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EMBL/EMBO Joint Conference 2004

Relevance and future prospects

If aging is a universal phenomenon, the expansion of human life expectancy among populations in the industrial world that characterized the twentieth century is unique in the history of humanity. As the extension of human lifespan is projected to continue to rise in the twenty-first century, it may well bring about further revolutionary changes through improvements in medicine and applications of emerging technologies presently brewing within the life sciences. In view of these prospects it is extremely important to promote multi-disciplinary dialogue among experts on the causes, characteristics and consequences of increased human longevity, and to involve the public in reflections regarding its implications. What is the status of our present-day knowledge about the nature of aging, at the molecular, the cellular, and the organismic level? Can it be applied any time soon to fight the plight of age-related degenerative diseases, to improve the quality of the human lifespan? How is it likely to impact on the future on people's life expectancy and the population profiles of their societies? Since those of us who live in the industrial world are already faced with a radical aging of the human population, how will we deal with a further intensification of that trend and what are its possible repercussions?