John 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.
However, the major part of the reason I am doing LysoSENS is to support the Methuselah Foundation and all of its efforts. The goal of the Methuselah Foundation is to “declare the arrival of the real “war on aging” and use our new tools to attack aging at its root, the fundamental biological processes which drive it.” A proof of concept for LysoSENS would presumably greatly increase the resource influx for the Methuselah Foundation, and so all things considered this would probably make me committed to “maximum” life extension.
3. What is your favourite argument supporting human life extension? My two favorite candidates are “healthy life is obviously good” and “suffering and death are obviously bad”. It is really this simple. I’m a born optimist, so if I have to choose between them, I’d pick the former.
4. What kind of moderate life extension technologies have the chance to become successful, and when? In principle, any technology that helps you to avoid death from a particular cause is moderately life-extending. Of course, many such technologies are already very successful, such as hygiene and seat-belts.
But from the context of your question I take it that you are probably having technologies in mind that postpone multiple age-related diseases or extend the maximum human life-span. If so, I don’t know the answer. I don’t see why some sort of simple pharmacological intervention should in principle not have the potential to postpone multiple age-related diseases or extend the maximum human life-span, but I really don’t know which ones they are. Testing which interventions would moderately slow aging is a very difficult problem, because humans take such a long time to age. Measuring an effect over such a long time is especially hard when it is only a small effect.
5. What is the most probable technological draft of maximum life extension, which technology or discipline has the biggest chance to reach it earliest? When? Most probable – I think the most probable technology to help massively extend the life-span of persons already alive (or in fact by some standards “dead”!) is cryonics. This is because it is designed not to require any particular technology, but rather gives the cryonaut access to whatever helpful technology the future may bring about, whenever it arrives. The technology to cryopreserve the brain structures that most people would care about exists and is being used today. We can’t reanimate these structures today, but once you’re in the tank you can wait.
Earliest – I think this would be fixing the damage that aging does to us by biomedical means, i.e. SENS. The reasons why I think so are available in great detail. I do not have a guess when SENS therapies will begin to extend any group’s life, but do know that this will depend directly on how much human and material resources are poured into their development.
6. What could be the most critical points of a maximum life extension technology? It needs to reverse the damage that aging does to our bodies (as opposed to merely slowing the rate of its accumulation or attempting to stave of pathology without addressing the underlying damage).
7. What can blogs, wikis and other websites do for LE? Attract motivated, gifted individuals by some means and relay them to the Methuselah Foundation, preferably without relaying the goofballs. I think it is important to design your contents so that your website attracts the former, but not the latter. Their requirements are really quite different. Goofballs want assurance; helpful individuals want a platform enabling them to act.
I do not think that persuading large numbers of average people to support life-extending activities can happen on wikis and blogs at this time. In fact I cannot think of anyone ever being swayed by the two simple statements under question 3. It seems that people either get them right away, or they never will. If you have evidence to the contrary, please share. Therefore, I think blogs should focus on those who already support life-extension and provide them with the information they need to do it most effectively.
Although, if one can get an exorbitant number of bloggers together that make life-extension seem really hip to the average internet surfer, who knows, maybe guys like you can prove me wrong.
8. What can You do for life extension? I think that the best thing I can do is keep doing what I do, while learning how to do it better – doing LysoSENS research. My most pressing goals are identical to any scientist’s: Get some splashy publications out, attract good government grant money, make the project grow. This will hopefully inspire some others to follow suit so that I can drop on the beach or wherever else I may be needed.
Right now, LysoSENS is a wonderful field to work in, because it’s so brand new. You really get to choose among the best projects, which is not possible in more crowded, better established fields.