The whole idea of aging was sort of an entropy problem where everything falls apart like your car rusting, but what these papers showed is that you can make a single change in one whole organism like C. elegans with a 100 million base pair [genome], and you can double its lifespan. Caenorhabditis elegans is a worm that’s often used as a model organism. That by itself was mindboggling for a lot of people and suggested there might be pathways to regulate aging, and if there are pathways that means there are proteins, and that means you can eventually develop drugs.
In the last 15 to 20 years, we’ve identified a whole series of pathways that are really key in regulating the rate of aging. Out of this came a discovery of several small molecules. The first demonstration that a small molecule could increase lifespan was done by Gordon Lithgow, who was at Buck Institute. Out of this came a whole series of discoveries.