Are life extensionists mainly driven by a desire to actually live a long time?

How do you interpret the following situation: we have a life extension technologist whose all endeavors is about pushing this issue to its very limits and making things possible but on the other hand this very life extensionist himself is not driven by actually living as long as he can.

It seems that SENS theorist Aubrey de Grey, who is chronologically 45, (BioBarCamp photo by Ricardo) is taking roughly the above position in a recent interview. Aubrey is a good and witty interviewee and of course the interpretation of what he is saying is strongly context dependent so here is the full question and answer:

Question: One hundred years of life can wear you down physically, but it can also wear you down emotionally… perhaps even existentially. For you, is a desire to live long accompanied by a desire to live long in a much-improved human civilization, or is this one satisfactory?

Aubrey de Grey: I’m actually not mainly driven by a desire to live a long time. I accept that when I’m even a hundred years old, let alone older, I may have less enthusiasm for life than I have today. Therefore, what drives me is to put myself (with luck) and others (lots and lots of others) in a position to make that choice, rather than having the choice progressively ripped away from me or them by declining health. Whether the choice to live longer is actually made is not the point for me.

Let’s see 2 possible and extreme interpretations of this answer (neither of them is my own interpretation) and I hope my readers can find fine-tuned arguments in between while thinking a bit about this still rather philosophical topic:

1., Saying that we want the process (a robust healthy lifespan technology) but not necessarily the product (a robust healthy lifespan) of our own business is a disaster Continue reading

Even ugly handwriting can fit the informal nature of SciFoo

I had problems with my handwriting since elementary schools, or at least my teachers had continuous problems with it. Even during my university years I was asked sometimes to read out loud my essays, papers to them otherwise risking bad grades. Maybe it’s because I am a hidden right-handed using my left hand for writing or maybe I am just too impatient over the slow pace of handwriting (needless to say computers mostly solved this problem).

On this George Dyson photo here you can see the SciFoo schedule in progress and I think you can easily pick the one with the ugliest handwriting on Aging and Life Extension:

The marketing problem of life extension technologies

If “Science has a really serious marketing problem” as Larry Page observed, then life extension technologies face even bigger marketing problems. I am definitely not a marketing expert but realized the problem early on when thinking about the lag-phase period of a robust life extension technology.  So I made a short email interview with Dave Gobel, the marketing and business mind/strategist behind the Methuselah Foundation (official title: Chief Executive Officer) following our meeting and chat at the SENS3 conference in Cambridge, UK, 2007.

1. What is the biggest marketing problem of any future (or present) healthy life extension technology?

The biggest marketing problem today is the time it takes for a beneficial effect to present itself. For instance, a product such as resveratrol may take months to present beneficial results, or it may never show up clinically. People who are scientifically sophisticated can appreciate the value of reduced circulating fats or glucose, but to the typical individual, there are much sexier things to spend money on that give immediate gratification and clear utility. The proof of this is illustrated by a counter example – how ridiculously easy it would be to sell a product that biologically reversed grey hair. The effect might be seen gradually but incontrovertably by all and in the mirror directly.

It seems to me that the best way to proceed from a business standpoint therefore is from the outside in. Create legitimate products that improve a person’s visual image and therefore social standing and they will flock for the result. Try to engineer those products to have globally beneficial effects, and marketing becomes easy.

So, for the present, the problem is delayed, and difficult to pinpoint results in exchange for expensive pills/treatments and never ending taking of pills. What about the future? The problem of marketing will evaporate as tissue engineering provides an immediate benefit by eliminating hip, knee and similar pains while restoring or even improving base functionality. When biologically matched teeth can be implanted and grown anew in gums, marketing will be easy.

2. How to market life extension for different generations (teenagers, college students, young adults, mature adults, grandpas and grandmas) and what are the main differences here? Continue reading

BioBarCamp: we have room for 55 plus Campers!

BioBarCamp is due in circa 3 weeks and we have now 45 BioBarCampers signed up on the list of attendees and our host the Institute For The Future has the capacity for around 55 more campers, roughly for 100 people in general. We already have a very valuable mix: researchers, biologists (grad, postdoc, PI), coders-engineers-bioinformaticians, biotech entrepreneurs, doctors, science journalists.

Here is the list so far and that’s also a chance for you to decide whether you want to join and meet us there in Palo Alto on the 6th and 7th, August and share, ask and answer, be the donor and receptor of ideas from all around biogeekdom. I am continuously trying to collect some links on the campers on the BioBarCamp FriendFeed Room to make future Campers preconnected.

Eva Amsen (writing, blog 1, blog 2)

Michael Andreg

Siamak “Ash” Ashrafi

Monya Baker (Nature Reports Stem Cells, The Niche) 7th, August (added by ACs)

Alex Bangs (Entelos, bio)

Pedro Beltrao (blog, postdoc@UCSF)

Jason Bobe (blog , www.personalgenomes.org, www.DIYbio.org)

Kevin Braithwaite

Martin Brandon

Mackenzie Cowell (diybio.org, pobol, cis-action) Continue reading

Life extension people & session at SciFoo 2008, Googleplex!

