Some novel questions for biomedical gerontologist and healthy life extension advocate Aubrey de Grey in this short blog interview at the Electric Pulse. It is interesting, but not entirely unexpected, that one has to break out of the mainstream media stockade to see unexplored lines of thought:
EP: There have been a lot of advances in the realm of cosmetics or so called cosmeceuticals. Partially this has been because of the relaxed approval process compared to traditional drugs. Do you believe, as age defying cosmeceuticals get more powerful, that these regulations will be tightened?
Aubrey de Grey: Hard to say. I don’t really see why they should, because there are no powerful groups with vested interests in making that change occur - but also, there’s only so powerful that cosmetics are likely ever to get against aging, because if people are crumbling on the inside the it gets progressively harder to patch up the outside.
EP: As a follow up, do you think that advanced, highly effective cosmetics could have the same effect on breaking the "pro-aging trance" that successful mouse rejuvenation would have?
Aubrey de Grey: No. I think cosmetics have their place in enhancing people’s self-image and quality of life, but they don’t fool the wearer whose joints are hurting and who can’t run up the stairs any more, and that won’t change.
As I've pointed out in the past, the massive "anti-aging" marketplace sometimes looks as though it could provide great benefits to the healthy life extension community - a group of enthusiastic people and their delivery and marketing networks, flush with money, just lacking any product that actually works. But in practice, it just doesn't work out that way. Merchants focused on making money from things that don't work will keep doing just that and no more. The people buying the products show little to no sign of crossover to support of real longevity science.
If there really was a significant spill-over of sentiment and support from consumers of "anti-aging" brands to meaningful, scientific anti-aging research - or even between different "anti-aging" brands in the marketplace - I don't think we'd be seeing quite the same sort of hostile confrontation between brand-holders and scientists as takes place today. More to the point, I suspect that volunteer organizations like the Methuselah Foundation would be having far less of an uphill struggle than has been the case to attain their present level of success, and scientists backing rapid progress towards working anti-aging therapies would not be struggling to raise large-scale funding and fight conservatism within their ranks.
In essence, if there was any benefit to be had from the millions of Revlon customers, any tendency for these enthusiastic purchasers of potions to stand up for Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence research or similar efforts to repair aging, we'd have seen the signs by now. The "anti-aging" marketplace is its own closed world, ultimately irrelevant to the road to a cure for aging.
My own thoughts on the matter are that people aren't stupid. They know these potions don't do anything other than paper over the cracks (on a good day), and they're paying for a chance of papering over the cracks. That's an entirely different proposition from extending healthy life span, or actually repairing the damage of aging through medicine. The majority of the world is still firmly set on the idea of aging to death as something set in stone, but they want to look as good as possible while doing it.