October 31, 2007
Aubrey de Grey Wants To Cure Aging
Biogerentology theorist Aubrey de Grey is co-author of a new book arguing we can defeat aging Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging In Our Lifetime. Aubrey is also the focus of an article by Joel Garreau in the Washington Post: The Invincible Man: Aubrey de Grey, 44 Going on 1,000, Wants Out of Old Age
Aubrey David Nicholas Jasper de Grey, 44, recently of Britain's Cambridge University, advocates not myth but "strategies for engineering negligible senescence," or SENS. It means curing aging.
With adequate funding, de Grey thinks scientists may, within a decade, triple the remaining life span of late-middle-age mice. The day this announcement is made, he believes, the news will hit people like a brick as they realize that their cells could be next. He speculates people will start abandoning risky jobs, such as being police officers, or soldiers.
Aubrey believes (and FuturePundit agrees) that we can develop biotechnologies that will allow us to reverse aging and make us young again. This goal will be achieved within the lifetimes of at least some of the people currently alive. The sooner the general public realizes this the faster this goal will be realized.
Aubrey is attracting large donations toward the goal of reversing aging.
De Grey's original academic field is computer science and artificial intelligence. He has become the darling of some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who think changing the world is all in a day's work. Peter Thiel, the co-founder and former CEO of PayPal -- who sold it in 2002 for $1.5 billion, pocketing $55 million himself -- has dropped $3.5 million on de Grey's Methuselah Foundation.
"I thought he had this rare combination -- a serious thinker who had enough courage to break with the crowd," Thiel says. "A lot of people who are not conventional are not serious. But the real breakthroughs in science are made by serious thinkers who are willing to work on research areas that people think are too controversial or too implausible."
Aubrey thinks once aging is conquered we will periodically retire and retool for different occupations.
"Another thing that's going to have to change completely is retirement. For the moment, when you retire, you retire forever. We're sorry for old people because they're going downhill. There will be no real moral or sociological requirement to do that. Sure, there is going to be a need for Social Security as a safety net just as there is now. But retirement will be a periodic thing. You'll be a journalist for 40 years or whatever and then you'll be sick of it and you'll retire on your savings or on a state pension, depending on what the system is. So after 20 years, golf will have lost its novelty value, and you'll want to do something else with your life. You'll get more retraining and education, and go and be a rock star for 40 years, and then retire again and so on."
Aubrey thinks people are heavily invested in believing that death from aging is inevitable. This position made sense back when death from aging really was inevitable. Best to rationalize that aging is a good thing if there's nothing you can do about it. Make your peace and find reasons to be happy with what you can't change. But the rate of advance of biotechnology is accelerating with DNA sequencers and microfluidic devices becoming more powerful in ways analogous to the rate of progress with computers. We can strive for goals that used to seem unattainable. We should start trying to conquer aging. It is a solvable problem.
Problem? I'm not so sure everyone agrees with that assessment. Aging and dying are part of life. A recent article in the AARP journal about the long lived people on a mediteranean island indicated that most of them were pretty much done and ready to die...of course, this may be because of all the maladys of old age which de Grey thinks will be cured.
And there are serious consequences, not the least of which will be exponential population growth.
The human genome had no reason to evolve life expectancy longer than reproductive age, so it is likely that aging is a genetic problem and will require significant genetic engineering. There are also probably consequences with cancer, as in aging is at least partly a cancer prevention mechanism. Expecting the genome to survive in tact through multiple centuries of replication will be even more of a problem.
Lastly, there are things that can be done today (restricted calorie diets, exercise, etc) that people are unwilling to do. So the question becomes what are we willing to sacrifice in order to grow older?
The human population will not continue to grow indefinitely into the future. Nothing does.
Sounds like the Singularity will be a golden age for criminals, since nobody will want to risk centuries of life. Then again, we could have robot soldiers and police, until, that is, they decide their jobs are too dangerous.
You should go to http://sens.org/ and read the pieces linked in the sidebar on the left under "SENS concerns", it addresses most of the popular arguments against SENS. The TED video also is pretty good: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/39
Personally, if I'm healthy and feeling good, I'll want to live until tomorrow, and so on day after that. 500 years might seem long, but you live it one day at a time.
I certainly support Aubrey's research. In fact, I've donated to the Methuselah foundation and plan to donate more, and I'm reading Ending Aging -- it's a great book and I recommend it, even if you think you won't agree with it, at least make up your own mind based on the real thing and not just what you imagine SENS probably is.
I don't think age reversal and rejuvenation will be possible.
I do thinb *slowing* of aging will be possibloe, and already happens to some degree. This will enable many people to live past 100, and be physically active well into their 80s.
But slowing down is very different from reversal. Thus, if you are reading this, it is probably already too late.
