1. DNA methylation age of human tissues and cell types by Steve Horvath: This is the type of relevant data mining study most bioinformaticians are dreaming of: you pull together a large body of publicly available datasets (CpG methylation) that are not too heterogeneous (Infinium type II assay on Illumina 27K or Illumina 450K array platform), derive robust statistical results (develop a multi-tissue predictor of age) and apply it on a medically relevant field (20 cancer types exhibit significant age acceleration, with an average of 36 years). Continue reading
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 Continue reading
Here’s an edited version of my Quora answer to the question: “Life Decisions: How do people who are talented in many areas decide what to do with their lives?“
Let me provide a personal story illuminating one option Ruchira is talking about: “pick a complex challenge that you are passionate about, that will require many different talents to solve.“
I picked the rather complex topic of aging and healthy lifespan extension at the age of 14-15 and it helped me to deep dive into a couple of different professions so far, consecutively, not concurrently though:
1. got a masters in biology and worked experimentally on the mitochondrial theory of aging as a thesis work, something related to looking for mutations accumulating with age in the hypervariable regions potentially downregulating the electron transport chain components encoded by mitochondria
2. realised that in order to understand what aging is (that is sg related to changes happening over time) I have to understand what time is and how it is structured that lead me to have another masters in analytical philosophy with a lot of modal logic involved, and my thesis work was entitled “Partial immortalization and the philosophical problems of human biotechnology and regenerative medicine”, basically delineating a technologically foreseeable scenario of unlimited life span and its social context
3. philosophy and timing lead me to journalism/blogging on aging and life extension and that is a separate skill set definitely, let alone an, independent, self-nurturing profession, discovered here my peers interested in the same thing
4. with the rise of stem cell research and regenerative medicine went back to the wet lab and started a PhD, did everything there except finishing the damn thesis, was mainly working on mitochondrial transfer between healthy stem cells and cells in oxidative stress, turns out the energetic reboost by healthy mitochondria can be an alternative way of how injected stem cells regenerate the injured/aged host tissue, to sum up experimental science gave me the insight that stem cells/regmed + mitochondria can be crucial in life extension technologies
5. blogging made me geeky and technologically involved and the rise of systems and omics biology made me realise that aging can be best understood by computational biology or by bioinformatics tools, built some stuff on genes related to aging as my first serious coding assignment
6. learned the basics of coding and turned myself into a bioinformatician in 2009, this is the last and so far most promising chapter in my quest, here I currently have at least 2-3 pet projects related to aging
So in order to understand aging and work on life extension I learned and practised wet lab biology, philosophy, journalism/blogging, coding and bioinformatics all motivated by the same, but continuously redefined aim, looking at it from many angles.
Jack of all trades, master of none? Mostly true concerning the fact that I had worked intensively in these particular fields only for 3-4-5 years. But since bioinformatics as a profession has now found me and since I’m in my late thirties I can’t help mastering it finally. Concerning personal investment into aging/life extension: that’s ~ 20 years already.
In a way being motivated & triggered by a big, complex, larger-than-life topic like life extension is a burden (might be harder to go into details when overshadowed by a big idea), but on the other hand it gives me a constant motivation and demand. As a bonus focusing on aging is a person-against-nature thing and not a person-against-person thing (like law as a profession) and somehow this always helped me not to take competitive situations too seriously and follow my inner compass.
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
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).
It was already known that amongst the Google top people Sergey Brin is the one who is most interested in pushing biotechnology and the biomedical sciences: in his Stanford years he was interested in biology courses according to The Google Story, he married Anne Wojcicki (who graduted from biology at Yale), Google invested $4.4 million into 23andMe the pioneering personal genomics company co-founded by Anne, then Google invested into 23andMe competitor Navigenics too.
Now Sergey Brin added another, serious and personal reason to think that he is really, personally committed to the quick progress in the biomedical sciences: in his new blog – already a bit of an Internet history – called Too he disclosed that using the 23andMe personal genetics service he figured out something worrying about his and his family’s risk of Parkinson disease (his mother and her aunt are being already diagnosed with PD):
“I learned something very important to me — I carry the G2019S mutation and when my mother checked her account, she saw she carries it too.
The exact implications of this are not entirely clear. Early studies tend to have small samples with various selection biases. Nonetheless it is clear that I have a markedly higher chance of developing Parkinson’s in my lifetime than the average person. In fact, it is somewhere between 20% to 80% depending on the study and how you measure.
The G2019S mutation is actually the rs34637584 SNP and lies in the gene LRRK2 encoding leucine-rich repeat kinase on chromosome 12. The mutation affects the first codon of the gene and is a guanine (G)-to- adenine (A) substitution resulting known as a missense and leads to a glycine – serine (hence the name) amino acid conversion in the protein product. Here is how the SNP position looks in the 23andMe browser using the sample family, the Mendels.
