Aubrey de Grey on Rejuvenation Biotechnology

From Slate, an example of Aubrey de Grey expanding the definition of regenerative medicine to include SENS: "Aging is bad for you. Whether you call it a disease, not a disease, a set of disease precursors, or some other variation on the theme, it is a medical condition, and thus a legitimate target - in principle - for medical intervention. But is it a practical target? Medicine generally targets individual problems - a particular strain of virus, for example, or damage to a particular area of flesh. Aging seems like a huge number of progressive, chronic diseases all interacting with one another. Might such complexity be beyond the power of medicine - even medicine decades hence - to address? Once these progressive, chronic diseases have become debilitating, piecemeal targeting of them is far less effective than medicine generally is against other, aging-independent diseases. The complexity is bad enough, but what's worse is that the diseases are progressive - they get harder to treat as time goes on, because they are simply the later stages of intrinsic, lifelong processes of accumulation of molecular and cellular damage. Is there a way out? ... in the past decade a new approach to medical intervention in aging has been explored: regenerative medicine. The attraction of this approach is that it acknowledges the irreducible complexity of aging but attacks the problem more pre-emptively than contemporary geriatric medicine does. Regenerative medicine can be defined as the restoration of structure to any damaged tissue or organ. As such, it encompasses molecular, cellular, and organ-level repair. As applied to aging, it amounts to preventative maintenance: periodic partial elimination of the accumulating damage of aging before that damage reaches a pathogenic level, thus postponing, maybe indefinitely, the age at which the ill-health of old age emerges."

Link: http://www.slate.com/id/2274582/pagenum/all/

Comments

Is aging really "irreducibly complex"? If so, then why are its effects so consistent between people? It seems more likely that the most important effects come from just a few causes, which are not irreducibly complex at all. They may, of course, be difficult to repair, since they pervade the entire body, but then again we haven't tried very hard.

So I'm a little disappointed that Aubrey would carry on the tradition of invoking works like "irreducibly complex" in connection with aging. When I talk with other educated people, even biologists, they are all convinced that aging is so complicated that there's no point to even try.

If our anti-aging budget matched that of a typical military weapons system, I bet we would find that the main causes of aging are not so much more complex than such a system.

Posted by: William Nelson at November 15th, 2010 9:58 AM

The full quote would be:
"in the past decade a new approach to medical intervention in aging has been explored: regenerative medicine. The attraction of this approach is that it acknowledges the irreducible complexity of aging but attacks the problem more pre-emptively than contemporary geriatric medicine does."

I think the point Aubrey wants to make is that the mechanism of aging is irreducible complex, but you can circumvent this by restoring the 'equilibrium' or 'starting point', as an example he shows the 'regenerative medicine'.

I do not really like the term 'irreducible complexity', since it links (for me) quickly to the intelligent design movement. However I do think that the mechanism of aging is quite complicated and can not be simplified too much. But, just as the mechanism of glucose metabolism is also complex, for a person it does not matter, as long as you eat the right amount, you do not care about the inner wheels etc... Or just as the earth climate is a complicated mechanism, you do not care as long as you keep CO2 at a certain concentration.

I think that is the point.

Posted by: Jochem Deen at November 16th, 2010 3:36 AM

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