Rejuvenation and biologic immortality violate no physical laws. They are an incredibly complex tech/med problem. I find Aubrey to be a simpleton evangelist and I tolerate his writings but don't waste money on them, just as the M-Rat Prize is cute science but useless. The core problem is that the human race is caught in its bicameral/unconscious patterns and until each and every human being starts to decide consciously, in freedom, in free markets without external authorities, to live forever, we aren't going to live to 1000 let alone forever. For those that don't grok how hard this all is -- understand one fact -- you will need at least 20 med tech performance doublings to get there. Under the current FDA/NIH/CDC/alphabet soup nonsense system we have the doubling rate of med-tech at just shy of 30 years. This is why cancer, heart disease and diabetes remain uncured and why we don't have rejuvenation or anything else. If you want this "living forever" bit, get the hell out of the way of me, my equivalents and betters, and you will have disease wiped out and rejuvenation a la carte.
I think Aubrey is 100% spot on. I think all of the criticism of radical life extension is just bone headed. Billions of $$$ are spent on supplements, cosmetic surgery, and fitness gym mamberships. Clearly people are interested in living an indefinitely long time PROVIDING that they are functionally youthful the entire time. I think the nobogs of negativism with regards to radical life extension are full of s**t.
For those who think its impossible to cure aging, I have one phrase for you: "Carlson's Curves". Carlson's Curves is the Moore's Law of biotechnology and is the reason why things that are seemingly impossible today (like curing aging) will be trivially easy by 2040 or so.
As for the comment about how people are not willing to do stuff today (excersise, CR diet, supplements such as CoQ10 and resveratrol), my response is "so what?". Some of us do do these things and have been doing them for a considerable time. The fact that other people may not do these things is completely irrelevant to those of us who do do these things. When the SENS therapies are developed, some people will partake of them, others will not. What is the BFD about this? Just because some people choose to be weenies does not mean that I have to make the same choice.
Making radical life extension into a political issue is as stupid and silly as making body building and lasix surgery into such a thing. It is not a political issue. It is something that those of us who are INTO IT are going to do, regardless of what anyone else thinks. I am a tranhumanist, not some sniveling teenager who needs the approval of her peers to do any particular personal thing.
TTT, the whole point of SENS is to show that reversion is actually easier to do than slowing down; one deals with metabolism, the other with regular repair of damage (regardless of how that damage is caused) before it can lead to pathologies.
I suggest you watch the TED video I linked above.
"Rejuvenation and biologic immortality violate no physical laws. They are an incredibly complex tech/med problem. I find Aubrey to be a simpleton evangelist and I tolerate his writings but don't waste money on them, just as the M-Rat Prize is cute science but useless. The core problem is that the human race is caught in its bicameral/unconscious patterns and until each and every human being starts to decide consciously, in freedom, in free markets without external authorities, to live forever, we aren't going to live to 1000 let alone forever. For those that don't grok how hard this all is -- understand one fact -- you will need at least 20 med tech performance doublings to get there. Under the current FDA/NIH/CDC/alphabet soup nonsense system we have the doubling rate of med-tech at just shy of 30 years. This is why cancer, heart disease and diabetes remain uncured and why we don't have rejuvenation or anything else. If you want this "living forever" bit, get the hell out of the way of me, my equivalents and betters, and you will have disease wiped out and rejuvenation a la carte."
It does violate physical laws; proton decay (assuming it exists) and heat death.
I am not convinced that age reversal will happen. Again, I think slowing down the aging process will happen very soon, and to some extent is already happening.
If I can extend my life by another 20 years, I'll gladly pay $2 million for that, going into debt to gain that time. If there are even 10 million people like me who want to each pay $2 million for such an increment, that is already a $20 trillion market. And that is a very conservative assumption of the parameters. Someone with $2 Billion might happily pay $1.5 Billion out of that for some more time.
Note that part of the reason I would pay is that in the additional time, I could easily earn the money back.
Unfortunately Carlson's curve is reflective of the narrow reality of the one small area that has escaped regulation so far in bio. Imagine if EVERY area of bio was free to advance at exponential rate. Join me! Leave behind this top-down fascist ideal of science and let's walk into a market-based free future.
On proton disintegration and heat death -- Give me a break. If my lifespan takes me to the proton-death or heat-death of the Universe, what a problem to have!
Hey, on another topic, I find this claim interesting but I could not substantiate it:
"Repeat after me: Peroxidized lipids are selectively toxic to cancer cells. Peroxidized lipids are selectively toxic to cancer cells. Peroxidized lipids are selectively toxic to cancer cells."
". In conclusion, lipid peroxides and heme components generate peroxyl radical species that exert DNA-cleaving activity. A plausible explanation is that lipid peroxyl radicals thus generated, which originated from routine dietary components such as fat and red meat, may contribute, at least in part, to the high incidence of colon cancer. "
I don't wanna die of cancer, so could you support your assertion of peroxidized lipids being toxic to cancer cells. I am just curious though. Maybe I will exercise more...
