For 70 years, average lifespan across the world increased steadily. But during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, life expectancy declined in 29 countries — the first-ever two-year consecutive decline in the last century.
The average American lifespan alone fell from 79 years in 2019 to 76.1 years in 2021.
The time was ripe to invite leading geroscience researchers to Israel to share their latest findings on the biology of aging and advocate for putting more resources into research, development and education for healthy longevity, says Ilia Stambler, chairman of Vetek (Seniority) – the Movement for Longevity and Quality of Life in Israel and a researcher at Shmuel Harofeh Geriatric Medical Center.
“During 2019, a lot of events happened — including the Israeli government’s publishing a National Masterplan on Aging and a huge conference at the Weizmann Institute of Science in cooperation with the NIH [US National Institutes of Health] — but then everything was put on hold by Covid,” says Stambler.
“We thought Covid would convince people to address geroscience since older people were most vulnerable to the infection, but that didn’t happen,” he tells ISRAEL21c.
“So now the rational thing is to bring aging health back into focus. Besides Covid, aging is a major risk factor for heart disease, degenerative diseases and chronic diseases such as diabetes. And there are promising potential means of intervention being developed. Longevity Nation was a call to action to intensify our efforts in healthy longevity.”
From the minute we’re born
The conference also acknowledged Israel’s leading and fast-growing longevity industry and ecosystem.
Vetek and the Aging Analytics Agency consortium took the occasion to unveil the Longevity Ecosystem in Israel platform as a central hub for resources and information on this burgeoning vertical. (See the full report here.)
Just in the past few months alone, two major initiatives were announced:
Israel’s largest medical center, Sheba, is building City of Health, a healthy longevity center to open this fall, empowering patients with data and strategies to optimize and extend their health span.
To kick things off, the first Sheba Longevity Conference will take place May 10-11, featuring keynotes and presentations from Israeli, American, European, Chinese and African researchers.
Surprisingly, this center was the brainchild of Dr. Tzipi Strauss, Sheba’s chief neonatologist.
“Thanks to advances in medicine and technology, every baby that is born in my department can now expect to live up to 100, or even 120. But from the minute you are born you start to age, so longevity needs to be considered, even at this early stage,” she explained.
LVP was founded in 2020, expanding a “silver-tech” vertical pioneered in 2017 by Mediterranean Towers Ventures. MTV’s CEO, Yael Benvenisti, who spoke at Longevity Nation, chairs Technologies for Ageing Well at The Society of Electrical and Electronic Engineers in Israel and is a board member of the Israel Gerontological Society.
12 hallmarks of aging
Speakers at Longevity Nation emphasized that their goal is not merely to extend lifespan but to help people remain healthy as they age.
Their research addresses different aspects of the 12 hallmarks of aging as defined by the NIH – among them genomic instability, mitochondrial dysfunction, altered intercellular communication and chronic inflammation.
“Aging is such a complex biological event. Clearly it’s not enough to target only one of the 12 hallmarks,” observed biochemist-embryologist Natalie Yivgi-Ohana, founder of Minovia Therapeutics.
“I’m completely in love with mitochondria and others are in love with a single protein or cell type, but we need to see the bigger picture.”
In part 2 of this story, we summarize five of the Israeli research projects presented.