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Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ., 3 October 2001
Vol. 2001, Issue 1, p. vp2
[DOI: 10.1126/sageke.2001.1.vp2]


SAGE KE: An Intellectual Home for Scientists Who Seek to Understand Why and How Organisms Age

George M. Martin

The author is the editor-in-chief of the SAGE KE and is in the Department of Pathology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-7470, USA. E-mail: gmmartin{at};2001/1/vp2

After a very long and sometimes painful incubation period, biomedical research on aging has come of age. The skeptics need only note the growing list of distinguished senior investigators who recently have been attracted to our mission: Giuseppe Attardi, Seymour Benzer, Luca Cavalli-Sforza, and Paul Greengard, to name just a few. That mission is the search for a deeper understanding of the fundamental mechanisms that lead to the slow, insidious, postmaturational declines in structure and function observed in diverse organisms. These homeostatic declines set the stage for the emergence of diverse chronic degenerative and proliferative disorders that threaten to overwhelm health care systems around the world. The prevalence of these processes of aging is exactly 100%--a number that surely has not escaped the attention of the CEOs of all major pharmaceutical companies.

Evolutionary biologists appear to be unanimous in their conclusion as to why we age (see Aging Research Grows Up). Like all branches of science, however, that story is far from over. Uncertainties remain, for example, concerning such issues as the extent to which grandfathers like me, who lived among our remote ancestors, contributed to the reproductive fitness of their grandchildren. (I have no doubt that I am playing such a role in the year 2001!) Simply put, evolutionary biologists believe that those nasty senescent phenotypes are here because they have escaped the force of natural selection. But we also know that life history parameters, including variable rates of aging, are highly plastic. Given the opportunity--a new ecological niche for the evolution of alternative gene actions--nature can devise clever methods for superior maintenance of the soma. It is our job to reveal these secrets in order to enhance our health spans as well as our life-spans.

To do so will require the recruitment of a wide range of scientists, including those who may not yet have thought of their work in the context of aging. Nucleic acid, protein, carbohydrate, and lipid biochemists; endocrinologists; neuroscientists; geneticists; organ and integrative physiologists; population biologists; and many others--we want them all to join us in this quest. Models of aging can offer some special advantages for their research. Phenotypes in old cells and animals can be thought of as amplifiers of signals that would otherwise escape detection.

Given the encyclopedic nature of our field and the exponential rates at which scientific information relevant to the biology of aging is increasing, how are we to keep up with the literature? Fortunately, the age of digitized data and the Internet has arrived in the nick of time. The Science of Aging Knowledge Environment (SAGE KE) is a Web site developed for researchers in the field of aging and designed to help digest the rich fruits of past and current research on aging. Although we offer no panaceas, like so many of the translational products of aging research we do provide a measure of palliation!

SAGE KE follows STKE (Signal Transduction Knowledge Environment) as the second in a series of such Knowledge Environments (KEs) being developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Science magazine. These KEs are designed to serve as vehicles for filtering and integrating, in a timely fashion, widely dispersed and exponentially growing sources of scientific information in selected fields of seminal importance to the scientific community and to the general public. SAGE KE aims to provide "one-stop shopping" for researchers in the field of aging, with articles as well as unique tools available only in a Web-based format, such as discussions, databases, bulletin boards, and more. Our efforts and those of our sister Web sites (to which we shall increasingly provide links) are merely beginning steps in applying new technologies to the information explosion problem. In the companion Viewpoint, our very capable SAGE KE editors, Drs. Kelly LaMarco, Evelyn Strauss, and John Davenport have outlined some of the exciting special features of SAGE KE. Our editors, although having solid credentials in basic biological science and biomedical writing, are new to the field of aging research. They are fast learners, however! I am most grateful to my numerous colleagues who have shared their knowledge and ideas with them during their forays into your labs and at conferences. I am also enormously appreciative of the devotion of the members of our Scientific Advisory Board and members of their respective labs for helping us to bring our visions to fruition. They include Steve Austad, Judy Campisi, Paul Coleman, Lenny Guarente, Cynthia Kenyon, Richard Miller, Doug Wallace, and Phyllis Wise--each of them a star in their areas of basic research on the biology of aging. Our board will also soon be joined by a group of distinguished scientists from abroad.

We welcome your ideas in taking the next steps. This is YOUR SAGE KE! Our goal is to serve as an intellectual home base for the aging research community. Although we strongly emphasize basic biological research in this initial phase of SAGE KE, we welcome relevant clinical contributions. We are not unaware of the important contributions to the science of aging being made by our social science colleagues; when our biological sciences mission has matured, we shall also welcome their contributions.

Meanwhile, a sister Web site, tentatively designated as CLINICAL SAGE KE, is in the planning stages. Here is where geriatricians, internists, family physicians, and others who are "on the firing line" dealing with medical and social problems of the elderly will find much more substantial coverage of these other important areas of scholarship in aging research. Two partners in this endeavor, and the newest members of our board, will help us provide a bridge that connects basic research on aging to the clinical geriatric sciences. They are Mark Beers, executive director of Geriatrics and Medical Literature and editor-in-chief of the Merck Manuals, Merck & Co., and Patricia Barry, executive director of the Merck Instititute of Aging and Health. Finally, a companion Web site on public policy research and practice in aging is also under consideration, thanks to the collaborative efforts of AAAS and the Alliance for Aging Research.

Much credit for the vision and implementation of this wonderful adventure in scientific publishing goes to the editor of Science magazine and publisher of SAGE KE, Ellis Rubinstein. He must already know the secret to longevity, as he seems to have an inexhaustible supply of ATP!

A major grant from the Ellison Medical Foundation has provided essential initial funding for SAGE KE. You will, therefore, have free access to all of its contents for at least 1 year and free access to some of its contents indefinitely. Of course, if there is an angel out there who wishes to provide an endowment, we would be delighted to continue to offer all of SAGE KE without charge.

Our success will be your success, so please help us by contributing topics for Reviews, Perspectives, and News, as well as for the SAGE Poster Session and Discussion Forums. "Knock wood," our field has so far been blessed by an unusual degree of cordiality, collegiality, and collaboration. Let's hope this happy state of affairs will be enhanced by the interactions provided by SAGE KE.

October 3, 2001

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Science of Aging Knowledge Environment. ISSN 1539-6150