Epidemiological studies and public health awareness have drastically reduced the number of people who are struck down in their prime by deadly diseases.
There is a temptation to feel nostalgia for a simpler time in the middle of the 20th century when America stood astride the globe, a Colossus using its power for good in an unsteady world. That noble vision has faded as we sink deeper into indebtedness to Saudi oil lords and Chinese investors, while our own government appears haplessly unable to see past the next election. But there is one aspect of the good old days I do not miss. One of my early memories is watching a news flash on a small black and white screen TV announcing that Lou Costello died suddenly of a heart attack. In fact, the same thing happened to our (middle aged) neighbor two houses down. Stripped of the veneer of Ozzie and Harriet, the 1950s were actually a scary time, when deadly diseases struck down people in their prime years with alarming frequency.
Genetic testing is advancing rapidly, and we can now find out our risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s. But without a cure or treatment available, what’s the point?
Alzheimer’s starts in one area and spreads all over the brain, like an infection. Does this mean that it's possible to develop a vaccine?
Dr. Leonard P. Guarente is an American biologist and director of MIT's Glenn Laboratory for the Science of Aging, where he is also a Novartis Professor of Biology. He is best known for his research on longevity and specifically for uncovering the gene in yeast that governs the organism's life span. He is the author of "Ageless Quest: One Scientist's Search for Genes That Prolong Youth," which was published in 2003 by Cold Spring Harbor Press.