REJUVENATION RESEARCH Volume 12, Number 5, 2009 ª Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. DOI: 10.1089=rej.2009.0979
Interview with Leonid A. Gavrilov, Ph.D. and Natalia Gavrilova, Ph.D.
Editor’s note: The interview series in Rejuvenation Research is a unique and, I believe, highly valuable feature of the journal, giving readers insights into the thinking and motivation of some of the most influential movers and shakers in the many disciplines—not only scientific1–6 but also political, sociological,7,8 ethical9 and more—that impinge on the crusade to defeat aging. This issue’s interview features two demographers who have been the most proactive in their field in terms of advocacy for the combating of aging. Given the widespread concern that success against aging would exacerbate overpopulation problems, high-quality communication between the fields of demography and biomedical gerontology is an essential com- ponent of the social and ethical context of cutting-edge science (especially biotechnology)–a debate that, as I10–18 and others have noted recently, is essential if we are to develop effective interventions against aging with all possible speed. 19–24
Leonid A. Gavrilov, Ph.D., and Natalia S. Gavrilova, Ph.D., are Research Associates at the Center on Aging, National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago. Leonid Gavrilov received his Master’s degree in chemistry, with a specialization in mathematical modeling and chemical kinetics, and his Ph.D. in genetics from Moscow State University, Russia. Natalia Gavrilova received her Master’s degree in chemistry and her Ph.D. in anthropology and demography from Moscow State University, Russia. Later she received a second Master’s degree in computer science from the University of Chicago. They are co-authors of over 100 scientific publications on aging and longevity studies, including their book, The Biology of Life Span: A Quantitative Approach, (Harwood 1991). Drs. Gavrilov and Gavrilova are Fellows of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA), members of the Population Association of America (PAA), and serve as expert referees and editorial board members for numerous scientific journals. Dr. Gavrilova is a research grant proposal reviewer for the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
How, in general, can demographers contribute to the effort to develop medical treatments to combat aging?
There are several ways in which human population studies could be very useful for efforts to extend healthy lifespan. First, there is the area of biodemography, a sci- ence that integrates biological knowledge with demo- graphic approaches in an attempt to understand the dynamics of vital events in human populations, including mortality and longevity.25–28 Looking back at the history of science, we can see that such important health findings as the discovery of the long-term harmful effects of smok- ing, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, and hyperglyce-
mia all resulted from statistical=epidemiological studies on human populations. These significant findings from population studies have served as a guide and justification for subsequent development of specific medical treatments and health policies, which have already saved many human lives.
Looking forward to the future of biodemographic studies, we anticipate the ‘‘unraveling of the secrets of human lon- gevity’’ with the discovery of determinants for exceptional human survival that allow some individuals to delay dramatically many diseases of aging and to live remarkably healthy long lives—sometimes beyond 100 years. When we determine why some people are so resilient to aging, these