Partial immortalisation goes mainstream with an ‘s’ – thanks to the Economist!

economisthowtoliveThe Economist print edition (Jan 3rd) has a summary article on the current healthy and scientific life extension scene starting with Aubrey De Grey’s engineering, umbrella SENS approach and talking about anti-oxidants, mitochondria, sirtuin activators and stem cell based regenerative medicine amongst others.

To my positive surprise the unknown writer of the article (do you know who wrote it?) is using the term partial immortalisation when talking about regmed’s chance to extend healthy lifespan with a link to Pimm saying “Pimm is a blog focussing partial immortalistaion” in the web version:

Stemming time’s tide

One way that might let people outlive the limit imposed by disposable somas is to accept the machine analogy literally. When you take your car to be serviced or repaired, you expect the mechanic to replace any worn or damaged parts with new ones. That, roughly, is what those proposing an idea called partial immortalisation are suggesting. And they will make the new parts with stem cells….

Some partial immortalisers seek to abolish the Hayflick limit altogether in the hope that tissue that has become senescent will start to renew itself once more. (The clock that controls it is understood, so this is possible in principle.) Most, though, fear that this would simply open the door to cancer. Instead, they propose what is known as regenerative medicine—using stem cells to grow replacements for tissues and organs that have worn out. The most visionary of them contemplate the routine renewal of the body’s organs in a Lincoln’s axish sort of way.

pimmgooglefightThe term Pimm – Partial immortalization was introduced by me in this blog referring the idea, gradual and continuous replacement process and future technology of systemic regenerative medicine aiming indefinite life extension. There is a compelling logic behind I explained it many times here. The difference is in the letters, the sense is the same: ‘immortalisation’ is a British English ‘s’ version while ‘immortalization’ with a ‘z’ is rather American English (see the Google Fight graph on the right). Enough said, it is an ad hoc translation from the Hungarian “részleges immortalizáció” by me.

The source and short history of the term: For my MA thesis in philosophy (in Hungarian) I chose the term “weak immortalization” to address the philosophical problems of a though experiment of an unlimited healthy life extension technology through regenerative medicine which would eliminate problems concerning ageing (ageing related physiological problems), while strong and (technologically impossible) immortalization would eliminate death related problems. Later I replaced the weak – strong opposition to the more proper partial – whole opposition and the credit here goes to János Kis philosopher who suggested the term “partial immortalization” for me instead of the more metaphorical ‘weak’ and the modified version of my thesis was published in a book using ‘partial’. You can download the pdf here.

Since then I totally switched back to science and today I am more inclined to use the term systemic regenerative medicine (I adopted this ‘term’ used first by Maximum Life CEO David Kekich in a life extension blogterview for Pimm) which denotes the future branch of regenerative medicine focusing on otherwise ‘healthy’, aged, ‘normal’, ‘physiologic’ people instead of the characteristically and FDA approved diesased and catches the technology that is needed to reach reversible unlimited healthy lifespan, that is partial immortalization. Systemic regmed is a rather immature from a scientific point of view without an established experimental basis, I admit and more of a theoretical frame of my thoughts on the science I am practicing right now. Nevertheless it gives a fruitful, heuristic and holistic angle on regmed.

Here is the whole text referring to Pimm in the Economist piece:

Stemming time’s tide

One way that might let people outlive the limit imposed by disposable somas is to accept the machine analogy literally. When you take your car to be serviced or repaired, you expect the mechanic to replace any worn or damaged parts with new ones. That, roughly, is what those proposing an idea called partial immortalisation are suggesting. And they will make the new parts with stem cells.

The world has heard much of stem cells recently. They come in several varieties, from those found in embryos, which can turn into any sort of body cell, to those whose destiny is constrained to becoming just one or a few sorts of cell. The thing about stem cells of all types, which makes them different from ordinary body cells, is that they have special permission to multiply indefinitely.

For a soma to work, most of its component cells have to accept they are the end of the line—which, given that that line in question stretches back unbroken to the first living organisms more than 3 billion years ago, is a hard thing to do. There are, therefore, all sorts of genetic locks on such cells to stop them reproducing once they have arrived at their physiological destination. If these locks are picked (for example by oxidative damage to the genes that control them, as discovered by Dr Ames), the result is unconstrained growth—in other words, cancer. One lock is called the Hayflick limit after its discoverer, Leonard Hayflick. This mechanism counts the number of times a cell divides and when a particular value (which differs from species to species) is reached, it stops any further division. Unless the cell is a stem cell. Every time a stem cell divides, at least one daughter remains a stem cell, even though the other may set off on a Hayflick-limited path of specialisation.

Some partial immortalisers seek to abolish the Hayflick limit altogether in the hope that tissue that has become senescent will start to renew itself once more. (The clock that controls it is understood, so this is possible in principle.) Most, though, fear that this would simply open the door to cancer. Instead, they propose what is known as regenerative medicine—using stem cells to grow replacements for tissues and organs that have worn out. The most visionary of them contemplate the routine renewal of the body’s organs in a Lincoln’s axish sort of way.

In theory, only the brain could not plausibly be replaced this way (any replacement would have to replicate the pattern of its nerve cells precisely in order to preserve an individual’s memory and personality). Even here, though, stem-cell therapists talk openly of treating brain diseases such as Parkinson’s with specially grown nerve cells, so some form of partial immortalisation might be on the cards. But it is a long way away—further, certainly, than Dr Ames’s vitamin therapy, if that is shown to work.

5 thoughts on “Partial immortalisation goes mainstream with an ‘s’ – thanks to the Economist!

  1. Attila

    Aren’t you glad you aren’t on your own server🙂. I am sure it’s getting hammered.

    Congratulations. Must feel good

  2. Attila,

    Great write up on your write up! I think an article in a layman’s publication like The Economist must be an indication that Systemic regmed will soon hit the main stream media.

  3. Actually, the incoming traffic from the Economist site was minimal, so either the Economist has not enough traffic or, more probably, systemic regmed is not mainstream yet, as Grady suggests. But if Grady is writing 10000 more comments and posts on the topic and will be conducting at least 1000 more successful experiments repairing all the tissues of his animals at least once here in the lab…well maybe it can become a mainstream trend then.🙂

  4. In our bodies we have more than one hundred stem cells which multiply in an ordered way almost limitless. The dream to extend replication of all human cells by means of telomerase and nanotech will be sponsered by pharmaceutical industries expecting huge profits. The consequences might be horrible. But there is no doubt that biotech will succeed.

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