Aubrey de Grey's BIL Presentation

Over at Future Current, you'll find a transcript of Aubrey de Grey's presentation at the BIL unconference. He goes into detail as to some of the research presently supported by the Methuselah Foundation, that funding made possible by generous donations from the pro-longevity community over the past few years. Such as:

A fantastic, originally Serbian immunologist called Janko Nikolich-Zubich, who is a prominent gerontologist and works in Tucson at the University of Arizona, has become very interested in the possibility of being more ambitious about repairing and rejuvenating the immune system than anyone has previously been. There are two major things that go wrong with the immune system during aging and they fall into two of seven categories that I always talk about. People have been exploring these things in isolation in a somewhat halfhearted sort of way for quite some time, but no one has had the balls to do them together.

I have managed to persuade Janko to do this. He is basically applying a combination therapy to mice whose immune systems are going downhill because of aging and seeing whether the immune systems can be really rejuvenated so that the mice are better at resisting infection, getting back to where they were in early adulthood. It is a reasonably long project, as is more or less any project involving the aging of mice, but it is already underway. It is being funded by the Methuselah Foundation and we are extremely happy about it.

If you look at Nikolich-Zubich's research brief, you'll see:

Diagnosis of the most critical, primary defects in innate and adaptive immunity of the old age is being followed by studies to repair or modulate those defects by immune intervention as well as by tailored, rational vaccine design. ...

The main virus targets of these studies are herpesviruses (HSV and CMV) and flaviviruses (chiefly the West Nile virus - WNV).


Another fascinating problem is the interaction of the immune system with life-long chronic and persisting pathogens from the herpesvirus family, and the impact of this interaction upon the aging immune system. These studies should pave way for the immune reconstitution and vaccine engineering experiments that will ameliorate and treat the undesirable consequences of immune senescence.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the most interesting item here, because it seems to be a major culprit in degrading the immune system with age. While it doesn't cause much immediate harm, over time its presence causes more and more of the immune system's resources to be (uselessly) dedicated to fighting it, leaving little left for more critical tasks. You can look back in the Fight Aging! archives for more on that - there's a healthy body of investigative research publications on cytomegalovirus and its effects on the immune system over time.


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