Last year I was probably the only SciFoo Camper with an explicit life extension commitment. I suggested & held a session which was related a bit to partial immortalization but was rather about the systems biology perspective in general, illustrated with some examples. So throughout the terrific SciFoo Camp 2007 life extension as a conversation topic remained rather implicit (ok, close to zero) and there was not much room to discuss it in the lack of other fellow life extensionists.

In my opinion the whole point of unconferences is to form the good aggregate of people with a common interest & similar/complementer message to join forces in order to draw enough (intellectual) attention for their topic. In this context, an unconference is about topics at the first place, not just about people. Idea networking is as important as social networking.

And if something fits 100% with the idea of SciFoo it is life extension/aging just as handling terrantic scientific datasets, open science or climate change as all these topics are utterly complicated and quite urgent screaming for the attention of the smartest people.

So I emailed Timo Hannay, SciFoo organizer:

“One thing I’ve noticed is that it would be very good to organize a session on scientific life extension technologies and consequences, because the SciFoo people are ideal to see and discuss all angles of this really important topic.”

And…..here is a session suggestion for SciFoo Camp 2008: Continue reading

Understanding Aging Conference is over but it is the end of the beginning

I try to cover some interesting, sciencey points on the conference in later posts, right now just a brief, subjective human- and strategy focused summary:

Congrats to Aubrey de Grey and the team, everything went well and if finally a worldwide consensus is around the corner claiming that robust healthy lifespan extension is technologically possible and worth achieving it is largely due to Aubrey’s relentless networking, organizing activity and American like pushy marketing strategy! Well done!

Had a nice chat with a diverse bunch of interesting people amongst others: Barbara Logan, Nason Schooler, Todd Huffman, Betty Liu, the startupper Andregg brothers, Mark Hamalainen, Keith Causey, Ben Zealley, Brian Martin and sure I forget to mention many more here.

In the photo (thanks Barbara Logan): Neal Van De Ree, Florida auctioneer and activist, John Furber, Legendary Pharmaceuticals, Florida, Aubrey, Paul Logan, Alex Zhavoronkov, GTCBio, BioGerontology Research Foundation Damian Crowe, Genescient, BioGerontology Research Foundation and yours truly.

Conference photo via Bruce Klein: Continue reading

Understanding Aging Conference on FriendFeed!

The “Understanding Aging: Biomedical and Bioengineering Approaches” conference will be held from June 27-29, 2008 at UCLA organized by Aubrey de Grey, Irina Conboy and Amy Wagers. I like to call it UndertsEnding Aging in myself and I am excited to go to LA and meet new people also people from SENS3.

Yesterday I created a FriendFeed room for the conference as it seems to be a perfect place of live microblogging the conference, sharing any kind of links, videos, comments, feeds and feedbacks. Working on aging and the postponement of it (you can bravely say life extension) is always a pioneering work so it’s time to use pioneering web apps for that purpose, just like FriendFeed.

Aubrey de Grey, Kevin Perrott and Kevin Dewalt have already joined the room. What about you? See you on FriendFeed, see you on LA!

Life extension people are happy: keep living, please!

I found this picture of Aubrey de Grey with his book Ending Aging on his head at the BIL conference in Quinn Norton‘s Flickr Stream. Quinn Norton is a bodyhacker technophiliac journalist photographer. Robust, healthy lifespan extension can easily be interpreted as an extreme body-, life- and biohack so no wonder that more and more geeks are turning their attention to this little, unsolved hack. Maybe with time they will learn not just how to write the names properly but how to set up a private lab and isolate DNA and stem cells, at home. (blogging pictures = not enough time to write posts)

aubreyendinghead

Biotech DIY for aging/life extension research: the double future?

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – said Alan Kay, computer legend in 1971.

Recently I had a comment dialogue with Chris on whether state-supported research or industrial business enterprises can (or should) lead to big progress in robust and healthy life extension technologies. Besides the government and corporation coin the research breakthrough could come from an aging focused foundation like the non-profit Methuselah Foundation behind the SENS approach, which supports research projects (like MitoSENS and LysoSENS) and scientists (like Mark and John) through cooperation with university labs. And finally, there is going to be another option to contribute:

agingbioDIYtoast

Imagine the following future scenario: biotech DIY is becoming an accepted home activity so geeks are setting up private labs and conduct basic in vitro (but not in vivo) research. Continue reading

Understanding Aging Conference in L.A.: de Grey, Conboy, Wagers and many others…

UABBA conference, 2008

Looks like the scientist coalition behind healthy life extension is widening. In line with that the question Why was life extension ruled out of the 14 Grand Engineering Challenges? is fading away.

