Text by Paul Tumarkin, Tech Launch Arizona
College of Science
This year's talks, beginning Jan. 24, will focus on the aging process and challenges facing the elderly.
The College of Science's popular spring lecture series this year will present six free lectures on the effects of long life.
Living Beyond 100 addresses the opportunities and costs of the new longevity, the biology of aging, the effects of aging on the brain, regenerative medicine, the impact on global populations and the increasing intimacy between informatics and the aged.
The first lecture is Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. in Centennial Hall on the University of Arizona campus.
Emerging science and medical technologies provide many clues regarding the future of aging, but changing demographics and economics also have begun to influence society's views. Beyond a doubt, each of us will face new levels of scientific complexity in this new world.
"Genetics, immunobiology, psychology, neurobiology, medicine, geography and information studies are coming together to reveal the future of aging," said Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the UA College of Science.
"The UA Science Lecture Series shares with our community the remarkable discoveries made by UA scientists and others," he said. "For this seventh year of the series, we are happy to share the discoveries that speak of the opportunities and costs of our increasing longevity."
This year's corresponding teacher education program for science teachers at the 6-12 grade level has filled. Research Corporation for Science Advancement funds tuition for the program, which provides two hours of graduate credit through the UA Outreach College
All the Living Beyond 100 lectures are free and open to the public. The lectures will be held at Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd., on the UA campus. Parking is available on a pay-per-use basis in the Tyndall Avenue Garage, 880 E. Fourth St.
The scheduled lectures:
Jan. 24: Can We, and What If We Do?
Shane C. Burgess, Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona
For most of human history, what we today consider a "reasonable life span" was a significant achievement for the average human. This remains the case in many parts of the world, but for westerners in particular, the magic age "100" is becoming a milestone to which many now realistically aspire. Our science has allowed us to immortalize cells and is giving us pointers to achieving much longer life spans. Medicine and nutrition also are making rapid progress, and in many cases what were terminal diseases are becoming treatable inconveniences. But if being alive well beyond 100 years is possible, is it really "living?" What if we haven't planned to live that long: Can we afford it? How will so many older citizens change our society? So, can we live beyond 100? The increasing numbers of centenarians affirm that the answer is "yes," but what are these special people made of, and how can we learn from them?
Jan. 31: The Biology of Aging: Why Our Bodies Grow Old
Janko Nikolich-Zugich, Professor and Department Head of Immunobiology; Co-Director, Arizona Center on Aging, University of Arizona
All organisms age, but we really do not have a clear explanation how and why. Do we have to grow old? Can we identify processes that can impact aging of particular parts of our bodies or, even better, of our entire bodies? Where do we stand with anti-aging interventions? This lecture will address theories of aging, emphasizing those that show most potential promise. The incredible promise of research on aging to extend healthspan and lifespan will be contrasted with the vast and unregulated world of anti-aging supplements and with the incredibly small investment we are making in developing credible anti-aging interventions.
Feb. 7: The Aging of the Brain
Carol A. Barnes, Regents' Professor of Psychology and Neurology; Director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, University of Arizona
One of the great frontiers of contemporary science is exploration of the mind. The brain embodies our individual identities as well as our ability to cooperate with others to understand the remaining mysteries of our universe. It is composed of billions of cells, the connections amongst which capture and preserve unique experiences. Over the past half-century, ideas about the aging brain have evolved away from it being an organ of passive deterioration toward the realization that it is capable of dynamic adaptation and high levels of function well past 100 years. One question remains – can we all achieve this?
Feb. 14: Repair, Regeneration and Replacement Revisited
David G. Armstrong, Professor of Surgery and Director, Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance, University of Arizona
More than 250 years ago, the philosopher Auguste Comte suggested that "demography is destiny." It is this change in demography that is leading toward that destiny: nothing less than a transformation of medicine and our collective relationship with it. From advances in composite tissue transplantation to stem cells to bionic human-machine interfaces, we are experiencing a present-day revolution in replacement parts. As these advances merge with similar progress in consumer and medical devices, the aging individual will be forced to ask the question: What of us will remain innately "us?"
Feb. 21: Society, Geographic Change and the New Longevity
Vincent J. Del Casino, Jr., Associate Dean, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; Professor of Geography and Development, University of Arizona
Data demonstrate that the world's human population is getting older as life expectancy continues to increase globally. Much of this increase is taking place in the so-called developing world. Despite these trends, there remains tremendous variability in the geography of life expectancy. There are in fact points in time and place where life expectancies have dropped or will drop in the future. We are just beginning to understand what the "new longevity" means for society as we adapt our social welfare systems to the changing demographics of our aging populations. Where will our aging populations live? Who will care for them? How are the roles of older populations changing? Aging will continue to present new challenges as our global population reaches toward 9 billion over the next 40 years. To better respond to the needs of our world's changing demographic distributions, it is critical that we understand the nature of aging at both global and local scales today.
Feb. 28: Information and Immortality
Paul R. Cohen, Director of the School of Information: Science, Technology and Arts, University of Arizona
Information and immortality have always been related by the idea that we are survived by the stories told about us. The Information Age provides increasingly sophisticated tools to create and tell these stories, but of course the relationship between information and immortality encompasses more: robotic elder care, uploading oneself to the Web, and the likelihood that in the future, one will have biological and computational parts and entirely computational friends. All of which raises the questions: What do we want informatics to do for us as we age? Where is the line between assisting and supplanting? These are not new questions: Anyone who sits for a portrait knows that the likeness might survive, and eventually become, the sitter. Informatics will eventually merge one's self and one's likeness into bio-robotic complexes of parts and information, maintained by corporations and governments. Then the relationship between information and immortality will be more complicated than ever.
Funding for the College of Science Spring 2012 Lecture Series is provided by Arizona Center on Aging; Arizona Daily Star; Galileo Circle; Godat Design; Innovation Park, Bob Davis; Raytheon; Research Corporation for Science Advancement; Sanofi U.S.; The Marshall Foundation; UniSource Energy; Ventana Medical Systems, Inc.
College of Science