Aging, Death, Nanotechnology

Mike Treder is discussing some of our favorite subjects over at Responsible Nanotechnology:

Among the most intriguing research of our time is the effort to understand the process of aging, and perhaps to arrest or even reverse its effects.

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Genetic therapy holds great promise for treating several serious health problems, as well as possibly stopping natural deterioration altogether. However, the current state of the art can also cause problems, including cancer. Eventually, with the use of advanced nanotechnology, scientists may be able to directly edit the DNA of living cells in the body.

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Health improvement and life extension do not depend on [molecular manufacturing], but it certainly will make them accessible to more people. Any treatment that can be automated can be applied to any number of people at low cost; such efficient research will speed the development of cures for complex problems such as aging.

Go and read the rest of it. It's worth noting that biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey's SENS writings make it clear that you can't gene engineer away all the problems, just like you can't regenerate away all the problems using stem cell medicine - even if you did as much as is theoretically possible, you'd still be left with the buildup of waste products in and around cells leading to age-related disease and death. (Hence the need for LysoSENS research, which you can presently support in a number of ways).

Much of the groundwork technology needed for the future of real anti-aging medicine in the near future will be accomplished as incidental progress required for goal-driven research. For example, scientists have been driven by AIDS research to learn a great deal about the biochemistry and genetics of the immune system - because this knowledge was necessary in order to produce viable anti-HIV strategies. Cancer research has led to a vast expansion in our knowledge of cellular biochemistry - and how it relates to cell aging - as a necessary part of progress in that field. I believe that the useful byproduct of nanotechnology research will be complexity management - although one could make the case that nanotechnology will be the field benefiting from the complexity management technologies developed in order to move forward in biotechnology. Either way, we must make leaps and bounds in our ability to interact with, understand and control enormously complex systems if the future of medicine is to be even close to the most optimistic predictions.

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