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Open Access Editorial

Translating longevity research into healthspan

Gordon J Lithgow1, Janet M Lord2 and James L Kirkland3

Author Affiliations

1 Buck Institute for Research on Aging, 8001 Redwood Blvd, Novato, CA, 94945, USA

2 School of Immunity and Infection, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK

3 Mayo Clinic, 200 1st Street Southwest, Rochester, MN, USA

Longevity & Healthspan 2012, 1:1  doi:10.1186/2046-2395-1-1

Published: 3 September 2012

First paragraph (this article has no abstract)

At the beginning of the 20th century the names of deadly childhood diseases were whispered in fear. Everyone knew a family visited by the shadow of tuberculosis, rickets, polio or smallpox. Chickenpox and rubella brought their own forms of misery. Each disease presented in different ways, affected different organs and had distinct prognoses. Many of us will remember the endless cycles of bake sales and charity runs aimed at raising funds to buy iron lungs for local children badly damaged by polio, and the strings of sanatoriums built for the isolation and treatment of tuberculosis. At the beginning of the 21st century, young parents are scarcely aware of the names of these conditions, never mind stress over their children contracting them. What happened? The germ theory of infectious disease provided the causal framework for the development of Erlich’s magic bullets, Fleming’s antibiotics and Salk’s vaccine. Society didn’t need more iron lungs or sanatoriums; it needed preventions and cures and it got them through investment in microbial, immunological and pharmaceutical research.