Episode #9 – Reproductive Longevity with Dr. Garrison

Joining me on the podcast today is Jennifer Garrison PhD. Jennifer is an assistant professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and also holds appointments in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California.

Dr. Garrison’s research focuses on understating how chemical communication between the brain and other tissues influence aging. 

Running a research lab is just one part of Dr. Garrison’s work. Understanding aging on a molecular level is a key part of her work at the Buck Institute. The goal is to understand the underlying causes of aging as a way to tackle multiple diseases at the same time. 

“The goal is to increase health span . . . increase that period of time when you are healthy.”  Jennifer Garrison 

Jennifer explains that she believes that the brain is the key player for systemic aging. She explains how the brain is controlling what’s happening, by listening to and recording feedback from all the organs in your body. 

Dr. Garrison organized the International Scientific Conference Focused on Reproductive Aging. As we make progress extending healthy longevity, reproductive longevity must also be addressed. It’s not just a physical issue but affects gender equality as well. A goal is to get rid of menopause and if that’s not possible, then to extend it until much later in life. 

There’s a lack of understanding about why women experience menopause at all. Jennifer paints the big picture that is fascinating. Did you know that only humans and a few species of whales even experience menopause? The research is underfunded, and Dr. Garrison is advocating that scientists and clinicians to talk and collaborate about these issues. 

The male body has been the baseline. Researching women’s bodies is still underfunded and Dr. Garrison along with organizations like the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation are trying to bring awareness and the need for more research. Funding is key to bringing the scientists and physicians together who can begin to answer fundamental questions about women’s bodies and reproductive health. 

What should every woman know about reproductive aging? 

The ovary isn’t just for fertility. It produces endocrine hormones and other chemicals that are essential for general health that have nothing to do with fertility. Those functions are what Dr. Garrison wants to learn how they can be extended to improve overall health. 

Reproductive aging centers around equality. Every aspect of a woman’s life is affected by the fact that she will go through a decline when menopause begins. Dr. Garrison wants this to be a conversation that’s reframed with a holistic point of view. 

It’s a unique time in history to be able to marry reproductive health with longevity. Ambassadors are welcome to have conversations about women’s health and the incredible work being done by Dr. Garrison and others. 

Connect with Dr. Garrison: Buck Institute