Aubrey de Grey Argues We May Live Forever

February 26 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: Beyond   Rating: 22

From mice to men, research in the next few decades may lead to therapies that will dramatically extend our lifespans.

Biologist Aubrey de Grey is developing therapies designed to postpone aging. His test subjects may still be mice, but he argues “there are no absolutely fundamental breakthroughs that we still need” in order to make the jump to humans.

So how long can you and I expect to live?

“At this point I think it’s fair to say there’s a good chance that people who are alive today, and are still young, children today, there’s a good chance that they have no upper limit on their lifespan,” asserts de Grey in a recent MemeBox interview

His roadmap to longevity starts in the mind:

“I think in the next 5 years we have a very good chance of seeing a complete phase change in people’s attitude to what aging is. In other words, to the distinction, or lack of it, between aging and age-related diseases.”

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10 Reasons You Will Live to 1000

May 07 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Business & Work   Year: Beyond   Rating: 16 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

The signs are all around us and yet, rather surprisingly, there is very little public discussion of an issue that is going to have profound moral, ethical, and political ramifications for all of society.

The issue of which I speak is the possibility of immortality. In just the past few days, however, the New York Times has run an informative article on how advances in genomics are improving the treatment of disease; the Economist has discussed the impressive progress being made in the field of gene therapy, and Technology Review covered the extraordinary advances that researchers at the University of Minnesota are making in growing a human heart.

Last week, I discussed why the future is accelerating and before that, I encouraged readers when thinking about the future to “think 10X, not 10%”; and the more I think about health care and human longeveity, the more I think both of these lines of thought apply to this field in particular. (cont.)

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Interview: Aubrey de Grey 12/14/07

February 26 2008 / by memebox / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 14

This interview was conducted by Venessa Posavec on Dec. 14, 2007

V: What do you do and how is that related to the future?

A: I’m a biologist, mainly, and I’m focused on the development of future therapies that will be able to postpone human aging a very great deal. By postpone, what I really mean is, repair the accumulating molecular and cellular damage that causes aging, and really is aging. The various things that happen, the side effects of our normal metabolic operations, so to speak, throughout our lives that will eventually cause things to go wrong with us.

V: And what is the Methuselah Foundation?

A: The Methuselah Foundation is the main vehicle through which I pursue these goals. It’s a 501©(3) nonprofit registered in Virginia and it was founded by me and a businessman called Dave Gobel who has a very distinguished career in a variety of different high tech industries over the years, so it’s very complimentary so to speak since I’m on the science side. We have been able to build up the foundation into a very prominent organization that both promotes the general merits of seriously combating aging, and also directly fund research in universities around the world to actually make that happen. We obtain the money for that research from the general public, and from wealthy individuals.

V: Where do you see the foundation heading in the future?

A: The main thing that it really has to do is to grow. At the moment we’re not nearly big enough. There’s masses of research that needs to be done, that isn’t being funded by anybody else, because people think it’s too ambitious or they don’t understand the goals or whatever, and it’s not being funded by us because we don’t have the money yet. My my main purpose, my main focus at the moment is to expand the foundation, to get more money in so that we can put more money out.

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Aging Exponentially

July 11 2008 / by Jeff Hilford / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 13 Hot

One of the themes on Future Blogger and for fans of accelerating change in general is life extension and the prospect of relative immortality. We covered this topic in our very first interview with Aubrey de Grey and Dick Pelletier has addressed it many times. One of the core arguments in this debate is that, regardless of increasing life expectancy rates, humans have an upper limit. This is probably best categorized as the Hayflick limit argument . That there is a maximum number of years that a human can live and if nothing gets to you before reaching that threshhold, when you do, that’s it – it’s over. That limit is about 120 years of age, with the oldest documented lifespan being the 122 attained by Jean Calumet

Increases in life expectancy are ultimately discounted by this assumption. In response to Jack Uldrich’s recent piece on the prospect of living to 1000, John Frink correctly points out that the radical increase in life expectancy that developed societies have experienced over the last 170 years or so (roughly doubling) is largely due to advances in health/medicine and hygiene. He cites the vast reduction in the infant mortality rate as being of particular note. But that is more reflective of initial gains and merely part of a larger trend at work. (cont.)