Here is an Aubrey de Grey message from my mailbox:

All details, including forms for abstract submission and
online registration, are at the conference website:

http://www.mfoundation.org/UABBA/

The preliminary program already has over two dozen confirmed
speakers, all of them world leaders in their field. As for previous
conferences I have [co-]organised, the emphasis of this meeting is on
“applied biogerontology” — the design and implementation of
biomedical interventions that may, jointly, constitute a
comprehensive panel of rejuvenation therapies, sufficient to restore
middle-aged or older laboratory animals (and, in due course, humans)
to a youthful degree of physiological robustness. The list of
scientific sessions and confirmed speakers is as follows:

DNA damage, telomeres, cancer
Adam Arkin, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Jan Vijg, Buck
Institute for Age Research; Jerry Shay, U. Texas Southwestern;
Claudia Gravekamp, Pacific Medical Center Research Institute; Zheng
Cui, Wake Forest University School of Medicine; Rita Effros, UCLA

The cell niche
Irina Conboy, U. California Berkeley; Judith Campisi, Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory and Buck Institute; Leanne Jones, Salk
Institute; Ken Muneoka, Tulane University; Kevin Healy, Stanford
University
Continue reading

Aubrey de Grey on Colbert Report (video) and the housing market in heaven

Thanks to Kevin, you can now watch the video too:

Colbert: “But if people lived to be a 1000 years old won’t that kill any ability for humans to take risks cause if I’ve known I lived to be a 1000 I am not going to cross the street because you can’t cure being hit by a bus.”

Aubrey: “Well, you’ll be able to get your grandmother to help you to cross the street.”

That is a witty (and the same time, deep) answer indeed: People usually help their grandmother to cross the street but in a many generational “rejuvenated” world people will be able to take care of their descendants to the same extent as they are able to take care of their ascendants today. Moreover, it has something to do with the philosophical question of intergenerational justice: Continue reading

Aubrey de Grey on the Colbert report tonight?

I just got the alert from Kevin Dewalt: Aubrey is scheduled to be on Colbert tonight in case anyone is watching.” Remember the recent case when Good Morning America cancelled the scheduled airtime for Aubrey de Grey saying the whole life extension subject was “too sciencey“.

Update: Aubrey de Grey on Colbert Report (video) and the housing market in heaven

Craig Venter and the life extension drive: blogterview questions

venterpimmOne strategy (call it Life Extension Gets Personal) to raise awareness for the idea and technology of healthy life extension is to publicly encourage life extension “coming outs” on behalf of mainstream celebrities. In order to get an academic legitimacy for LE (which is one of the most important aim of Pimm) I am interested specially mainstream or at least well established scientific celebrities. To accomplish this project a man needs to identify target persons to interview (finding hints that the person is positive about LE), contacting these persons and publish the final piece somewhere.

As a first target Craig Venter, the genomics pioneer seemed unconventional and free minded enough to approach with the idea of a LE blogterview. On the other hand I found definite signs of his interest in longevity and life extension suggesting that if Craig Venter had been given a technological-medical chance to extend his healthy lifespan significantly he would definitely not like to die due to accumulating functional declines associated with aging within the next, say hundred years. Maybe I am wrong here, maybe I am not but to figure this situation out I translated these signs into the following blogterview questions and tried to contact him in early December, 2007. So far I reached only his nice and diplomatic PR agent, who said that maybe we have a chance to get the blogterview done in the near future. Till we get there below please find my targeted questions to Craig Venter:

1. Once I’ve read somewhere but was unable to recall later that one particular motivation behind the sequencing of your own genome was your serious life extension commitment and the belief that genomics has something to say about life expectancy. Is it true? If yes, what is the story of your life extension commitment? Is it a commitment for moderate or maximum life extension? In A Life Decoded I’ve found only one paragraph in your molecular biography explicitly on Long Life about the I405V of the CETP gene but no more hint on this important topic.

2. What do you think about Aubrey de Grey’s SENS approach? You’ve been one of the judges on the The SENS Challenge Prize organized by the Technology Review in 2005 for those “who could prove that SENS was “so wrong that it is unworthy of learned debate.” ? Who got the point there?

3. What do you think about the mitochondrial theory of aging? I was a little surprised when I’ve found that your circa 16.5kb mitochondrial DNA sequence was not published in the PLOS Biology paper: The Diploid Genome Sequence of an Individual Human Obviously it is not part of the diploid genome but I expected it at least as an appendix as those 37 genes and D-loop region can give important genetic information. Have your mitochondrial genome been sequenced already?

4. In a recent Rolling Stone interview you are saying that “There is probably nothing more important to study about human biology than stem cells.” What do you think about regenerative medicine’s role in a robust and healthy life extension technology? Continue reading

The received view in 3.5 paragraphs on Ending Aging in Nature (part 1)

In the 15 November Nature issue Judy Illes neurology professor turned neuroethics expert reviews Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People by John Harris and Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime by Aubrey de Grey & Michael Rae.

