Biological processes underlying health at older ages are strongly correlated with social and economic environmental exposures across the life course. Increasingly, the distinction between social scientific and biomedical research on health and aging has blurred. For demographers, new ways of thinking about health and aging are bringing together biomedical and social scientific paradigms. This area of biodemographic research is one of the newest and fastest growing within the field of demography.
To promote collaboration between population health scientists and biologists, CDHA co-hosted the conference “Early Life Determinants of Later Life Health and Well-being: The Microbiome and Epigenetics as Biological Mechanisms” in May. Eleven presenters explored how early life conditions influence adult health and disease, whether these conditions are epigenetic, and what role the microbiome plays in these processes.
Caleb Finch of the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California (USC) was the keynote speaker at the daylong conference. Finch, an eminent aging researcher and founder of the Alzheimer Disease Research Center at USC, has studied the basic mechanisms in human aging for the past six decades. In “Environmental Inflammogens and ApoE Alleles in Brain Development and Aging” Finch presented his new research on the effects of air pollution on brain development and aging.
The conference “provided us with a wonderful opportunity to bring together an interdisciplinary group of leading scholars in the areas of the microbiome and epigenetics,” said Pamela Herd, CDHA director. The spring 2017 gathering was a follow-up to a 2013 conference CDHA organized specifically focused on the gut microbiome. Four years later, “it was really incredible to see how much work and progress had been made, some of which involved collaborations started at that conference,” said Herd.