Our Chicago: Can science slow down or reverse the aging process?

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It sounds like something from a book or a movie, slowing down or even reversing the aging process.

Doing so could impact the development of conditions such as heart disease and cancer.

A new human longevity lab at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine may one day make all that a reality.

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Can science prevent cancer, heart and liver disease or even aging? Northwestern University's school of medicine is working on it.

Dr. Frank Palella, the Potocsnak family professor of medicine and the associate director of the Potocsnak Family Longevity Institute at Northwestern University, joined ABC7 to discuss the schools work.

"What we're going to be focusing on how people act physically and biologically, as opposed to chronologically meaning the number, the number of years they've spent on the earth. It will be sort of a multi-focused look at different aspects of health that really determine how long people can function at their peak capacity," Palella said.

Those aspects include cardiovascular health, psychiatric or cognitive thinking, to kidney disease, bone disease, liver disease, functional status and "very importantly," Palella said, "biologically, looking at levels of important markers in blood that give us sort of an insight, get a sneak look into what might be happening several years to decades from now."

"There is no greater risk for any major illness than aging itselfm" Palella said. "So, if we can help slow down the aging process from a functional standpoint and we can predict, get a looksee at just what sort of adverse things might be brewing before they become clinically apparent this gives us a window of opportunity, a period of time during which we can undertake prevention."

So what might those preventative measures look like?

"Preventative measures, be they medications, be they interventions, like physical conditioning, psychological, cognitive functioning, interventions that can keep people performing at peak level for a much more extended period of time than their chronologic or age in years might otherwise indicate," said Palella.
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