Lifespan vs. Healthspan
The world’s population has grown older over the last century. In North America, the average male will live to 76 and female to 81 years of age. However, while modern medicine has increased lifespan, the health problems associated with this longevity remain a critical issue. So, while our average lifespan has increased by 30 years over the last century, our “healthspan” or the period of life spent in good health, free from the chronic diseases and disabilities of aging, has not kept pace. Here at Elio, we believe that artificial intelligence is uniquely suited to address the kinds of complex issues of human health and wellness that are posed by a rapidly aging and unhealthy global population.
The human body is an exceptionally complex biological system, comprised of up to 30 trillion cells. When everything is functioning properly, these cells work in concert. But, genetics, the environment, our lifestyles, even the food we eat, and aging can all disrupt this concert and in turn impact the length and quality of our life. That is why we have devoted ourselves to understanding cellular aging – the key to bridging the growing gap between living a long life and living a long and healthy life.
AI & Aging
Deciphering this complex system is a challenge that can only be met properly by modern data science technologies, something known as ‘Artificial Intelligence’ or AI. AI enables machines (computers) to quickly analyze large amounts of information that would otherwise take a person years to do. Elio, backed by its research engine Nuritas, is using a proprietary AI-enabled discovery platform to examine these highly complicated systems and making the exciting first steps in a journey toward solving one of the biggest challenges in biology: slowing, stopping or even reversing the process of aging.
Let’s look in a little more detail at one of the factors that can affect our cells’ health – aging. In this pool of 30 trillion cells that make up each of us, there are groups of cells that have specific functions. Each type reproduces, matures and dies at its own carefully regulated rate. This is important because when cells get older, they can make mistakes and so there are signals imbedded in our DNA that instructs them to ‘retire’ or become senescent. The good news is that this prevents old cells from overproducing or making mistakes that can lead to e.g. cancer.
But senescent cells can cause problems too because they release chemical messengers called cytokines. The cytokines they produce can act locally on neighbouring cells or enter the blood stream and contribute to a body-wide, chronic, low-level inflammatory state known as “inflammaging”. The continuous inflammatory signals released by senescent cells are believed to be a significant driver of the aging process.
Elegant experiments that allowed researchers to target only senescent cells for destruction in animal models showed an increase in both lifespan and healthspan (how long the mice were fit and healthy for) suggesting that by removing senescent cells and preventing their negative influence, some of the signs and symptoms of aging could be prevented.
The AI Solution
Other aging-related processes that have received attention in the media recently include the cell’s metabolic systems that regulate energy generation and utilization and the cell’s ability to repair damage to its DNA to name a few. Due to the complex nature of the aging process, vast amounts of information are continuously being generated to understand it. As a result, sifting through the data and identifying trends is an enormous task that really cannot be fully accomplished manually. The use of computer-aided evaluation to automate assessment of information has advanced our appreciation of the cellular aging process and potential modifying agents. AI-enabled products such as Elio Restore are an example of how automating data evaluation can identify solutions for some of the most complex health concerns today.
Through better understanding of the events that lead to whole-body aging at a cellular level, we are now more than ever in a position to design interventions that might be helpful in extending healthspan to catch up with the already impressive progress that has been made in extending lifespan.
For more information about how Elio’s research engine Nuritas is solving biology see www.nuritas.com