From the review:

“Ending Aging is a more “new wave” treatment of enhancement, longevity and immortality…. The authors rather unnecessarily brand ageing as repugnant and curse, and use their book to preach on fund-raising opportunities.
The freedom to pursue ways to enhance human mental and physical capacities and to eliminate negative aspects of the human condition, such as suffering and death, is a fundamental tenet of the trans-humanist movement. Although seemingly worthy, there are problems ahead for the futurists, including for Harris, de Grey and Rae….

…Let’s not throw away today for tomorrow. Ending Aging is likely to appeal to those already converted to the author’s views, and perhaps will find some traction among those who are more curious than interested in deeper scientific engagement.”

Unfortunately Illes completely mixes transhumanism with the belief that robust life extension is possible and desirable due to handling the 2 books together and I think this is not a fair angle on life extension. Consequently she can say on the whole that those beliefs are “going well beyond what might be imaginable, or ethical today.”
But most life extension supporters are simply not transhumanists at all and it is a simple logical fault to think that ‘if A then B’ is true (every transhumanist is a life extension supporter), than it follows that ‘if B then A’. For instance, most life extension supporters that I’ve met, say in the SENS3 conference, are not transhumanists, but simply young life scientists for whom life extension is just the technological frame (the highest aim) of their translational science. Think systems biology: human organismal aging is a complex dynamics of a complex system and if you want to modify it you should think on the systemic level. Continue reading

Robust life extension reaches the Washington Post on Halloween day

AubreyandAdelaideSENS3Let’s meet the informal version of the ‘pro-aging trance’ in a portrait on Aubrey de Grey in the Washington Post (thanks for the tip, Jim):
Why is it, when you bring up the idea of living forever — even if robust and healthy, not drooling on your shoes — some people just recoil viscerally?

“It’s probably the majority that recoils viscerally,” de Grey says. “It’s what I call the pro-aging trance.

“Since the beginning of civilization, we have been aware that aging is ghastly and that aging is utterly inevitable. . . . So we have two choices. Either we spend our lives being preoccupied by this ghastly future or we find some way to get on with our miserably short lives and make the best of it.

“If we do that second thing, which is obviously the right thing to do, then it doesn’t matter how irrational that rationalization might be. . . . It could be, well, we’re all going to go to heaven. Or it could be, we’re going to have overpopulation. Or it could be, it will be boring. Or, dictators will live forever.

“It doesn’t matter what the answers are. It’s so important for them to maintain their belief that aging is actually not such a bad thing, that they completely suspend any normal rational sense of proportion.”

But if people don’t die, won’t we indeed fill the planet shoulder to shoulder?

“The birthrate is going to have to go down by an order of magnitude,” de Grey acknowledges. “But even if that is going to be a severe problem, the question is not, do problems exist? The question is, are they serious enough to outweigh the benefits of saving 100,000 lives a day? That’s the fundamental question. If you haven’t got an argument that says that it’s that serious that we shouldn’t save 30 [bleeping] World Trade Centers every [bleeping] day, don’t waste my time. It’s a sense of proportion thing.”

Picture made by me with the iPhone on Aubrey and Adelaide on the SENS3 conference in the dining hall of Queens’ College.

Unpublished SENS3 conference report for mainstream scientists!

SENSintroslidesRecently I wrote a meeting report on the SENS3 conference for a very prestigious science journal, but finally it did not go through the filters. I knew that the chance for publication is small as the journal rarely publish such meeting reports and as it was in many respects an unconventional science conference. The standards were really high and the genre itself is strictly restricted: no more than 900 words and only 1-2 conference topic could be covered focusing on new data. On the whole it was a really good science writing experience for me. I finally realized how challenging it is to introduce the concept of robust scientific life extension for the mainstream science audience although it is not impossible at all.

But if a man has an interactive blog with a quality readership even an officially unpublished text could be useful, so please read my draft in its final form and think about it. Links of the video versions of the referred presentations and references are included, a perpetual advantage of the web comparing to offline publication. I’d like to say thanks for the folks who helped me with the draft: Aubrey de Grey, Michael Rae, Mark Hamalainen from within the SENS camp, Matthew Oki O’ Connor and Chris Patil, fellow scientists-bloggers and first of all, Anna.

Subject scrapline: Biotechnology

Title: Translating ageing

Summary: A recent unconventional strategic conference on translational science in ageing related damages helps to put some puzzle pieces together.

Changes in the adult tissue stem cells or in the mitochondria are two main processes under constant investigation amongst researchers curious about the ins and outs of the ageing process. At the SENS3 conference in Cambridge scientists and laymen shared their results and ideas, respectively.*

Despite its mixed population with a scientist majority, the conference resembled a mainstream life science conference due to its topic sessions focusing on the different types of lifelong, ageing accumulated damages. SENS decodes as Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, which aims to suggest a panel of interventions on how to robustly extend the mean and maximum human life span and claims to identify the adequately exhaustive list of main age-related pathologies ranging from cell depletion to mitochondrial mutations. SENS is by definition a flexible enough umbrella term to include other coming life extension technologies and concepts under its brand. Also, it is an engineering project compiled by main organizer Aubrey de Grey, a computer scientist turned theoretical biologist with a grand mission and hypotheses yet to be experimentally tested. The presentations were mainly reviewing the progress in the related branches, with enough new data to keep the experts interested.

