Rejuvenation Research for June 2009

The latest edition of Rejuvenation Research (volume 12, number 3) is available online - I'd already noted what I consider the most interesting scientific paper over at the Longevity Meme, an argument for DNA damage as an important cause of aging. Here, however, I'll note that this edition of the journal opens with a characteristically punchy editorial from biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey:

A brief perusal of my publication record will reveal something about my recent activities that may - indeed, probably should - strike you as sad: I hardly contribute anything to the biogerontology literature any more, essentially restricting myself instead to my characteristic outbursts in this space and the occasional invited book chapter. Unltimately, however, this is not a reason for sympathy, because it is deliberate - a choice resulting from the changed relative importance to the crusade against aging of my two ways of contributing, to the science (the feasibility) and to the public debate (the desirability). In recent years, though resistance undoubtedly still festers within mainstream biogerontology, great progress has occurred in broadening the appreciation that applying regenerative interventions to aging may prove to be far more effective, far sooner, that the traditional approach of attempting to "clean up metabolism" and prevent its eventual pathogenic side effects from occurring in the first place.

Corresponding progress in enlightening people that defeating aging would be a good idea, however, has been quite considerably slower; hence my choice to devote an ever-greater proportion of my time - and of the pages of this journal - to that part of the equation.

I agree that progress on persuading interest in engineered longevity within the scientific community is moving more rapidly than it is in the broader population. Though it seems to me that most of the public-facing scientists continue to favor metabolic manipulation to slow aging rather than Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence-like research aimed at repairing damage, and also continue to believe that meaningful applications of this work lie beyond their remaining lifetimes.

Still, the course of longevity science will be a long haul ahead, and the goal at present is less getting things done and more building the self-sustaining, growing research community who will get things done. Today's technology demonstrations and applied research for SENS-like repair of damage are needed, of course, but beyond that the end goals of greatly extended healthy human lives and the elimination of degenerative aging require greater public support and understanding. Over periods of time measured in decades only those goals that are widely desired and appreciated have a good chance of being accomplished. It takes a lot of money and a great many people to move a field of medicine ahead - look at stem cell research as an example - and that doesn't tend happen out on the fringe of public interest.

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