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Scientists closer to elixir of youth

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Julieanne Strachan

A FUTURE where Australians can pop a pill and significantly delay the effects of ageing - from hair loss to the onset of dementia - may be only about a decade away, one of the world's leading evolutionary biologists predicts.

Professor Dame Linda Partridge, who heads research teams at University College London and is the founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne, has been selected to give the prestigious Graeme Clark Oration in Melbourne next month.

She predicts that at some point in the next 10 years drugs will be available that could keep us healthy in body and mind long into old age.

Her oration has been titled ''Forever Young'' and will explore developments that could mean that starting in our 40s, humans could take medicines to prevent diseases like Alzheimer's and heart disease, preserve vital organs and even keep hair full and shiny.

Organisers of the 2012 Graeme Clark Oration, hosted by the ICT for Life Sciences Forum, have said that Professor Partridge's work does not promise immortality but rather a future where people can age gracefully, healthy, happy and active until the end of their lives.

Her oration will deal with the understanding of the genes and mechanisms that contribute to a long healthy lifespan. She will discuss global research as well as her work with fruit flies, worms and mice and what that has revealed about diabetes, reduced food intake and resistance to stress.

Melbourne geneticist Professor Phil Batterham said that Professor Partridge's work has real world applications.

''Linda has done the hard work in the lab with fruit flies, and what she's learning is incredibly relevant to human ageing,'' he said. ''Understanding ageing is the one of the most challenging problems in modern biology.''

Professor Partridge's oration will be available to be viewed in Canberra via webcast.

The 2012 Graeme Clark Oration will be held at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Wednesday, July 18, at 6.15pm.

For further details go to graemeclarkoration.org.au.

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