Stem cells exhausted Continue reading

SENS3 conference videos online on a personal website

Similarly to the Edmonton Aging Symposium which reportedly “was a WORLD FIRST! in being streamed live onto the internet” (Kevin Perrott) amongst conferences, a selection of the presentations of the SENS3 conference are now available at the personal website of Richard Schueler. Richard is a big mouthed, cowboy hat geek with a serious life extension commitment who orchestrated the Kurzweil distance video talk on his sony tx and logitech webcam at the conference.

(I’ll definitely watch the presentations of Arne Akbar, Edward Mocarski and Jason Emsley again because of the science content and see Chris Phoenix’s talk too as it was so entertaining.)

sens3videos

Link source: Do What You’ve Always Been Talking About

Michael Rose, evolutionary SENS and aging as a loss of adaptation (slides)

Embedded on the slideshow below 9 slides of Michael Rose‘s presentation called Slowing and then stopping aging on the SENS3 conference on the 9th of September. (Photos made by me with the iPhone.) Rose’s argument was: Aubrey de Grey’s original SENS proposal is based on the non-evolutionary assumption that aging is a process of accumulating damage, while according to the evolutionary SENS version of Rose aging should be interpreted as a loss of adaption. The script is: breed mice with delayed reproduction over multiple generations (let evolution by natural selection give us the answer of how to build a long-lived animal), and then reverse engineer this answer to develop anti-aging therapies for genetically unaltered humans. The experimental basis of this proposal: Rose’s own ancient experiments with fruit flies (sorry, no reference yet, that’s what I’ve heard) showed that there is a plateau in mortality rates after many generations of breeded Drosophilas with delayed reproduction time which leads to the cessation of the aging process.

Does this method sound as one that gives us a complete engineering toolkit to achieve robust healthy life extension for early generations of humans under the reverse engineered treatment?

Ray Kurzweil’s distance talk on SENS3

Well, I’ve lost the first part of this MacBook made iSight video as I used the iMovie file’s backup version on my Windows partition but out of this segment of the talk you can form some idea on what was going on during Kurzweil’s talk. The distance talk was orchestrated from a little Sony laptop by Richard Schueler. As Kurzweil’s friend Terry Grossman (they together wrote the book the Fantastic Voyage) informed me, Ray does not really like to leave the United States. Anyway, his talk was not typical, the conference was basically a biology-biotechnology conference with an amazingly broad range of the topics, covered.

Going to another unconventional science meeting: SENS3, Cambridge, UK

I am visiting the third Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS3) conference, which will be held from 6-10 September 2007 at Queens’ College, Cambridge.

Aubrey de Grey (with whom I made a blogterview in 2006), the main organizer and soul behind the conference is clear about the purpose: “The purpose of the SENS conference series, like all the SENS initiatives (such as the journal Rejuvenation Research and the Methuselah Mouse Prize), is to expedite the development of truly effective therapies to postpone and treat human aging by tackling it as an engineering problem: not seeking elusive and probably illusory magic bullets, but instead enumerating the accumulating molecular and cellular changes that eventually kill us and identifying ways to repair — reverse — those changes, rather than merely to slow down their further accumulation.

SciFooschedulemilieuSo after SciFoo I have the chance to visit another unconventional science gathering. SciFoo was unconventional by definition as it was an unconference with no strict schedule defined earlier (remember Henry Gee: Someday, all conferences will be like this), while SENS3 is unconventional due to its mission statement. SciFoo, SENS: ideal meeting points for young scientists with strong drive for change and looking for the new.

SENS3 is not an average conference in any respect and I am really happy to participate for 5 reasons, firstly, as this was the only conference I found where there are both good mitochondrial and stem cell biology sessions and those are my 2 major biological topics, b., there will be a lot of biogerontology presentations on aging and thirdly, because this is the only scientific conference that includes the heavyweight life extension supporter scholar fellows, including the organizer Aubrey de Grey or the practical life extensionist Ray Kurzweil. Fourthly, the conference clearly has some broader science politics implications as there is the more and more important question whether how it is possible to do research directly aiming human life extension or is it contradictory somehow as what scientists can do is just answering strictly restricted and well defined experimental questions. Last but not least I can meet my Cambridge friends and colleagues I’ve met last year during my 3 months Cambridge visiting period.


Aubrey de Grey’s Google TechTalk on Prospects for extending healthy life – a lot

Aubrey de Grey‘s presentation in Google Tech Talk series at the Googleplex, Mountain View, May 29, 2007 (Thanks, Russell Whitaker).

More on Aubrey on Pimm:

Content of Ending Aging, Aubrey de Grey’s coming life extension book

3 Edmonton Aging (Life Extension) Symposium videos

Blogterview with Aubrey de Grey: life extension stories

Content of Ending Aging, Aubrey de Grey’s coming life extension book

You can now pre-order Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Biotechnologies That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime at Amazon written by Aubrey de Grey and Michael Rae which is the most detailed, although popular exposition of the SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) plan to defeat aging.

