Update on the Longevity Dividend

S. Jay Olshansky recently posted an update on the Longevity Dividend initiative to the Immortality Institute forum thread on the topic. Links for reference (except for the last to the Alliance for Aging Research (AFAR) website) are added in by my hand, as is usually the case - next to no-one makes as much use of hypertext as they should:

The event in D.C. on the 12th of September went extremely well. Senator Craig kicked off the meeting using the language of the Longevity Dividend to suggest that health care spending will swamp the budget unless we pursue this initiative. Several of us met with Senator Harkin personally after the meeting to discuss the idea. He subsequently asked us for language to place in the appropriations bill, which we did. We're now drafting a follow-up to the Longevity Dividend calling for a paradigm shift in the way at which we look at aging and disease. It's important that we begin using the language of the Longevity Dividend to keep up the momentum.


Here is a link containing copies of the slides used by everyone during the event in D.C., and the video of the event.


Not just slides, but video also. There's quite a bit of material to look through there at the AFAR site. The people and organizations backing the Longevity Dividend approach are clearly gearing up their efforts; the end goal is a redirection of gerontology towards slowing aging via metabolic manipulation - and thus pushing back the onset of age-related disease, disability and frailty - rather than the present strategy of tackling the diseases, pathology by pathology, after the fact. We all know that prevention is better than cure; it's certainly more cost effective.

I'll (mostly) spare you folks a retreading of my opinions on this path - largely centered around the inherent limitations and undesirability of big tents, politics, government, redirection of taxed funds, trying to slow aging versus trying to repair the cellular damage that causes aging, etc - except to point back at this post, which more or less summarizes the salient points as I see them.

As many of you know, I am equal parts enthused by and critical of the Longevity Dividend. It is a big step forward for the conservative position in gerontology; an admission that the debate over healthy life extension is now "how much and how soon is possible." This is wonderful progress when compared with the state of the field even just five or ten years ago. A rising tide raises all boats: the Longevity Dividend approach makes Strategies for Engineered Senescence (SENS) research and the MPrize for anti-aging research more likely to grow and prosper.


At the same time, there is much to be critical of. The scope of the Longevity Dividend is unambitious in comparison to what is possible. It is also primarily geared towards government, public funding and political positioning - not my favorite ways of getting things done.

But you should make your own mind up; Olshansky, Perry, Miller, and Butler are demonstrably influential and talented folk. I predict they will attain a good fraction of their goals, having now set their minds to it.

And of course this recent post, which looks at why it's better to aim resources towards reversing aging via damage repair rather than slowing aging by reducing the effective rate at which damage accumulates.

I'll pick out two early stage technologies that are starting to show promise for a game of compare and contrast. Both involve the age-related damage wrought by free radicals that occurs in - and is caused by - mitochondria, vital cellular components that convert food into more convenient forms of energy to power your cells.


It should be quite clear that protofection is a far superior and more efficient answer to free radical damage of mitochondria than any form of antioxidant therapy. Now consider this: in the present day of highly regulated medicine and expensive development, both these technologies would likely cost much the same in money and time to move from where they are now to widespread, safe use in humans. Where would you invest the time and money?

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This is one of those half full/half empty issues. I think it is a huge plus that Senators are talking about a "longevity dividend" when it wasn't that long ago that the former Governor of Colorado was babbling about a "duty to die" for old people & more recently Leon Kass was saying the same thing in a more verbose manner.

Restating the debate in terms of "longevity dividend" has more subtle implications if you think about them, because we can keep tacking on things to that wagon. First up, circulatory issues and cancer, but part of circulatory is AGE, and AGE is also likely involved in cataracts and some other things. But then we can just tack on mitochondrial issues, because ROS is implicated in arthritis, circulatory and everything else....and, gosh, wouldn't it be easier to just renew mitochondria than mess around with macro stuff?

See where this goes? As "longevity dividend" is accepted into common discourse, the "duty to die" looks more and more absurd, because the debate isn't over preserving ever more frail oldsters, but making longer and more productive life possible for healthy people. In fact, adoption of the "longevity dividend" meme may be the critical event that makes everything else, including SENS, acceptable to mainstream people.

Let's support this Senator and urge others to join him!

Posted by: Another one at November 11th, 2006 3:58 PM

If they can get the FDA to rate "aging" as a congenital genetic syndrome and a proper target for medication, it doesn't matter if early efforts only focus on CR mimetics. They will have broken the ice.

Posted by: Julian Morrison at November 12th, 2006 8:52 AM
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