The end of 2010 approaches - blink and it'll be the winter solstice already. Time flies. It seems somewhat traditional here on the American side of the watery divide for people to make their charitable donations near the year-end, and so here are three suggestions for those of us interested in advancing the cause of engineered human longevity.
The SENS Foundation funds research into rejuvenation biotechnology, and aims to encourage greater adoption of the repair-based engineering viewpoint espoused by biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey. Repair the known forms of biochemical damage that cause aging, in other words, and thereby reverse and prevent the diseases and frailty of aging. This is sadly a minority position in the aging research community, and few researches have the defeat of aging as their goal. By donating to the Foundation, you help to fund present work into repair biotechnologies, and encourage more researchers to take up the fight against aging.
The Methuselah Foundation encourages science that will extend healthy human lives through research prizes and targeted investment in key companies. Most of you will hopefully be familiar with the Mprize for longevity science by now, and the Foundation recently launched the NewOrgan Prize aimed at speeding the new science of tissue engineering. Amongst the Foundation's investments are the noted organ printing startup company Organovo. Research prizes have a demonstrated multiple effect on donations - for each $1 in the pot, historical prizes have spurred between $15 and $50 in funds raised by competing teams. Long-term donors to the Foundation can join the 300, and will see their names inscribed on a monument designed to last for thousands of years.
You might recall that the Immortality Institute regularly raises funds for small research projects in aging and longevity science, the last of which was a mitochondrial uncoupling experiment to take place in Singapore. The second project for 2010 is presently open, and the Institute is seeking a few thousand dollars in funding to get it started:
Cognitive functions of the brain decline with age. On of the protective cell types in the brain are called microglia cells. However, these microglia cells also loose function with age. Our aim is to replace non-functional microglia with new and young microglia cells derived from adult stem cells. We will inject these young microglia cells into 'Alzheimer mice' - a model for Alzheimers disease. After giving the cells some time to work, we will sacrifice the mice and measure microglia activity, neurogenesis, proliferation of neuroprogenitors and plaque density in the brain. A reduction in plaque density of Alzheimer mice would be a first proof that the transplanted microglia are performing their expected function.
This sort of transparent microfunding of research projects is the wave of the future - encourage it, because it will help longevity science move more rapidly into the era of garage biotechnology, distributed projects, and far broader progress.