Can AI Help Scientists Slow the Aging Process?

Ramkumar Hariharan, a senior scientist at the Institute for Experiential AI, is developing the Artificial Intelligence Longevity Toolbox (AI-LOT) to assist biologists in understanding their data when it comes to aging.

This article originally appeared on Northeastern Global News. It was published by Beth Treffeisen. Main photo: Ram Hariharan, Director of the College of Engineering in Seattle, poses for a portrait on the Seattle campus. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Aging happens. While the rate may vary from species to species and even person to person, targeting aging may extend the average life expectancy more than prevention or treatment of diseases, according to Northeastern experts.

Researchers and pharmaceutical companies continue to search for treatments for chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. But while medicine has helped reduce mortality, it doesn’t look at the larger picture of aging.

Aging plays a crucial role in the onset of many diseases that affect the body’s organs.

Preventative measures to treat aging at the molecular level may provide more benefits than reactive therapeutic approaches that target a single disease or organ—which do not extend lifespans, says Ramkumar Hariharan, a senior scientist at the Institute for Experiential AI at Northeastern University.

Hariharan focuses on human longevity, advanced statistical data analyses, data visualization, and machine learning. He also has experience in building AI applications, with research directed at using large and genomic datasets in biomedicine.

“I think aging is the emperor of all maladies,” Hariharan says.

Even if scientists cure cancer, the most it would add to the average life expectancy would be two to three years, Hariharan says. Why? Because, like in the movies, if cancer doesn’t get you, something else will—such as a car crash, heart disease or Alzheimer’s.

The reason is that “aging is the single biggest risk factor for developing any one of these diseases,” Hariharan says. “If you can slow down aging, you get a life-expectancy increase of 30 to 35 years.”

So, what exactly is aging other than another day closer to your next birthday? Hariharan defines it as things falling apart at the molecular level, at the cellular level, and the organismal level.

The chances of getting diseases increase as one ages and other functionalities decrease, such as the body’s immune system—meaning the older you are, the more likely you are to get infectious diseases.

A scientific hypothesis states, “Aging is one of the biggest risk factors for developing any of this plethora of diseases,” Hariharan says. “By slowing down aging or by halting aging, or in the ideal case reversing aging, you must be able to prevent or stave off the initiation of these diseases.”

Read full story at Northeastern Global News.

Related Faculty: Ram Hariharan

Related Departments:Multidisciplinary Masters (IT Areas)