NO-Age interviews Prof. George M. Martin: NO-Age Advisory Board Member and a pioneer in ageing research
07th Nov. 2019
By NO-Age News reporters Ruben Gudmundsrud and Evandro F. Fang
“ It is time we have come together to objectively discuss the pros and cons of these various underlying theories of WHY we age, as well as HOW we age,´´ says Prof. George Martin
About: Prof. George M. Martin
Q: Who are you?
A: I am a Professor Emeritus of Pathology at the University of Washington
Q: What is your research field?
A: Genetic Approaches to our Understanding of Mechanisms of Aging and Age-Related Disorders
Q: Why did you choose to do science/research/academia?
A: It was a pathway in life that provided opportunities for continued intellectual growth
Ageing and NO-Age
Q: How did you first get interested in ageing?
A: In 1961, while in the laboratory of the late Guido Pontocorvo at Glasgo, Scotland, I failed at attempts to map human genetic loci via mitotic recombination using cultures of human diploid human fibroblasts. This was because of the limited replicative lifespans of these somatic cells, as described that year by Hayflick and Moorhead. Having participated in a study of the Werner Syndrome with the late Arno Motulsky and colleagues at the University of Washington, I then sought support of the concept that this limitation of growth was a manifestation of aging by testing the hypothesis that such cultures from patients with the Werner syndrome, a segmental progeroid syndrome, would exhibit accelerated rates of replicative senescence. This was indeed confirmed and led me to devote my career to the pathobiology of aging.
Q: How did you find NO-Age?
A: I met Evandro Fang at a meeting on RecQ helicases in Japan in 2018, which led to subsequent correspondence and the discovery of NO-Age.
Q: What do you think is the most important part of future research in ageing?
A: Greater understanding of environmental, genetic, and interventional contributions towards the enhancements of the rations of Healthspans/Lifespans within various human populations.
Q: What do you think about this multidisciplinary approach to ageing research?
A: A multidisciplinary approach is essential.
Q: What do you think about the possible consequences of healthspan/lifespan, and the societal impact?
A: Its societal and economic consequences would be enormous.
Q: What are your expectations on the future activities of NO-Age? Do you have any suggestions?
A: As a founding member of the recently organized Academy for Health and Longevity Research, I have supported the renaming of the organization to emphasize international memberships and specifically recommended the membership of the NO-Age community in Oslo.
Specific questions to Prof. George M. Martin
Q: Do you think we will ever elucidate the mechanisms of ageing?
A: My guess is that, given the unpredicted results of long term evolutionary changes in both genomes and environments, we may continue to discover novel mechanisms of aging.
Q: In the past 10-20 years, ageing research has undergone major growth, with many new ageing mechanisms unveiled and dozens of new anti-ageing compounds and strategies reported (at least from work in lab animals) – What is your opinion on the unanswered questions and future perspectives of ageing research’?
A: I am concerned about a recent growing controversy among some of my leading colleagues. A minority of gerontologists, including the legendary Leonard Hayflick, are convinced that aging can be explained by the second law of thermodynamics, not by the more widely accepted evolutionary biological theories. It is time we have come together to objectively discuss the pros and cons of these various underlying theories of WHY we age, as well as HOW we age.
Q: As a leading ageing scholar, you are holding the record of running an ambitious R01 grant at the age of 92. Could you please share with us how you’ve sustained your life-long passion for research?
A: That’s an easy question: for me at least, the purpose of life is to die funded!
Q: Do you have any secrets for a long and healthy life?
A: Be lucky enough to belong to a society with a single payer, non-profit system of universal health care. The United States pays twice as much per capita for health care than any other developed country, yet ranks at the bottom in such metrics as maternal and infant mortality.
Photo: from University of Washington