When MIT biology professor Leonard Guarente started looking for the Fountain of Youth through this microscope more than a decade ago, compatriots were hard to come by.
"Even my own colleagues thought I was nuts," said Guarente, whose studies of the metabolic pathways in yeast cells might lead to drugs that reverse and prevent aging. "But the scientific community has done a complete 180 in the past 20 years."
Dramatic advances in the understanding of what causes cells to live and die are making such scientist as Guarente look less like New Age alchemists than the founders of a field of medical research.
Guarente was among the scientists who took part in the Aging and Healthy Lifespan Conference at Harvard University last month. The conference, sponsored by the public relations form for Cambridge biotechnology company Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, In., highlighted the company's vision for antiaging medicine, in which single compounds prescribed to treat a specific disease, such as diabetes, might also have "antiaging" benefits.