We are fortunate to live in a era in which it is plausible to see significant progress towards far longer healthier lives within our lifetimes. Removing pain and suffering from old age - and pushing old age itself farther into the future - is now a reasonable goal for the vast, dynamic biotechnology and medical research infrastructures. All large goals require significant funding and public support, however. Serious research into the defeat of age-related degeneration is still in its infancy, supported by comparatively small groups and modest funding.
This state of affairs must change, and we are well on our way to making that change happen! Over the past two and a half years, ordinary folk like you and I have joined together in support of more and better research into increasing the healthy human life span. We have pledged more than $3.5 million to the Methuselah Foundation in this short time to (a) create the MPrize to encourage scientists to strike at the root causes of aging, and (b) fund the development of medical technologies to first treat and later eliminate age-related frailty, disease and suffering.
In September 2006, entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel greatly advanced this cause with a $3 million dollar matching grant for donations to SENS research aimed squarely at the defeat of aging. For every $2 donated to the Methuselah Foundation's SENS research projects, $1 of this grant will be applied. We have until the end of 2009 to to exhaust this grant - so let's get to work!
The Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), championed by biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, is perhaps the most important aging research taking place today. This is not because of present results, but because of its approach, influence upon other researchers and eventual payoff. SENS is a direct, efficient, fast-as-possible approach towards solving the problem of age-related degeneration:
SENS is a detailed plan for curing human aging. SENS is an engineering project, recognising that aging is a medical condition and that medicine is a branch of engineering. Aging is a set of progressive changes in body composition, at the molecular and cellular level, which are side-effects of essential metabolic processes. Many of these changes are eventually bad for us -- they are an accumulation of damage, which becomes pathogenic above a certain threshold of abundance.
The traditional gerontological approach to life extension is to try to slow down this accumulation of damage. This is a misguided strategy, firstly because it requires us to improve biological processes that we do not adequately understand, and secondly because it can even in principle only retard aging rather than reverse it. An even more short-termist alternative is the geriatric approach, which is to try to stave off pathology in the face of accumulating damage; this is a losing battle because the continuing accumulation of damage makes pathology more and more inescapable.
Instead, the engineering (SENS) strategy is not to interfere with metabolism per se, but to repair or obviate the accumulating damage and thereby indefinitely postpone the age at which it reaches pathogenic levels.
SENS research projects have been funded by the Methuselah Foundation since late 2005, and continue to grow as support for the Methuselah Foundation increases.
Now is the best of times to invest in your future health and longevity. By supporting the Methuselah Foundation, your donation will help to develop the scientific foundation for medical technologies to improve health and longevity for all. Now your donations will stretch even further: for every $2 you donate to support new SENS research, Peter Thiel will donate an additional $1 from his matching fund.
The future of our lives is not some remote line item in the hands of distant scientists: we are all responsible for building our future. You, I and everyone else can make a real difference to our healthy longevity and the science that will ensure it. What are you waiting for?