Ouroboros at ETech

Chris Patil of Ouroboros was at ETech to give a presentation:

To describe, in an accessible manner, recent progress and ongoing current work in understanding the basic biology of aging, including research currently being performed in his own lab group as well as subjects of interest in the broader field of biogerontology. From there, he will proceed to several ambitious, collaborative, interdisciplinary ventures currently getting underway. These include a new project, recently initiated by himself and others, that will compare dozens of animal species and ask questions about how natural selection has "tuned" longevity over the course of evolution - with the ultimate goal of achieving a greater understanding of the mechanisms limiting human longevity.

To defend the idea of intervening in the process of human aging, from the standpoint of quality of life, individual rights, and overall benefit to society. In the process, he will answer some of the major objections to extending human longevity, and also discuss the real social challenges resulting from various possible life extension technologies.

Though apparently it's not a great crowd for life science research and biotechnology. In one of his blog posts on ETech, he muses on the concept of "segmental longevity therapies", which I find intriguing:

I’m using the term in the sense of “segmental” progerias, conditions in which an organism expresses some but not all component of accelerated aging. What if the first longevity therapies are much better at dealing with one aspect of the aging process than others? For example, imagine a therapy that kept brains completely intact (no Alzheimer's) but was lousy at maintaining the musculature - or even more problematically, vice versa. Obviously we’re not going to design therapies to ignore specific systems, but on the other hand, we’re not in tight control over what sorts of technologies are going to emerge (or come into wide use) first. The first longevity therapies may well be segmental, whether or not they 'ought' to be. What are the ramifications of that?

This doesn't seem unlikely on the face of it. For example, consider the outcome if the first meaningful therapy out of the gate is the repair of mitochondrial damage, and nothing else gets off the ground for a decade following that. Repairing mitochondria seems plausibly likely to help everything except cancer. Equally, if effective repair of age-damaged immune systems is first to market, that helps suppress cancer and the consequences of sensencent cells, amongst all the other jobs of the immune system, but doesn't do much for things like muscle loss, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's, and so forth.

The ramifications that spring to mind are that (a) these therapies will be reduced in effectiveness of extending life by other limiting conditions, (b) we'll want researchers to work in parallel on all the modes of age-related damage such that those limits are all pushed out at the same time.


Other than cancer, couldn't arthritis, atherosclerosis and many other age related autoimmune conditions potentially benefit from effective repair of age-damaged immune systems?

Posted by: Shidan Gouran at March 13th, 2009 8:37 PM

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