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Accenture's Persuasive Mirror Shows You What You'll Look Like in 6 Months

March 26 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 12 Hot

Accenture is just months away from releasing a product it calls the Persuasive Mirror, a product that allows you to view a simulation of your face as it’s projected to look 6 months in the future. Equipped with sensors and software capable of extrapolating your face based on consistent visual input, the mirror accomplishes its work automatically.

At a touch of the screen, the Persuasive Mirror offers suggestions about how to improve your look. For example, it may tell you to “walk to work today” or “stay away from junk foods for the next week.”

Accenture believes that such “continuous visual feedback on behavior” will have a positive effect on the way we manage our lifestyles. In other words, looking our future face directly in the face is likely to frighten us into healthier behavior.

My opinion is that, while a bit unnerving, such products are probably inevitable in a world of constant innovation and inexorable quantification of everything. Just as futurists extrapolate the state of larger systems in order to generate best-guess simulations, the Persuasive Mirror does this for the smaller facial system. As we continue to get better at the real-time quantification of the body, the health benefits will become obvious and so we’ll continue on our path down the rabbit hole. This will likely result in sensor networks embedded throughout and around our bodies, similar to the pervasive sensing that futurists argue will saturate our environment. After all, we are part of that environment.

Could you come face to face with a mirror that more or less accurately predicts your future appearance and choose not to look?

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A glutamine a day keeps senescence away

April 29 2008 / by mycophage / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: 2008   Rating: 9 Hot

(Cross-posted from Ouroboros: Research in the biology of aging)

Cellular senescence is regarded as a tumor suppressor mechanism: damaged cells permanently leave the cell cycle (preventing tumor initiation), and also secrete factors that trigger both tissue repair and inflammation in the vicinity. This is probably good at first but bad later on: persistent senescent cells also secrete growth factors and metalloproteases that degrade the tissue microenvironment and encourage nearby preneoplastic cells to progress into full-blown tumors. Thus, senescence has been implicated in late-life cancer and age-related decline in tissue function.

The “damage” in question is usually genotoxic in nature: telomere shortening, indicating that a cell has undergone many rounds of potentially mutagenic cell division, or high levels of DNA damage such as that resulting from ionizing radiation or exposure to chemical clastogens. Oncogene expression probably also induces senescence via DNA damage, by triggering over-firing of replication origins and generating broken ends and weird chromatin structures that are interpreted as damage.

Now it appears that falling cellular ATP levels may also result in cellular senescence. Unterluggauer et al. report that inhibition of glutaminolysis (preventing cells from generating ATP from glutamine, an unglamorous and occasionally overlooked pathway that is nonetheless an important energy source in many cellular lineages) results in increased senescence in human vascular endothelial cells (HUVECs): (cont.)

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Very small stem cells could help the body repair age-related damage

May 02 2008 / by mycophage / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 8 Hot

(Cross-posted from Ouroboros: Research in the biology of aging)

It is widely accepted that stem cells are involved in tissue regeneration. It is also widely accepted that (in most organs) stem cells are vanishingly rare. So: if there doesn’t happen to be a stem cell adjacent to a site of damage, how can stem cells be involved in the process of tissue repair?

One possible answer: There might be more stem cells than we think, because we’ve been missing them for some reason. This possibility (”both”) is strongly supported by the recent findings of Zuba-Surma et al., who have discovered a population of tiny pluripotent cells (termed, appropriately, very small embryonic-like, or VSELs) scattered throughout the body.

Very small embryonic-like stem cells in adult tissues—Potential implications for aging

Recently our group identified in murine bone marrow (BM) and human cord blood (CB), a rare population of very small embryonic-like (VSEL) stem cells. We hypothesize that these cells are deposited during embryonic development in BM as a mobile pool of circulating pluripotent stem cells (PSC) that play a pivotal role in postnatal tissue turnover both of non-hematopoietic and hematopoietic tissues.(cont.)