TTT: The germ line is immortal, but the only current way to reboot it and start fresh is to breed a new person. But since we're already creating millions of "whole people" (no medical intervention necessary!) who are youthful and cancer free every single say, what's to stop us from giving adult humans the same benefit? Mother nature has found ways to keep your germ line chugging along for the last 200,000 years, and genomes generally have passed on down from the first one since the primordial soup billions of years ago. All Aubrey de Grey is suggesting is that if, hey, Mother Nature can do it, so why can't we? Recently a clam was found off the coast of Greenland that was 400+ years old, so clearly long lives are not limited to trees.
HellKaiserRyo -- Is water wet? Basic biochem argues the truth of the statement, but if you want independent substantiation, Eric Fossel's work from the 80's and 90's was definitive in this arena. Harvard, if memory serves. (The therapy worked but the clinical business imploded. Some stock scandal, SEC issues.) I'm sure Google will retrieve all you may want on the topic.
"Red meat" doesn't cause cancer. Aggregates, such as "red meat" should not be blamed for cancer. The issue is fat ratios of omega3-omega6 and whether or not you drive yourself into arachadonic acid overload and become a nice inflammatory mess. Omega3's incidentally are also wonderfully toxic to cancer cells. Lean organic, free-range, red meats for example, have appropriate fat profiles and would not be expected to induce colon cancer.
However, beyond that, avoid simple carbs, eat a wide variety of fresh food (good food spoils! should be the maxim for selection), go fish veggie, restrict calories, test for inflammatory status, 81 mg aspirin a day, 900 mg of curcumin, and plenty of aerobic+ anaerobic excersize, CoQ10, lipoic acid, resveratrol, and pretty much, your cancer risk will be minimized.
There is no true difference between "slowing" aging and reversing aging. Assume that tomorrow you purchased - through a variety of treatments - another twenty years of life. There is a very good chance, that during those extra twenty years, breakthroughs will occur that will allow you to purchase ANOTHER twenty years of life, and so on. Thus, "slowing" aging is effectively the same as reversing aging. I'm not the first one to observe this of course: de Grey and Kurzweil have both commented on so-called "actuarial" escape velocity.
IMHO, once the first true breakthrough occurs, the games won, since anyone who doesn't get run over by a bus and can afford the first treatment will effectively live forever, even though immortality doesn't exist per se.
And I do realize the the heat death of the universe (proton decay, etc.) places certain limits on what is meant by "live forever." That is some billions of years away; I'll start worrying about it around 10 million years or so from now.
I particularly like what I think ought to be be called "De Grey's Razor":
"[...]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."
Do you take any anti-inflammatories beyond curcumin?
Heat Death impacting immortality, or life generally, assumes that there is no leaving this universe. The plethora of science fiction (and not a few hypothesis in actual Physics) presumes there are options to do just that. Having billions of years to work out the equations and build technologies to do that is fine by me. At some point one assumes we will bump across more technologically capable things, which may lead to the great "breakthrough" sooner rather than later. It can also lead to a quick, climactic, demise :).
Just a little aspirin, omega3 by supplement and fish, and last but not least B6,B12 and trimethylglycine to squash homocysteine.
Aging becomes reversible once we can grow replacement parts. I see no reason why we won't be able to grow replacement parts within 20 years. Anthony Atala is already reporting early successes at Wake Forest University and he has a large team working on the problem. Lots of other labs are working on it too.
The biggest obstacle is the brain. We need to rejuvenate it in place. But making the rest of the body young while sending young stem cells into the brain to replace old blood vessel cells will slow brain aging. Add in some immune therapies to remove extra-cellular junk and the brain aging slows even more.
The hardest brain aging problem is gene therapy for neurons. So the most important rejuvenation therapy is gene therapy.
Did I dream it or did someone recently isolate the gecko/lizard protein causal in that species limb regeneration?
You didn't dream it. I almost wrote a post about it. But it was not clear to me that this mechanism can be harnessed for growing human replacement limbs.
I'm certainly not a biochemist, but if the nAG protein can be structurally "unfolded," perhaps a correlate is can be easily identifiable in the mammal (=human) genome. perhaps they can even breed some "knock out" newts to bypass the whole protein business and id the genetic framework. Just some thought.
Aside, this little story gives me a lot of hope that it can be done, and the related mammal protein is ready for the plucking:
"A few years ago, a man in Cincinnati who accidentally severed a fingertip applied a substance made from pig bladder thought to promote tissue regeneration. The tip of his finger grew back within six weeks, though this is a single case and just a bit of the finger grew back." http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21584381/
Minimally, an artificial method may be derived that will harness and differentiate adult stem cells in vitro (rather than in vitro like the newt). With the progress in biodegradable and printable 3D scaffolding this may be just the thing a doctor can order.
My concerns about this are:
Would such breakthroughs be held as expensive so that only the rich and powerful would benefit? Shall we have a class-based bifurcation wherein the privileged get their extended lives while the rest labor and die for their continued benefit? Will government(s) act as censors and deny such treatments to the people for some ideological/religious reason (naturally benefiting a select few)?
I'm all for life extension/rejuvenation so long as it is NOT just an option for the wealthy and is not controlled by some ideological gatekeeper.