Three links in Aging, Regenerative Medicine & Healthy Lifespan Extension: 8 December 2013

1. Is aging linear or does it follow a step function? A good & simple question on Quora that surprised even Aubrey de Grey. If you are a bioinformatician out there – looking for a new pet project – go pull together some data & try to plot it! Let me know if you have something. An interesting answer:

It’s exponential. Starting in your 20s, your probability of death doubles every 8 years, as does your probability of getting cancer. Of course, since we’re talking about high-impact, low-frequency events, they’re governed by a Poisson distribution (i.e. fairly random noise, manifest in “jumpy” changes). But there’s no planned step-function behavior.

If interested to know more, start with thorough fact-checking on things, e.g. on that probability mentioned above.

2. Developmental senescence: yeah, as in normal, physiological, embryonic development. In mammals. Reported by study_1 and study_2. Apoptosis has long been accepted as part of the healthy embryo’s toolkit, think limb growth and tissue remodelling. Now senescence follows.

Perhaps the most important ramification of the new work relates to its implications for the evolutionary origin of the senescence program. Most research to date has focused on senescence as a tumor-suppressive process, and it has been debated as to how evolution selects for programs that prevent a disorder that typically occurs after reproductive age (Campisi, 2003). The new work raises the possibility that senescence in the adult evolved from a primordial tissue-remodeling program that takes place in the embryo. In both settings, cells arrest in the cell cycle, partially share a common set of functional markers, have an active role in modifying the tissue microenvironment, and are ultimately recognized and cleared by the immune system (Figure 1). These features may have been adapted as part of an emergent adult stress response program that incorporated additional tumor suppressor mechanisms, such as those reliant on p53 and p16, to eliminate damaged cells and that may, in turn, contribute to organismal aging.

3. This anti-aging brain trust is the most interesting startup in Silicon Valley: I don’t care about hype or no hype but I do care about the fact that the sporadic news on Calico re-energetised the whole aging/lifespan extension field and community.

The timing may be just right for a project like Calico. And unlike the vast majority of Silicon Valley’s startups, the technology is addressing a need that is keenly felt by many of us. Most people are in a constant battle against aging and will pay exorbitant sums of money to slow down the rate that our bodies deteriorate.

“Historically, the whole field of aging research has been very underfunded and filled with sketchy people,” said Aaron Rowe, a director of clinical research at a startup called Integrated Plasmodics, in an interview. “As soon as a scientist says that they want to slow or reverse aging, they lose their credibility.”

Peter Huber: “If we want to fight aging directly, there’s no other way to go. The government is unlikely to fund this kind of work, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may well make it almost impossible to get potential antidotes licensed,” said Huber, who recently penned the book The Cure in the Code“But the company backed by Google’s pattern-recognition expertise and resources may be able to go where no one else currently dares to venture,” he explained.