It seems Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. has noticed that one of their journal editors is getting a fair amount of press attention of late - it never hurts to get in on the act when you're in the publishing business. I had missed the opening of the December 2005 issue of Rejuvenation Research to all for free; you should take the time and have a look. Some highlights:
For the past five years, I have been refining and promoting an approach to life extension termed "Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence" (SENS). SENS differs from other approaches (such as antioxidants, hormesis, or calorie restriction mimetics) in two main ways: firstly it is an approach to reversal (repair) of eventually pathogenic age-related changes ("damage"), as opposed to the retardation of their further accumulation, and secondly it is a piecemeal approach, in which the various types of such damage are addressed individually, rather than being simultaneously combated by the downstream effects of a single "magic bullet." Most biogerontologists appreciate that aging is bad for you and should be postponed as much as possible, as soon as possible, just like any disease. They are as aware as anyone of the scale of the sociopolitical consequences of even modest success in this, but they possess the sense of proportion so lacking in society at large on this matter and conclude that we should save lives first and deal with the consequences as they arise, just as when we almost eliminated infant mortality a century ago.
NANOG is essential for mouse and human embryonic stem cell (ESC) pluripotency and selfrenewal. ... These data suggest that the kidney has its own cells expressing NANOG, and loss of NANOG expression occurs in an age-dependent manner in the kidney, either due to developmental factors or aging, particularly in renal papillary tissue.
Belshaw's arguments, then, would only be persuasive to someone unfamiliar with the Epicurean position. His failure to undermine this position, however, illuminates something interesting about it that might be overlooked. I mentioned earlier that if death was not a harm this might reduce the reasons one had for developing life extension technologies. Yet it now transpires that even if death is not a harm one still might have good reason to pursue such technologies, given that the extra life that they would provide would be enjoyable to those who experience it. The issue of death's goodness or badness to the one who dies, then, is orthogonal to the question of whether one should pursue such technologies.
How far, then, are we from serious life extension in mammals and eventually in humans - and in particular, how far are we from life extension that merits the term "biomedical" by virtue of being applicable to those who are already on the slippery aging slope? IABG11's organizers are well known to be skeptical of my views of how, how much, and how soon aging can be postponed, so I was grateful for the invitation to outline my position in the last session of the conference, which was gratifyingly well attended despite occurring on the morning after the excellent conference banquet. I was able to draw attention to the just-announced SENS Challenge and was suitably pleased to see no one volunteering to submit an attempt to win the $20,000 on offer. If it is still unwon by the time of IABG12, in Greece in 2007, I suspect the skeptics will by then be fewer in number.