Aubrey was kind enough to mail me the content of the book, so you can find out which SENS point is fitted with the chapters of Part II (little help: Edmonton Aging Symposium: full video, audio and presentation access)

endage

Aubrey’s first big move in science was a monograph on mitochondria called The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging.

Edmonton Aging Symposium: full video, audio and presentation access

According to the organizers the Edmonton Aging Symposium “was a WORLD FIRST! in being streamed live onto the internet.” Now you can download where possible, the video, powerpoint and audio MP3 recordings of the streaming split up by speaker in alphabetical order. I think this is really webhistorical and good news for all open access friends of the life (extension) sciences. One critical point: Why Windows Media Video format? The following slide is from Judith Campisi‘s presentation (excellent aging blogger Chris Patil of Ouroboros is working with Campisi as a postdoc) called The double-edged sword of cellular senescence: Link

campisi slide

Life extension: body hack and/or life hack?

memento life hackIn recent culture, technological life extension is considered to be a form of hacking, as 2Dolphins says a “hacker is someone who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations — someone who makes things work beyond perceived limits through unconventional means or skills.” In hacking there is also a DIY element too.
There are now 2 broader hacking terms applied for physical life extension technologies: body hacking and life hacking. For first, see my previous post about Bodies in the Making book which handles a diverse range of practices that aren’t usually linked: tattooing, cosmetic surgery, body-building, life extension technologies, self-cutting as exemplars of the body hacking concept. Body hack in that context is something extreme, something very experimental. How extreme form it will take, that depends on the chosen technology. In the old school permalink-free blog Notes from Classy’s Kitchen it is said for instance in the November 26, 2005 post: “What Aubrey de Grey was proposing was the ultimate bodyhack, engineered immortality (or 1000 year life span at least).” Body hack also includes a form a DIY, for instance Nikolaj Nyholm of O’Reilly Radar blogged on the “protocol for “isolat[ing] stem cells from your baby’s placenta in a rent lab or at home” for the upcoming EuroOSCON Make Fest, which also plays well with one emerging theme at this year’s FOO Camp, body hacking — engineers and copper wire paired with doctors, psychologists and neurologists.”

On the other hand there is the emerging life hack movement popularized by blogs as Lifehacker or 43 Folders or Lifehack.org. According to Wikipedia “the term life hack refers to productivity tricks that programmers devise and employ to cut through information overload and organize their data.” And it is also Nikolaj Nyholm, who calls Aubrey de Grey an extraordinary life-hacker concerning his SENS-esque plan to defeat aging. Why life extension counts as a life hack? Long story short: it’s all about hacking time. The narrowest bottleneck of productivity is time, and indefinite life extension’s main ambition is to abandon this final limiting factor, to make time pressure out of time. But can indefinite or maximum life extension (and especially the here supported continuous regeneration treatment through systemic regenerative medicine called Pimm) really be interpreted as a life hack? I think yes. Indefinite life extension is the biggest scale life hack as it amplifies human capacities indefinitely, because it is the only possibility for a human and mortal individual to fully explore his/her own individuality, to develop his/her own abilities let it be mental, physical, or moral.

There is also the term biohacking, which refers mostly to synthetic biology or creating public awareness of human genetic information and in this context biohacker is a synonym for biopunk, and the term is not applied recently to life extension, although in the future it could considering the broad semantic field of the bio prefix.

To sum up: life extension is a form of extreme body hack which is the most extended life hack, although a body hack is rarely a life hack and vice versa. (In the movie Memento Guy Pearce (picture), who lacks short-term memory, uses tattoos on his body as fact memos, which is also a body and life hack, although most tattoos are just ornamental.)

3 Edmonton Aging (Life Extension) Symposium videos

Following Reason’s links at Fight Aging here is a little conference webcasting from the Edmonton Aging Symposium. You also can read a Conference Report at Ouroboros.

There was a Symposium Live Streaming where for the very nominal fee of $5 CAD per connection to cover bandwidth costs people could watch the majority of presentations in a Windows Media Format. If anybody participated in this trial please share with us the information on it.

Debate between Gregory Stock and Daniel Callahan, which was moderated by Aubrey de Grey

Aubrey de Grey: Damage Accumulation and Age-Related Degeneration

Ronald Bailey: Estimating Your Future’s Options

Edmonton Aging (Life Extension Technologies) Symposium starts, March 30-31.

