JUPITER, Fla. - Andy Ruoff will turn 99 in the spring. "I've been very lucky," he said.
The WW II veteran from Jupiter was a doctor in the Army, then later in private practice, and with the VA. "I've had a long and varied life," he added.
He has not had any major illnesses.
Ruoff says his profession played no role in his ability to reach nearly triple digits. "I think I was just fortunate to inherit the ability to maintain some of my marbles."
Right now, local scientists are looking into what allows people to live long healthy lives.
Dr. Paul Robbins is the Director of the Center of Aging at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter.
He's part of a scientific collaboration embarking on a 5-year study to figure out what's in the genes of these "natural longevity mutants."
"Changes in their DNA that we think plays a role in extending their lifespan," he said
These scientists say aging is not a disease but should be treated as one. The key word here is "healthspan."
"So our goal is not to make people live longer, it's to make them healthier. Now if it has the side benefit of extending lifespan so be it," he said.
So far experiments have been done in mice, bred to age quickly. Compounds have been identified that extended the health and lifespan of those mice by 30-40%. Could the same results be found in humans? "The goal is not to treat individual diseases but the root cause of those diseases which is the aging process itself."
Robbins and a colleague recently had a study published where they've identified drugs that target senescent cells… cells that have stopped replicating because of chromosome damage. "It's known that these cells accumulate with age. The question is are they the consequence of aging, or the driving force of aging?"
Robbins says this work is some of the most exciting in his career. "I would say this is kind of the new frontier now."
As for Ruoff, he doesn't know why he's been blessed… he's just appreciative. "Tried to keep myself healthy and tried to live a useful life."