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
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.”
Finally Chris over at Ouroboros came up with the idea and the quick implementation of Hourglass, a blog carnival devoted to the biology of aging/biogerontology. For some reason I am not an explicit supporter of blog carnivals – many of my posts were chosen by carnival editors but I never hosted one -, but Hourglass will be the big exception in which I participate, submit posts and host it later. The reason: first it presents aging/biogerontology related posts, which fits my profile and second it was instigated by Chris Patil, whose work is a guarantee for keeping all this in the good direction. So if you want to read on the evolution of longevity and aging, calorie restricition, stem cells/tissue engineering/regenerative medicine, or on the association of long life and intelligence at once, Hourglass is for you.
This is how my Macbook saw Aubrey de Grey’s talk exactly 1 week ago on the AGING preconference at UCLA.
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!
Just landed in my mailbox, emphasis added by me:
I would like to provide you with a copy of the press release to be distributed via press release distribution sites on Wednesday. We will also put it on our site within a few hours after this email so you can confirm its authenticity. Please help us distribute this press release.
The Biogerontology Research Foundation, which has been started with the help of worlds’ most prominent scientists and businessmen received the charitable status from the Charity Commission for England and Wales.
The fact, which is not mentioned in the press release is that the chief scientific officer of the foundation is Dr. Michael Rose of UCI, who is famous for extending life of fruit flies threefold. Continue reading
Will it one day be possible to take a pill to stay young? How will an average life expectancy of beyond a hundred years affect society and the planet? Join leading longevity researchers Robert Butler, David Sinclair and Richard Weindruch to investigate the facts and implications surrounding scientific developments — emerging technologies, novel therapies, and innovative medical practices — that forecast a radical extension of a healthy human life. Featuring a special performance by acclaimed singer, Marilyn Maye.
Student Tickets: $12.00
I asked the following question on Twitter recently:
“A question for all of you Twitterers: Are you for, against, or just neutral on healthy life extension? How long would you like to live? Why?”
I have to tell you it’s hard to give good links to the whole chat without noise. Maybe on FriendFeed.
To my big surprise, many people were neutral about life extension using different arguments & beliefs and those are all smart, well informed geeky persons, many of them biologists.
On the other hand it’s hard to formulate an exact question in 140 characters and to give a good specification on exactly what type of healthy lifespan extension is addressed.
But nevertheless the conclusion for me is that life extensionists should pay a bigger attention to all the ‘neutral’ – ‘pseudo neutral’ arguments. A pseudo neutral argument could turned out to be a for- or anti- life extension argument after a thorough analysis.
When Google Trends went live one of my first search was for “life extension” and posted a little analysis about that. Here is a quick update with a serious question about the stagnating or declining popularity of ‘life extension’ searches. Explanations are needed. /I don’t know the exact search scale for the y axis/.
In No kidding, I am a cum laude philosopher, and so can you! it turned out that finally I got a philosophy diploma. That said, from now on I am officially qualified to think on the big questions of life. For instance, I can find out new arguments and concepts and I can answer (or at least fine-tune) questions like: ‘what is the meaning of life?’. (The best analysis of this question for me was Robert Nozick‘s Philosophy and the Meaning of Life in the last chapter of his book Philosophical Explanations, for an official intro see Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
So here is a short analysis and an answer of mine to this most important philosophical question from the point of view of a life extension supporter:
1. premise: this question could be answered only if it not about the general meaning of all life, but the particular meaning of individual human lives.
2. analysis: let’s fill the question up to show the variables in it: ‘what is the meaning of an individual human life (x) for somebody individual (y)?’ Continue reading
Michael Kingsley – diagnosed with Parkinson disease at the age 42 – wrote an utterly fatalist, sad&straight and death conscious essay entitled Mine Is Longer than Yours on the last boomer game he calls competitive longevity published in the New Yorker. This piece is the dark counterpart of the recent Wired Kurzweil coverage on Mr. K.’s enormous efforts of being prospectively healthy as long as to reach next generation life extension technologies.
In contrast to that, Mr Kingsley, who underwent deep brain stimulation and lives with wires in the brain and batteries in the chest, seems to be somewhat restricted in the age of web to “switching your subscription from Newsweek to Time”. Still, “longevity is not a zero-sum game” – he admits.