The Edmonton Aging Symposium starts today. Based on the program and speakers you can expect hot debates: Huber Warner, Aubrey de Grey, Irina Conboy, Amit Patel, Judith Campisi. I hope that the discussions will be hot, clarifying, perspective and scale conscious (quantitative enough), backed by strict scientific arguments.

edmonton aging symp

The organizing principle of the sessions seems to be individual SENS points with an emphasis on the “Too few cells” problem, i.e. stem cells and tissue regeneration:

1) Too Few Cells
2) Too Many Cells
3) Chromosomal DNA Mutations
4) Mitochondrial DNA Mutations
5) Junk Inside Cells
6) Junk Outside Cells
7) Protein X-Links

As my 2 main research topics are stem cells and mitochondria, I would like to highlight 2 presentations:

Irina Conboy of UC, Berkeley: Conservation of Aging Within Stem Cell Niches

Bernard Lemire: Mitochondria – Central Players in Longevity

media coverage: Scientists try to answer age-old query: Should people live longer?

Accidental influentials meet life extension: a breakthrough idea for 2007

socialMost of us believe that the massive spreading of an idea through the channels of society, say, ‘big-scale life extension technology is possible and worth realizing’, depends on highly influential people’s production and characteristics. So hardcore life extension supporters tend to think if Aubrey de Grey or Ray Kurzweil will hold another 120-120 presentations in front of highly influential people this year and the next and so on and so forth… then this fact will guarantee that one day we wake up, and see that the majority of people support our former niche topic, eager to do something for it. Make no mistake, these guys are doing their best for life extension, but according to Duncan J. Watts and Peter Dodds network researchers, it is not enough for this idea to become mainstream. What we need is a critical mass of easily influenced people to make some real great progression in life extension support. And in that respect, the Web is a par excellence medium for all of us, when everyone with a bandwidth and a computer can do their best. In the light of the above I hope soon there will be a critical mass of easily influenced life extension bloggers, wikipedians, other content generators, and so “global cascades”(see below) for LE. The responsibility is ours.

Watts and Peter Dodds are publishing their work on Influentials, Networks and Public Opinion Formation in Journal of Consumer Research, but it will be in press only in December, 2007. Nevertheless you can read the text in html or download in pdf now. Their theory on the role of the so called Accidential influentials was listed as the No. 1 in the Harvard Business Review list of Breakthrough Ideas for 2007 and here are some enlightening excerpts out of it to make the above application clear /warning: the theory was originally applied and invented in a marketing context/: Continue reading

John Schloendorn, the LysoSENS connection: chat on life extension

John SchloendornJohn Schloendorn has a master’s degree in biochemistry at the University of Tuebingen, Germany. Currently he is a graduate student at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, USA. John is heavily involved in the LysoSENS project of the Methuselah Foundation, which aims to remove some intracellular waste products for example via microbe-derived hydrolases targeted to the lysosome. Yes, this is the aubreyesque way of thinking on and experimenting with life extension.

1. What is the story of your life extension commitment? Since I first learnt that everyone was going to fall apart brutally, it was my goal to help with fixing aging somehow. To do that I needed to learn as much about aging as possible, and also needed to learn what everyone in the field was doing, so it seemed straightforward enough to study biochemistry. By the time my graduation came closer, Aubrey was running around, telling everyone he had a plan to fix aging. The plan seemed to make sense (true to its name), or at least it seemed like by far the best plan I could find. So I contacted him a lot over the web, eventually met him and volunteered to do some basic proof-of-concept’ing of some of his ideas. LysoSENS seemed like the fastest way to do that, it had already taken some baby steps thanks to Mark Hamalainen whom you interviewed recently, and there was enough Foundation money to keep it going. One can hardly hit upon a more fortunate situation.

2. Is it a commitment for moderate or maximum life extension? LysoSENS by itself is meant to address only parts of the age-related damage we accumulate. Magically achieving all LysoSENS goals would not extend life greatly, because other exponentially rising causes of death should rapidly take over, most importantly cancer. Thus, LysoSENS by itself would presumably count as moderate life extension. Continue reading

Mark Hamalainen, the MitoSENS fellow: blogterview on life extension

Mark HamalainenMark Hamalainen is a young PhD student at Cambridge University at the mitochondrion lab of Ian Holt. Mark received a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in biochemistry and computing from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He also had research training as a visiting scholar at the California Institute of Technology and the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. Mark’s research project is MitoSENS, the artificial transfer of mitochondrial genes to the nucleus in order to defend mitohondrial DNA from the high mutation rate. The technical difficulties of such a project are characterized in this article. The idea generator behind is Aubrey de Grey. I met Mark yesterday at the Eagle Pub and we had a very nice conversation on life extension technologies, strategies and philosophies.

1. What is the story of your life extension commitment? From a very early age (before I can even remember for myself, my family has informed me indirectly), I’ve had a strong fear of death and love of life. Later on, I discovered science fiction and realized that other people had ideas about overcoming death. In high school I began investigating how close science was to implementing life
extension, first in popular non-fiction books, then in scientific journals. This search inevitibly led me to the work of Aubrey de Grey, and shortly thereafter I became involved with SENS research for the Methuselah Foundation.

