Letter from the editor

The science of aging

Research on aging is always an interesting read. Most of humankind is trying to some extent to outwit destiny and live longer. To find new ways to delay aging, science must understand the factors at play and how they interrelate. The cover article presents the main lines of investigation on the cellular and molecular mechanisms associated with senescence, highlighting Brazilian contributions. The deterioration of two important mechanisms is central: the cell’s capacity to multiply and DNA’s capacity to repair itself. Decline of the former complicates the renovation of tissues and organs. Defects in DNA are common, but a reduced capacity to repair them puts many processes at risk. Other processes involve organelles, such as mitochondria; structures, such as telomeres; and factors, such as each individual’s genetic profile. In addition to providing definitive answers, state of the art research has revealed the complexity of the problem at hand.

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An interesting exercise carried out on behalf of the Science Academy of the State of São Paulo produced a map of the scientific capacity of the 15 administrative regions in the state. São Paulo is the state responsible for roughly 40% of Brazil’s scientific output. The output highlights regional specializations, which may help direct private investments and public policies. It also portrays the successes of former public policies targeted at the development of scientific capacities, some of which are directly or indirectly related to the social and economic challenges faced by the State. Investments by federal and state administrations in the last 20 years have led to the founding of new institutions and the expansion of existing ones. The study also highlights deficiencies: in 3 of the 15 regions, scientific capacity was considered extremely deficient.

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This current issue of Pesquisa FAPESP international edition also includes an article on Brazil’s industrial policy and the ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that considered several of the country’s programs to be illegal. Brazil will appeal this ruling. The WTO’s conclusion was that an important part of Brazilian industrial policy violated WTO rules through the use of mechanisms such as tax exemptions or suspensions.

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Another article discusses a study by Elsevier comparing scientific output by women in a range of countries. The data shows a general trend towards gender balance in science over the last 20 years. In Brazil, women account for 49% of the researcher population (2011-2015) – an improvement from 38% female researchers between 1996 and 2000. The articles comprised in this issue are a selection from our monthly editions in Portuguese published between January and April 2017. The four complete editions are available online in English.