This year's TEDMED conference finished up today. Amongst the speakers were biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Foundation and tissue engineer Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. While we'll have to wait to see video of the presentations uploaded to YouTube to match last year's assembled presentations, you'll find coverage of the event at MedGadget:
- TEDMED 2010 - Day 1 - Shaf Keshavjee, Nathan Myhrvoid, Nathan Wolfe, and More
- TEDMED 2010 - DAY 2 - Thomas Goetz, Craig Venter, Alex Berenstein, and More
- TEDMED 2010 - Day 3 - Danny Hillis, Dean Kamen, David Blaine, and More
Next up on stage were aging and life extension scientist Aubrey de Grey and regenerative medicine researcher Anthony Atala. Aubrey is a quirky figure in the world of science, with a long beard and provocative views on aging and immortality. Anthony Atala is, by impression, much more grounded and lives in the world of tissue engineering. The most notable thing about their joint talk was not what they said but rather that their institutions, the SENS Foundation and Wake Forest University, are going to partner together on some projects. They approach the idea of fixing the human body from highly different angles and it will be interesting to see the results from their collaboration.
Atala is one of the luminaries present on the SENS Foundation research advisory board, so collaboration shouldn't be all that surprising. Organ replacement and the concept of reversing aging by repairing biological damage are not incompatible at all: the former could be made to be a method of achieving the latter for specific organs. When clinics are building new organs from a patient's stem cells, it is entirely plausible that accompanying technologies will ensure that those stem cells are free from molecular damage - and thus the organ will have youthful characteristics.
There are still a range of issues relating to the signaling taking place in an aging body - see the work showing the effects of old blood on young muscle stem cells and vice versa for example - but a new, young organ made from your own cells beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, issues or no. Functional growth of replacement organs and tissues to order will be a big step forward for medicine and the treatment of the old, which is one of the reasons that the Methuselah Foundation set up the NewOrgan Prize not so long ago.