2. Is it a commitment for moderate or maximum life extension? Maximum. Though I prefer the term ‘indefinite’. Continue reading

Moderate life extension: yes, maximum: no, interview with Huber Warner

huber warnerHuber R. Warner is a biochemist by profession and he initiated and participated in the development of many research areas including: cellular senescence, oxidative stress, apoptosis, functional genomics, the intervention testing program, and premature aging models. He currently serves on the editorial board of Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, is the editor of the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences, and is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America. In latest Rejuvenation Research there is a valuable discussion between Warner and de Grey about the SENS project.

1. What is the story of your contra maximum life extension commitment?

I worked at the National Institutes of Health in the USA managing a grant program to fund research on the biology of aging for 21 years (1984-2005). As a member of the Federal government, I learned to be careful when speaking about science and health issues so as not to mislead the public about what had been experimentally proven vs. what was merely promising, hypothetical, or in progress.

2. Do you support moderate life extension? If not, what are your arguments against it?

I’m not against life extension, as numerous experiments with animal models have shown that increased longevity is routinely accompanied by increased health span, something that probably no one is against. However, we felt we had to be careful how we framed our goals, especially when speaking to legislators, as life span extension can conjure up the image of an exploding number of older frail people hanging around draining the resources of the government. Continue reading

Questions to contra life extensionists: rational pitfalls

Critical thinking is crucial to every successful scientific and technological project. In order to consider any attempt to the extension of life in details,we have to take a look at the other side of the coin. So in the future I try to blogterview some experts, scholars, philosophers, activists, …who are opposing some concrete points concerning life extension with the questions below:

1. What is the story of your contra life extension commitment?

2. Is it against moderate or maximum life extension?

3. Do you support moderate life extension? If not, what are your arguments against it?

4. What is your (strongest) argument against maximum life extension?

5. What are the problems with moderate life extension technologies concerning humans and why?

6. What are the problems with the present technological drafts of maximum life extension?

7. What can You do against life extension?

Maximum Life’s James Clement: what can a lawyer do for life extension?

James Clement is an attorney and serial entrepreneur. He is the Chief Operating Officer of Maximum Life Foundation which supports aging and life extension research with a mature and secure VC fund strategy (next blogterviewee, David Kekich, C.E.O. of MaxLife).

james clement1. What is the story of your life extension commitment? I have been interested in life extension ever since I first learned about death as a child. During school, I was always more interested in science than any other subject; but my high-school chemistry teacher was a political activist and encouraged me to study law and change “the System.” Unfortunately, it did not occur to me that I could actually practice life-extension research until I was in law school in the 1980’s, and read Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw’s “Life Extension Handbook.” I continue to read constantly in diverse scientific fields, especially regarding anti-aging and life-extension, neurophysiology, artificial intelligence, and space. I take about 40 to 50 pills a day, mostly from the Life Extension Foundation, which I believe is the premier vitamin/supplement company in the U.S. I joined the Maximum Life Foundation about a year ago as its Chief Operating Officer, and help its Founder, David Kekich plan and implement strategies for the Foundation to help facilitate anti-aging research.

2. Is it a commitment for moderate or maximum life extension? I am definitely committed to maximum life extension. I appreciate the views of Hans Moravec and others, popularized by Ray Kurzweil in his book “The Singularity Is Near,” that technological change is happening at an exponential rate. While too many people think that super longevity won’t be practical during this century, I believe my generation of Baby Boomers will be the last humans to experience involuntary aging and death from old-age.

3. What is your favourite argument supporting human life extension?Not only will the suffering of disease and aging be alleviated, but human society will be transformed by continuous learning, and a deeper appreciation for the value of life (human and animal) and the environment in which we live. Continue reading

Commentary on mitochondrial transfer in recent Rejuvenation Research

I published a commentary paper on mitochondrial transfer experiments (PNAS) in recent Rejuvenation Research, impact factor 8.571. Rejuv. Res. is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal and the leading forum publishing solid science to expedite a real cure for aging. Here is the public abstract: Continue reading

Kevin Dewalt’s answers: technology professional, lifestyle life extensionist

Kevin Dewalt is an American technology professional, presently working at a VC. Kevin is a strong life extension supporter. We’ve met online at Baris Karadogan’s blog. I specially liked his “happy argument” for maximum life extension on the psychological level, see answer 3.

1. What is the story of your life extension commitment?

When I was 23 I discovered a book called “Optimum Sports Nutrition” by Dr. Michael Colgan. In it he presents arguments for lifestyle and nutrition changes that athletes could make to improve performance. The idea that changing my exercise, eating, or lifestyle habits could change my physical well being, health and longevity thrilled me and I began my quest. I began researching and learning about dietary supplements. At age 25 I became a vegetarian. At 26 I joined the Life Extension Foundation and have followed their recommended supplement scheme since. At 33 I began started a mild Calorie Restrition diet, lost 10 pounds and have remained on the diet. At that time I also began following the writing of Aubrey de Grey (blogterview here), Roy Walford, and others and realized that the only way I was going to be Father Time forever would be through significant advances in science.

2. Is it a commitment for moderate or maximum life extension? Continue reading