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Chronic infection shortens telomeres

May 28 2008 / by mycophage / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 8 Hot

(Cross-posted from Ouroboros: Research in the biology of aging)

Chronic stress has been associated with decreased telomere length in lymphocytes. The association is robust and has been observed in multiple studies, including one that looked at stress in addition to other risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), so it appears that lymphocyte telomeres are a useful biomarker for some convolution of age and lifetime stress level. The question still remains, however, whether the relationship is correlative or causative. Do stress and other lifestyle factors somehow cause shortened telomeres, or are the two phenomena otherwise-unrelated indications of some common underlying cause?

One of the “trivial” explanations for a causative relationship, usually advanced by critics who aren’t particularly impressed by the initial findings, is that stressed-out or otherwise unhealthy people are more vulnerable to infection than their serene, healthy counterparts. Chronic infection requires increased production of lymphocytes, which overworks the stem cell compartment from which these cells are derived; increased cell divisions leads to decreased telomere length — a perfectly satisfactory explanation for the observation.

If that is true, then chronic infection in the absence of lifestyle risk factors should cause telomere shortening on its own (let’s stipulate for the moment that stress increases susceptibility to disease, an idea supported by my own anecdotal experience of college finals). Ilmonen et al. have demonstrated that this is indeed the case, at least in mouse: (cont.)

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Stressor-specific hypersensitivity in the long-lived mole rat

July 11 2008 / by mycophage / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

(cross-posted from Ouroboros: Research in the biology of aging)

Stress resistance at the cellular level is correlated with longevity at the organismal level, to such an extent that one can screen for longevity mutants by first identifying stress-resistant animals. Conversely, the cells of prematurely aging mutants tend to be hypersensitive to stress. The idea here is that longevity is controlled in part by basal and inducible molecular defenses like antioxidants and chaperones, and that high levels of such factors confer both stress resistance and enhanced longevity.

What’s interesting about this pattern is that it seems to apply to a wide range of multiple stresses, with very different physical bases: oxidation, irradiation, starvation, heavy metal toxicity, and temperature, to name a few. Without a great deal of experimental proof to support it, one can imagine some central homeostatic integrator of cellular well-being, upon which all manner of perturbations might impinge and which might in turn control both the appropriate defensive responses and factors that determine longevity.

It would therefore come as a surprise if a long-lived organism turned out to be unusually sensitive to stress — and in particular, sensitive to particular stresses. In one fell swoop, this would falsify both the general, well-accepted correlative pattern (stress resistance = longevity) and the somewhat more fanciful model of a central homeostatic integrator.

align=”right” width=”100”>Lo, the naked mole rat, Heterocephalus glaber. A eusocial rodent roughly intermediate in size between a mouse and a rat (depending on where you shop), and slightly less aesthetically pleasing than an overcooked boudin blanc with teeth, the naked mole rat has recently drawn the attention of model-hungry biogerontologists worldwide: Perhaps because of the quirky selection pressures on eusocial animals, H. glaber is unusually long-lived compared to animals of similar size and body plan (like mice and rats). Like, ten times longer-lived. So, compared to mice and rats, mole rats should be much more resistant to all stresses, right? (cont.)

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Revised Thoughts on the Demise of Death

September 05 2008 / by Mielle Sullivan / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

A follow-up to last week’s Demise of Death

My post last week on the Demise of Death received so many thought provoking comments that I feel compelled to further the discussion in another post. The new information and perspectives contained in the the comments have transformed the way I intend to approach parts of the debate.  With such a fertile discussion ground, I felt I would be remiss if I did not give attention and thanks to several of the eloquently expressed ideas.

Here’s the point-by-point update:

Nanotech & Biotech Will Not Necessarily End Death: That death may remain even if aging is cured was a point raised by a few of the commentors.  If our bodies did not deteriorate into death, fatal accidents, acts of violence etc. could still bring about mortality.  I realize that my rationale for thinking we may be able to conquer death altogether was somewhat obscure in my first post.  One theory proposed by futurists and transhumanists, is that to truly conquer aging, we will not be able to rely merely on stem cells, genetic therapies and drugs. 

