“The First Human to Live to 1,000 is Alive on Earth Today” –Aging is a Problem Solvable By Technology

 
22645118476_7711d596a4_z (1)

 

"For decades," says Aubrey de Grey, "my colleagues and I had been earnestly investigating aging in the same way that historians might “investigate” World War I: as an almost hopelessly complex historical tragedy about which everyone could theorize and argue, but about which nothing could fundamentally be done."


Aging says de Grey, he 54-year-old cofounder of the SENS Research Foundation, “unequivocally causes far more suffering than anything else that we have to experience,” de Grey said, “and contrary to the impression that most of humanity has forced itself into, it’s indeed a problem which is amenable through technological intervention.”

De Grey believes that, within the next 20 years or so, scientists will finally solve one of humanity’s greatest problems, and, that the the first human who will live to 1000 years old isalive and breathing on Earth today,

“The fact is, aging kills 110,000 people worldwide every fucking day,” de Grey said at a Virtual Futures event in London on Wednesday, in a conversation with group director Luke Robert Mason. “It doesn’t just kill them. You have to take into account all the suffering that comes before.”

Through his foundation, says Inverse, who attended the event, de Grey is working to solve seven types of aging damage, including tissue atrophy, cancerous cells, mitochondrial mutations, death-resistant cells, extracellular matrix stiffening, extracellular aggregates, and intracellular aggregates.

In his book, Ending Aging, Aubrey de Grey, champions recent progress in genetics and calorie-restricted diets in laboratory animals that hold forth the promise that someday science will enable us to exert total control over our own biological aging and substantially slow down the aging process.

Aubrey de Grey is convinced that he has formulated the theoretical means by which human beings might live thousands of years — indefinitely, in fact.

 

 

Unlike Francis Bacon, de Grey has never stationed himself at a laboratory bench to attempt a ­single hands-on experiment, at least not in human biology.  He is a computer scientist who has taught himself natural science, and has set himself toward the goal of transforming the basis of what it means to be human.   

Dr. de Grey, who holds a rare University of Cambridge degree on this basis of publications rather than classwork, believes that the key biomedical technology required to eliminate aging-derived debilitation and death entirely is now within reach —technology that would not only slow but periodically reverse age-related physiological decay, leaving us biologically young into an indefinite future—is now within reach.

In Ending Aging, Dr. de Grey and his research assistant Michael Rae describe the details of this biotechnology. They explain that the aging of the human body, similar to the aging of man-made machines, results from an accumulation of various types of damage.  And, as with machines, this damage can periodically be repaired, leading to indefinite extension of the machine’s fully functional lifetime.

By demystifying aging and its postponement for the nonspecialist reader, de Grey and Rae systematically dismantle the fatalist presumption that aging will forever defeat the efforts of medical science.

The most realistic way to combat aging, de Gray suggests, is to rejuvenate the body at the molecular and cellular level, removing accumulated damage and restoring us to a biologically younger state.

Comprehensive rejuvenation therapies can feasibly postpone age-related frailty and disease indefinitely, greatly extending our lives while eliminating, rather than lengthening, the period of late-life frailty and debilitation.

"The real issue," de Grey writes, "surely, was not which metabolic processes cause aging damage in the body, but the damage itself. Forty-year-olds have fewer healthy years to look forward to than twenty-year-olds because of differences in their molecular and cellular composition, not because of the mechanisms that gave rise to those differences. How far could I narrow down the field of candidate causes of aging by focusing on the molecular damage itself?"

Removing the causes of aging-related deaths will also eliminate all the suffering that aging inflicts on most peoplein the last years of their lives. Aging kills more than 100,000 people a day. Social concerns about the effects of defeating aging are legitimate but don’t outweigh the merits of saving so many lives and alleviating so much suffering.

"There are mutations in our chromosomes, of course, which cause cancer," de Grey muses. "There is glycation, the warping of proteins by glucose. There are the various kinds of junk that accumulate outside the cell (“extracellular aggregates”): beta-amyloid, the lesser-known transthyretin, and possibly other substances of the same general sort. There is also the unwholesome goo that builds up within the cell (“intracellular aggregates”), such as lipofuscin. There’s cellular senescence, the “aging” of individual cells, which puts them into a state of arrested growth and causes them to produce chemical signals dangerous to their neighbors. And there’s the depletion of the stem cell pools essential to healing and maintenance of tissue.

"And of course, there are mitochondrial mutations, which seem to disrupt cellular biochemistry by increasing oxidative stress. I had for a few years felt optimistic that scientists could solve this problem by copying mitochondrial DNA from its vulnerable spot at “ground zero,” within the free-radical generating mitochondria, into the bomb shelter of the cell nucleus, where damage to DNA is vastly rarer.

"Now, if only we had solutions like that for all of this other stuff, de Grey mused, we could forget about the “butterfly effect” of interfering with basic metabolic processes, and just take the damage ITSELF out of the picture."

De Grey's call to action, said Dr. Sherwin Nuland, clinical professor of surgery at Yale University School of Medicine and author of How We Die and The Art of Aging, "is the message neither of a madman nor a bad man, but of a brilliant, beneficent man of goodwill, who wants only for civilization to fulfill the highest hopes he has for its future.”

An opinion darkly countered by Dr. Martin Raff, emeritus professor of biology at University College London and coauthor of Molecular Biology of the Cell: “Seems to me this man could be put in jail with reasonable cause.”

De Grey has formulated a wide-ranging plan for the comprehensive and eventually indefinite postponement of age-related physical and mental decline, SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence). He is the organizer of an ongoing series of conferences and workshops that focus on the key biomedical research relevant to SENS, and he also oversees the Methuselah Foundation’s growing sponsorship of SENS research worldwide

"To intervene in aging, I realized," de Grey writes, "didn’t require a complete understanding of all the myriad interacting processes that contribute to aging damage. To design therapies, all you have to understand is aging damage itself: the molecular and cellular lesions that impair the structure and function of the body’s tissues. Once I realized that simple truth, it became clear that we are far closer to real solutions to treating aging as a biomedical problem, amenable to therapy and healing, than it might otherwise seem."

Leon Kass, the former head of George W. Bush's Council on Bioethics, insists that “the finitude of human life is a blessing for every human individual”.

Bioethicist Daniel Callahan of the Garrison, New York-based Hastings Centre, agrees: “There is no known social good coming from the conquest of death.”

Maybe they’re right, but then why do we as humans strive so hard to prolong our lives in the first place? Maybe growing old, getting sick and dying is just a natural, inevitable part of the circle of life, and we may as well accept it.

But it's not inevitable, that's the point," de Grey says. "At the moment, we're stuck with this awful fatalism that we're all going to get old and sick and die painful deaths. There are a 100,000 people dying each day from age-related diseases. We can stop this carnage. It's simply a matter of deciding that's what we should be doing."

The Daily Galaxy via Inverse.com and MIT Technology Review

Image at top of page:  "Amphitrite, Siren of Sunset Reef" – sculpture created Canadian artist Simon Morris, at Grand Cayman Island

 

"The Galaxy" in Your Inbox, Free, Daily