Future drugs may redefine what old age means

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Nursing home residents endure a cornucopia of age-related ailments. These include Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. But there is growing evidence that new drugs may help eliminate or at least minimize these ailments in the future. Researchers are increasingly focusing their efforts on developing medicines that target the cellular engines called mitochondria. One, resveratrol, is now in clinical trials for diabetes. It could be on the market in four years and used off-label as an all-purpose longevity enhancer. Other drugs promise to do even more. The idea of hundreds of thousands of centenarians may sound extreme to some. But things can change. Consider: people born in the U.S. in 1900 had an average life expectancy of less than 50 years—it's now over 80 for women and nearly that for men. And by the way, there are already more than 50,000 people in this nation who are 100 or older.

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