Episode 124 Health & Aging as Complex Networks

Episode 124

Health & Aging as Complex Networks

An interview with Alan Cohen

April 25, 2019

In this episode, we talked with professor, systems thinker, and aging researcher, Alan Cohen. Cohen described how controlled experiments continue to dominate the way biologist learn and think, he suggested “this paradigm of complex systems thinking is what can guide us to understand when those controlled experiments are formative or not. The more complex the system the more a lot of factors might be interacting and the more we have to doubt how generalizable our experimental results will be.” During our conversation, Cohen also shared some of the complex questions he is researching in his lab like, “can we integrate biomarkers (Cholesterol, Albumin, Hemoglobin, Glucose) together to get a good idea of what’s happening with the aging process? And what happens if, instead of looking at them [biomarkers] one at a time, we try to integrate their signal and look at what might be happening in terms of underlying processes?” He explained that people who have “high dis-regulation levels” are at greater risk of health complications and that his research on holistic physiology is uncovering fundamental processes in the biology of aging. 

Show Notes

Quotes from this episode:

“I am one of the few people in the field of aging to really be thinking about how complex systems might be interacting with the aging process.” — Alan Cohen

“As soon as you get to the complex systems way of thinking where one of the major causes of aging is a breakdown in the regulation of a complex network, then it gets to be much harder to know when to intervene.” — Alan Cohen

“No mammal can avoid aging.”— Alan Cohen

“I think we now have pretty good evidence that these complex system dynamics are part of the aging process. They’re probably not the whole story, but an important part.”— Alan Cohen