April 12, 2004
Aubrey De Grey: We Could Triple Mouse Lives In 10 Years

In an interview with the MIT Technology Review biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey states that treatments that would tripe mouse life expectancy could be developed within 10 years.

TR: You believe that tripling the remaining lifespan of two-year old mice is as little as 10 years away.

De Grey: That’s right, with adequate funding. The sort of funding that I tend to talk about is pretty modest, really—less than the amount the United States already spends on the basic biology of aging. I’m talking about a maximum of $100 million per year for 10 years. With that sort of money, my estimate is we would have a 90 percent chance of success in producing such mice.

Aubrey advocates use of an animal model to demonstrate that rejuvenation therapies could be developed for humans and he has founded the Methuselah Mouse Foundation to provide awards to scientists who break new records in mouse longevity.

It is very unfortunate that more money is not flowing into rejuvenatiion therapy development. With a level of funding for rejuvenation therapy develop which is less than 3% of the current yearly NIH budget tens or hunfreds of millions more of us would have a chance to eventually become young again.

Aubrey has given previous interviews about reversing the aging process here and here. My Aging Reversal archive has many other posts about Aubrey's views on why we can reverse aging within the lifetimes of many people who are currently alive and why we ought to try much harder to do the research that will let us reverse aging. Also see Aubrey's website about Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) and how bodies could be treated so that they do not become older from one year to the next.

Update: A dwarf mouse named Yoda has turned 4 which is equivalent to about 136 human years.

ANN ARBOR, MI -Yoda, the world's oldest mouse, celebrated his fourth birthday on Saturday, April 10, 2004 . A dwarf mouse, Yoda lives in quiet seclusion with his cage mate, Princess Leia, in a pathogen-free rest home for geriatric mice belonging to Richard A. Miller, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of pathology in the Geriatrics Center of the University of Michigan Medical School.

Yoda was born on April 10, 2000 at the U-M Medical School . At 1,462-days-old, Yoda is now the equivalent of about 136 in human-years. The life span of the average laboratory mouse is slightly over two years.

“Yoda is only the second mouse I know to have made it to his fourth birthday without the rigors of a severe calorie-restricted diet,” Miller says. “He's the oldest mouse we've seen in 14 years of research on aged mice at U-M. The previous record-holder in our colony died nine days short of his fourth birthday. 100-year-old people are much more common than four-year-old mice.”

Genetic modifications of his pituitary and thyroid glands along with a reduced production of insulin make Yoda a dwarf who gets cold easily. Most of us have already reached our full sizes and so even when analogous forms of genetic engineering can be done to humans Yoda's modifications are not going to do us any good. However, every type of intervention that extends life provides insights that may lead to interventions that could be done to extend the lives of adult humans.

To put into perspective Yoda's human-equivalent of 136 years of life consider that the record for longest lived human is generally accepted to be French woman Jeanne Calment who lived over 122 years. But attempts to convert mouse years into human years have to be taken with a grain of sand. Genetically Yoda is not a natural mouse and the genetic engineering done to create his strain effectively makes the entire strain have an average life expectancy that is higher than that of regular mice. So why use natural mouse life expectancies to translate Yoda's age into human years?

The most important lesson demonstrated by Yoda's new mouse longevity record is that genetic manipulations can extend life expectancy. It may seem obvious to some readers to expect that, yes, life expectancy ought to be able to be improved by genetic manipulations. Still, scientists who demonstrate that mouse life extension can be done with today's biotechnology add weight to the argument that we can develop techniques to extend the lives of humans currently living rather than in some diistant future.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 April 12 12:50 AM  Aging Reversal

Brock said at April 12, 2004 5:59 PM:

What's with you and Aubrey de Grey? You're beating drums for him pretty hard, but is there anyone else in his field who thinks this is reasonable? I mean it's a great idea, and maybe the mainstream gerontologists aren't crazy about it - but does he have ANY support?

Also, $100M is a lot of money by any standard. Maybe others are thinking it would be better spend elsewhere? Somewhere more promising?

Randall Parker said at April 12, 2004 6:33 PM:

Brock, If you want to get a sense of what other researchers think of Aubrey's ideas then go to his website and look down the left hand column where he has SENS meetings and conferences. Read the transcripts of those events and see what a number of other scientists think of his ideas. If you would take the time to do that I think you'd find that in the succession of meetings the support for his ideas from other scientists has been increasing. The fact that those people even bother to come to conferences and meetings that he organizes should also provide some indication.

No, $100 million is not a lot of money by any standard. It is about one ten thousandth of the yearly GDP of the United States. It is less than what the United States spends per day in Iraq. It is less than 3% of what the United States spends per year in the National Institutes of Health. It is about 35 cents per US citizen.

