Some of the top researchers on aging in the country are trying to get an unusual clinical trial up and running.

They want to test a pill that could prevent or delay some of the most debilitating diseases of old age, including Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. The focus of the project isn’t to prolong life, although that could occur, but to make the last years or decades of people’s lives more fulfilling by postponing the onset of many chronic diseases until closer to death.

The project aims to tap into the growing body of research targeting aging, which has revealed a half dozen or more drugs that appear to delay the aging process in laboratory experiments on animals and observational studies of people. Some of the drugs also have been found to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases associated with old age.

“Aging is the major risk factor for all these diseases—heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s,” said Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City who is leading the proposed study. “If you want to make a real impact you have to modulate the risk of aging and by that the risk for all those diseases of aging.”

Dr. Barzilai expects to enroll more than 1,000 elderly participants in the randomized, controlled clinical trial to be conducted at multiple research centers and take five to seven years. The project is in the preliminary stages and permanent funding hasn’t yet been secured. Funding for the planning phase is coming from the American Federation for Aging Research, a nonprofit organization of which Dr. Barzilai is deputy scientific director.

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