Mr. Kingsley is pretty ignorant about any non-selfish motivation behind life extension (he is a political journalist by profession): Continue reading
1. We tried that already
2. We’ve never done anything like that before.
3. Has anyone ever done anything like that before?
4. That never works
5. You’re fired
6. We will actively work against you
8. Not in our budget
9. Not an interesting problem
10. We don’t have time/We’ll never find the time to do it. (I specially liked this one.)
11. Execs will never go for it
12. Out of scope/Not in our business
13. But its the law
14. Too blue sky / Holy grail
15. Wont make enough $$
16. That isn’t what people want Continue reading
I’ve always loved the following scene from LOTR, but I’ve always imagined that they are the words of a man who is in a healthy physiological condition due to a robust life extension technology and not due to a mystical ring:
Bilbo: “Today is my one hundred and eleventh birthday!”
Hobbits: “Happy birthday!”
Bilbo: “Alas, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits.” [cheers abound.] “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
Larry Page is 35 years old today and it’s really easy to consider him as a representative man of his/our generation (I am 33 years old) including his future prospects. A company with an unlimited potential was built on Page’s unfinished PhD. research project.
Last year I approached a powerful Wired editor with the following story pitch: “A full and deep but cool report on the current (scientific) life extension technologies, persons, battles, camps, grants, problems, perspectives.”
His reply was a diplomatic and definite naysaying:
“Thanks for the idea. Alas, we’ve done *way* too many stories on life-extension over the years, from profiles of the singularity guys and Aubrey De Gray (sic) to shorter takes on various startups and stuff. There may be cool stuff out there, but I’m afraid we’ve exhausted our appetite on the subject.”
However the life extension appetite is not something that could be exhausted until the problem is solved systematically and the Wired guys’ appetite seems to be restored and healthy again as in the April Wired issue (not online yet) there is a full story (or rather follow up) on the No.1 singularity guy and baby boomer escapist artist Ray Kurzweil called Stayin’ Alive by senior Wired contributing editor Gary Wolf (whose book Wired – A Romance is a good reading).
What is interesting in Kurzweil for experimental scientists/robust life extension supporters is not his meditations on singularity, accelerating change and mind uploading (see the counterarguments by Mark Anderson in the same Wired issue), but his experimental, futuristic, life extensionist lifyestyle:
Kurzweil takes 180 to 210 vitamin and mineral supplements a day, so many that doesn’t have time to organize them all himself. So he’s hired a pill wrangler, who takes them out of their bottles and sorts them into daily doses. K. also spends one day a week at a medical clinic, receiving intravenous longevity treatments. The reason for his focus on optimal health should be obvious: If the singularity is going to render humans immortal by the middle of this century, it would be a shame to die in the interim.
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)
“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:
Scott Wainner – an old timer, professional internet revenue generator and recent maximum healthy life extension advocate (the ideal target group) – wants you (in this case, me) to blog about life extension for $20 (first 100 bloggers only) and thereby also boosts his site’s traffic (I am sure there is a special marketing term for this type of activity): Living Well, Indefinitely + $20 Blogging Challenge. Continue reading
Human genome schmutz: Nobody wants to get old or worse, appear old. And forget about dying. That’s the ultimate bummer. Genetic research has been held back recently by a series of disasters too terrible to mention in this venue, or even look up right now, since we’re very busy. But the three-headed midget sheep problem will be solved by 2014 and recombinant DNA, stem-cell and mitochondrial transmogrification technology will begin making inroads into the problem of aging, extending human life to its ultimate limit and even beyond, particularly for really rich people who are on everybody’s nerves already. Another enormous opportunity for confabulators here.
Well, why exactly am I working with human mitochondria and stem cells at the bench? Maybe it’s time again to recall.
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:
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
Healthy life extension is not 1 out of the 14 Grand Engineering Challenges…that can be realistically met, most of them early in this century according to the Committee on Grand Challenges for Engineering with members such as Larry Page, Dean Kamen, Craig Venter, Robert Langer and …lifestyle life extensionist, nanovisionary Ray Kurzweil. There is a challenge though called Engineer better medicines and the essay behind looks as if it had been hacked together by Kurzweil and Venter themselves during a sunny Californian Soy Beer Baby Boomer Beach Party. It is about personalized medicine in large and the only hint – I was able to find – to a recent discipline named regenerative medicine is a paragraph, not on, say the challenge of systemic regmed, but on synthetic biology.
It is a big challenge to learn how could healthy lifespan extension as a big and realistic challenge have been left out? Why did Kurzweil (author of the book Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever) not stand up for it? Why nobody out of the luminaries thought that regenerative medicine and stem cells worth discussing more than a tiny side note? And what about Venter, whom I still like to be interview as there are many points in his activity suggesting a life extension connection. Somebody in the committee was clearly against it?
One friend told me that he is not surprised by this, because it was announced at the AAAS meeting, which is very conservative. Out of the committee members Ray Kurzweil, Daniel Hillis, and maybe Dean Kamen would have been supporters of including LE as a challenge.