We are tens of trillions of dollars in the hole with unfunded old age retirement benefits. A more rapid rate of advancea of rejuvenation therapies would allow people to work longer and therefore delay the day that they start living off the taxpayers. This would save so many trillions of dollars that acceleration of aging research would pay itself back many times over.

Brock said at April 12, 2004 8:55 PM:

Sorry if I came off to harsh in the first post, it was just that you always post Mr. DeGray's interviews, but not anyone else. I've been to his website, but websites are notoriously fickle. I've seen a lot of stuff on websites that never panned out, or are still just chugging along years after they were supposed to yield any kind of progress. I was just hoping for some kind of non-Aubrey confirmation of his opinion. I'll admit I have not read the transcripts on his site.

On a VERY related note, here's an interesting story. It was the reason I came back.


If we have to turn our kids into midgets to get results though, I'm not sure how popular it will be. I'm sure the research is helpful though.

Kevin said at April 12, 2004 11:21 PM:

How much is $100M? It's an amount of money that could be obtained from a single individual, foundation, or trust.

According to this page, it's less than 3% of what the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation -- alone -- has spent on global health since inception, and it's not a particularly old foundation.

Randall Parker said at April 12, 2004 11:30 PM:

Brock, Yes, I know about the latest Methuselah Mouse. I am going to write a post on it tomorrow.

As for my always posting Aubrey's interviews: I've been reading him and talking with him electronically for many years and have agreed with his views on this subject for several years now. I want to promote the ideas that he wants to promote.

Kevin, I agree. If Larry Ellison or Bill Gates would fund this research it would be great.

Reason said at April 13, 2004 2:22 AM:

I think that should be "triple" as opposed to "tripe," although that may explain the first poster's comments on better uses for the money...

I agree 100% with the sentiments on money flow. That why we need more people banging the drum. Research and funding happens when there is widespread support, and advocates are the people who drive that support.

Gerontology is far from a uniform field, and the only real debate over real anti-aging medicine is how long it will be until we can develop it. Jay Olshansky says a long time, Aubrey de Grey says it can be done within our lifetimes. Art Caplan says we need more funding, as does the head of the Ellison Foundation. If you're not big on dying (like Leon Kass apparently is), then it seems fairly obvious that more funding is a good thing.

David Gobel said at April 14, 2004 6:07 AM:

To see how some Sr. Science folks who actually DO biological research (rather than [important] demographic/statistical research), just count the number of teams signed up to compete for the Methuselah Prize. Six! teams...and frankly the prize isn't even that big yet. At this point in the XPrize's development, I don't thing they even had a single team signed up. The prize program hasn't even had its first birthday.

And isn't it interesting that we already announced the first winner in June of 2003 and already have another contender in the wings? The phenomenon of age-control is real. Just like birth-control was weird, illegal and immoral when first discussed in the early 20th century, so age-control is in the same position in the early 21st century. The difference in my opinion is that age-control will follow a much steeper curve of mindshare and development. The prize exists to make certain that the knee of that curve happens as fast as possible.

Dave Gobel
The Methuselah Foundation

Beerman said at March 4, 2005 3:05 AM:

Leon Kass is concerned about aging because of job promotion ...I just spent 47 minutes listening to him and David Sinclair debate on NPR radio . So I lost 47 minutes and want them back . Leon just put in an application for Grim Reaper and David is looking for his balls . Where the hell are peoples " Passion " ? Is it really true that something as profound as longer life is being feared ? If we could live for 50 extra years I will buy 100 Happy meals from MacDonald's everyday . Many of us don't have much more than a mere existance . We married young , or pissed our lives away some way or another . If you knew then what you know now what would you change ? You might have an opportunity to fix that . Go to school to change your job. Or go to school just for the enrichment of it . to study history , art , or music . If you had 40 years to devote your life to improving some major problem confronting humankind right now , what would it be ? A psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1954 developed the stages of needs of a human . After the first few stages concerning food , shelter , security ans such stuff , he became interested in higher aspiations . Not everyone is an asshole , have a little faith in people . When people have their needs met by their own efforts they have extra "stuff" . Sharing is a good feeling , maybe it might be hard to find someone that is actually needy , you never know .

susan lamb said at January 7, 2006 2:23 PM:

I currently have a mouse who is three years six months old ( born July 2002). I originally started with over thirty mice, the result of a pet population out of control and they have all died of natural causes, except for my longest living mouse. The difference that I am aware of is that he loves legumes and eats two to four peanuts per day. Since other mice left them and he picks them up first out of other foods in the mix, I buy packages of feed, just so that I can have more of those particular peanuts for him. The group of mice were originally "feeder" mice from a pet store that I "rescued" from that fate.

This subject caught my attention after watching "60 Minutes" last Sunday and they were trying to create a five year longevity in a mouse.

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