A Good Basic Introduction to SENS Longevity Research

Over at the Electric Pulse, you'll find a good introduction to the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, aimed at those folk completely unfamiliar with longevity science and the work of scientists like Aubrey de Grey:

Japanese women now have a life expectancy of 85 years. In other words, a Japanese woman who died at 82 would have passed "before her time." As a society, we’ve slowly become more accustomed to the decreasing relevance of age, whether that be Madonna dancing in cut-offs at 50, or John McCain seeking to be the oldest elected president. This societal change is a reflection of statistics. Over the past 100 years, the average American has gained two years of life expectancy every decade. This pace, however, will soon be eclipsed as science effectively ends aging. The unquestioned leader in this drive is Dr. Aubrey de Grey.

Dr. de Grey came up with SENS: Strategies for Engineering Negligible Senescence. In layman’s terms, de Grey wants to keep us from becoming frail and dying. How we get old is relatively simple and uncontroversial. As a by-product of being alive, our bodies start to build up damage, and eventually this damage causes disease.

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The difference between us and cars is that we know everything there is to know about repairing cars. Just as a Ferrari would have been impossibly complex to build two hundred years ago, so is the body today. The difference is that biology is quickly becoming an information science. As loyal readers of this column know, information technologies increase at an exponential rate. Just like computers, biotechnology such as DNA sequencing or fMRI imaging roughly doubles in capability every year.

We will soon be able to deal with the nanoscale devices that make up the human machine and fix the damage that occur to them.

This is a great piece to send to friends and relatives who don't follow scientific progress at the Methuselah Foundation, and don't know about relevant new research out in the wider life science community - indeed, to anyone you know who doesn't spend much time thinking about aging at all. The article is simple and to the point, framing aging as the consequence of known forms of biochemical damage, presenting the best path forward as the development of therapies to repair that damage.

The biggest hurdle to the future of healthy life extension not the science, but rather that most people in the world take aging and its degenerations as writ in stone, an immutable fact of life. Only when many more folk appreciate that aging can be defeated - and defeated within our lifetimes - will we see rapid progress, large-scale funding, and the growth of a large research community to get the job done. That's something we can all help to bring about by talking more often about real science and real prospects for engineered longevity.

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