But. Continue reading
…that can be realistically met, most of them early in this century according to the Committee on Grand Challenges for Engineering with members such as Larry Page, Dean Kamen, Craig Venter, Robert Langer and …lifestyle life extensionist, nanovisionary Ray Kurzweil. There is a challenge though called Engineer better medicines and the essay behind looks as if it had been hacked together by Kurzweil and Venter themselves during a sunny Californian Soy Beer Baby Boomer Beach Party. It is about personalized medicine in large and the only hint – I was able to find – to a recent discipline named regenerative medicine is: Continue reading
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
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“.
One 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 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.
The 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: Continue reading
Campbell writes in his thoughtful answer:
“I’ve changed my mind about the use of enhancement drugs by healthy people. A year ago, if asked, I’d have been against the idea, whereas now I think there’s much to be said for it.”
Before citing further the argument of Campbell I’d like to remind the analogous problems of biotechnological life extension products targeted for healthy people in a “normal” physiologic state. Good example are the resveratrol-like but more effective sirtuin activators with a probably positive healthy lifespan extension effects developed by David Sinclair and his group at Sirtris. The trick is to market Sirtuin activators as anti-diabetes drugs, or find other registered diseases to target with the drugs. According to Mass High Tech:
“Aging is not a disease to the FDA,” Sirtris co-founder Christoph Westphal said, so Sirtris is focusing on drugs to treat ailments of old age.
With this story in our changed and future focused mind it is very promising to read for healthy life extension supporters what Campbell, a mainstream academic science representative has to say on cognitive enhancement drugs:
New cognitive enhancing drugs are being developed, officially for therapy. And the therapeutic importance — both current and potential — of such drugs is indeed significant. But manufacturers won’t turn away the significant revenues from illegal use by the healthy.
That word ‘illegal’ is the rub. Off-prescription use is illegal in the United States, at least. But that illegality reflects an official drugs culture that is highly questionable. It’s a culture in which the Food and Drugs Administration seems reluctant generally to embrace the regulation of enhancement for the healthy, though it is empowered to do so. It is also a culture that is rightly concerned about risk but wrongly founded in the idea that drugs used by healthy people are by definition a Bad Thing. That in turn reflects instinctive attitudes to do with ‘naturalness’ and ‘cheating on yourself’ that don’t stand up to rational consideration. Perhaps more to the point, they don’t stand up to behavioral consideration, as Viagra has shown.
Research and societal discussions are necessary before cognitive enhancement drugs should be made legally available for the healthy, but I now believe that that is the right direction in which to head.
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
After all, what customers can really expect of personal genome services that companies like 23andMe can offer beyond knowing whether they have a perfect pitch or not? If the service can really help in minimizing the risk of life threatening diseases, than the real expectation is to live longer by using those personalized/commercialized genome data. The future will answer this question, but it seems pretty sure that robust life extension (more than, say 100 extra productive and healthy years) is not within range just by knowing your predisposed genetic makeup in details. At the present moment the life extension bonus effect for using those services cold be around a decade and this guess is coming from Thomas Goetz‘s article in Wired on 23AndMe Will Decode Your DNA for $1,000. Welcome to the Age of Genomics:
And, yes, we will know whether our children are predisposed to certain traits or talents — athletics or music or languages — and encourage them to pursue certain paths. In short, life will become a little more like a game of strategy, where we’re always playing the percentages, trying to optimize our outcomes. “These are enormously large calculations,” says Leroy Hood, a pioneer of genomic sequencing and cofounder of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, who suggests that if we pay attention and get the math right, “it’s not a stretch to say that we could increase our productive lifespans by at least a decade.”
Let’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.
Robert Lanza is now the Chief Scientific Officer of Advanced Cell Technology, while Michael West is voluntarily stepping down as the company’s President and Chief Scientific Officer and jumps into the CEO seat of BioTime Inc..
Lanza and West are 2 legendary figures in the biotech industry, and here are 2 interesting things concerning them:
West is in the science, telomerase, stem cell, regmed, biotech business because of his strong life extension commitment and had a big effect on Aubrey de Grey (see How to Live Forever or Die Trying: On the New Immortality by Bryan Appleyard or the highly entertaining Rapture by Brian Alexander).
Recently 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
In order to slow the progress of aging and prevent age-related disease (which is not the same as figuring out a robust engineering plan for unlimited healthy life extension) biological measures (biomarkers) of aging or disease mechanisms are needed that anticipate clinical disease and are sensitive to functional organism aging.
The American Federation for Aging Research is the organizer of a one-day conference on October 2 in Manhattan focusing on current and future status of biomarkers as identifiers of rates of biological aging, predictors of longevity and predictors of susceptibility to disease.
/Thanks for the tip, Jim Craig./