These treatments can, the theory argues, only go so far to combat cellular deterioration.  If we are to truly end, and not merely delay aging, we would eventually have to develop nanobots capable of precisely repairing cells.  My own logic followed that if we are able to create effective cellular-repair nanobots, we will have mastered nanotechnology and it will serve a number of other functions beyond cellular repair. 

Prolific poster Dick Pelletier has pointed out a few times that if nanobot technology were mastered, we could, in theory, surround ourselves in a sort of thin nanobot shield that could, in theory, protect us from violence and accident.  Perhaps I have taken this rationale too far. It does not logically follow that by ending aging we will necessarily end death by accident or violence, but I think it is at least a reasonable possibility.

Taking Control of Your Fate Opens Pandora’s Box: Let us consider my original conjecture is incorrect and that we will be able to bring an end to aging, but not death by accident or violence.  If this becomes true, we will, in effect be gaining a greatly extended life at the expense of knowing that death will certainly come either by violence, violent accident or suicide.  I cannot help but think these are all troubling ends. 

Admittedly, most deaths now are troubling.  Death by disease and aging is most often the end of a long, painful, degrading, messy battle.  But, at present, we can at least hope to be one of the lucky few to die comfortably, unknowingly in their sleep.  This hope will be eliminated if aging is defeated. 

Even to me the benefits outweigh the downsides, but it is deeply disturbing to know you will one day kill yourself if you aren’t hit by a bus or murdered first. This is in part what I meant when I wrote that I considered myself a part of nature and do not wish to be removed from the natural process.  Taking your fate out of the hands of nature results in some very difficult decisions.

Accepting Suicide? This idea of death occurring either by chance or choice is tied to another point raised in the comments.  Johnfrink said, “I’m pretty sure if we conquer death eternal life will not be forced on anybody.”  And I am inclined to agree.  It is unlikely that in a future without aging, omniscient police will parole the streets taking into custody all those thinking of ending it all.  But that doesn’t mean suicide will be any more desirable than it is today. 

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Hourglass: a blog carnival of biogerontology

July 09 2008 / by mycophage / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

(cross-posted from Ouroboros: Research in the biology of aging)

Welcome to the first installation of Hourglass, a blog carnival devoted to the biology of aging. This first issue corresponds with the second blogiversary of Ouroboros, but mostly I consider it a celebration of the excellent (and growing) community of bloggers who are writing about biogerontology, lifespan extension technologies, and aging in general.

Without further ado, then, let’s get started:

Reason at Fight Aging! reports on AnAge, a curated database of longevity, aging, and life history in a wide range of animals. The database contains information about average and maximum longevity within species, and also cool features like lists of the “world-record” holders for the longest-lived organisms on the planet. AnAge will be a great tool for anyone interested in studying evolution of negligible senescence or exploiting lifespan diversity across related species to learn about mechanisms of aging. For those who are interested in databases of this kind, AnAge is a component of a larger project, the Human Ageing Genomic Resources.

The most widely studied technique for extending the lifespan of diverse animals is calorie restriction (CR), whose benefits in humans are still under careful study. One of the disadvantages of studying humans, of course, is that you can’t keep them in completely controlled environments, free from temptation to cheat on their defined diets — but this may be more than adequately compensated by the main advantage of human subjects, namely, that they can tell you how they’re feeling about the study while it’s underway. Over at Weekly Adventures of a Girl on a Diet, Elizabeth Ewen describes her experiences as a subject in the CALERIE study, a large-scale test of the effects of CR on humans (we’ve discussed CALERIE here before). In her post, Elizabeth describes the CALERIE study in detail, and also critically assesses some of its specific features — something that no mouse, however talented, could ever do. (cont.)

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Poll: Would You Choose to Live Forever?

February 26 2008 / by memebox / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 5

Scientists like Aubrey de Grey offer convincing arguments that advances in medical technologies will one day bring us to the point where we can effectively solve death. But will we and should we choose to do so? You make the call. :)

Would you choose to live forever if the technology that prevented death existed?

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