to include Alzheimer's disease papers and interest in meetings on bio-gerontology, why ignore the other major causes of death – Alzheimer's is not a major cause of death – major causes of death, whose resolution would be far more significant.

Leonard Hayflick (b. 1928), the recipient of several research prizes and awards, including the 1991 Sandoz Prize for Gerontological Research, is known for his research in cell biology, virus vaccine development, and mycoplasmology. He also has studied the ageing process for more than thirty years. Hayflick is known for discovering that human cells divide for a limited number of times in vitro (refuting the contention by Alexis Carrel that normal body cells are immortal), which is known as the Hayflick limit, as well as developing the first normal human diploid cell strains for studies on human ageing and for research use throughout the world. He also made the first oral polio vaccine produced in a continuously propogated cell strain - work which contributed to significant virus vaccine development.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: biology of aging, Alzheimer's disease, cause of death, life expectancy

Duration: 2 minutes, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012