There’s no doubt that Dr. Ilia Stambler’s Longevity promotion: multidisciplinary perspective is a thorough book that all kinds of advocates of healthy longevity may find very useful. The book reads pretty much like a collection of academics papers, each dealing with a different aspect of the matter, including science, history, social and moral implications, legislation, and advocacy. Just like you would expect from an academic work, each section of this book is complete with exhaustive sources that will indubitably prove helpful should you wish to dig deeper into the topic being discussed.
The first section of the book focuses on advocacy, discussing typical concerns raised in the context of life extension, outreach material, and initiatives, and it offers suggestions for effective policies to promote aging and longevity research. The latter part of this section was one of the hardest for me to read since policies and legislation are not at all my strongest suit, but I do believe that professional lobbyists and advocates who have legal and regulatory backgrounds and wish to take action will find numerous ideas in it.
The longevity history section discusses the progression of longevity science during the last century. It was surprising to learn that quite a few well-established scientific disciplines of today, such as endocrinology, owe their existence to early efforts to create rejuvenation treatments. This section discusses other aspects as well, such as the holism vs reductionism controversy in the history of longevity research and the legacy of Elie Metchnikoff, a pioneering immunologist and microbiologist who can safely be regarded as the father of gerontology and made no mystery of his conviction that aging should be considered a disease and treated as such.
However, the topic I found most engaging was the historical evolution of evolutionary theories of aging; antagonistic pleiotropy, disposable soma, and mutation accumulation are all presented here, and their merits and shortcomings are discussed from a neutral perspective.
Readers who have religious beliefs or are otherwise interested in religious traditions may find the longevity philosophy section of special interest, for it explains how the pursuit of healthy longevity may fit in the context of the main monotheistic religions, often in surprising ways. Superficially, one might think religions should be against life extension, as it might represent an obstacle on the way of the afterlife or reincarnation, for example; yet, the author makes interesting points about how religious philosophies have strong connections to the pursuit of longevity, sometimes even encouraging it and presenting it as a worthy goal.
The fourth and final section of the book is a treatise on longevity science. It discusses possible intervention to ameliorate age-related conditions, the current state of research, and especially the importance of agreeing on a diagnostic framework for aging. As the author himself points out, it is impossible to cure that which cannot be diagnosed; therefore, the task of curing aging, or the diseases of old age, will be much harder without widely agreed-upon criteria to establish which biomarkers are the most reliable and what their optimal values should be. In absence of such parameters, it won’t be possible to effectively assess whether any rejuvenation therapy is actually doing its job or not, and Dr. Stambler rightly stresses this fact.
In closing of the fourth section, the reader will find a short discussion of several other resources for further reading.
As the author’s writing style is rather formal and academic, some readers may find this book a ‘heavy read’. The text may also appear slightly repetitive on occasion, but, in my perspective, this may well be a feature rather than a bug: Together with the content structure, it helps make each section of the book independent of the others. Readers may safely skip any parts in which they’re not interested and move on to what they find more appealing, without fear of missing out on any crucial bit of information.