The present fundraising initiative at the Immortality Institute is another in their series of small research projects that can, despite their modest price tag, contribute to progress in longevity and aging science:
Cognitive functions of the brain decline with age. One 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.
The full PDF format research proposal is available: the work will be carried out by a graduate research assistant and will cost $16,000. This is the essence of our present era of biotechnology: a task that would have occupied a whole laboratory and its equipment in the 1980s, and cost a great deal of money if it was even possible at all, is now something that a skilled graduate-level life scientist can organize and run himself within an established lab. The times are changing - and this plummeting cost of research will only continue.
As I pointed out previously, this breaking down of the priesthood through lowered barriers to entry is how open source development has greatly advanced software development. It will do the same for biotechnology - hard problems requiring large investments in knowledge and resources will still typically be solved by scientific professionals working in traditional organizations, but they won't waste their time working on the easier issues. The much larger number of citizen scientists will be rapidly organizing to accomplish everything they are capable of and freely sharing the results of their work.
One benefit that truly stands out in this future is that research projects ignored by mainstream funding organizations stand a strong chance of making headway. One such presently ignored project is serious anti-aging research, work to find ways to prevent and reverse age-related damage - and soon. As biotech advances and computers become more capable, we activists are going to move from talking, educating and raising money to all that plus performing scientific research using the tools of open source biotechnology.
For this microglia transplant research, the Immortality Institute will put forward $8,000 of its own funds to match another $8,000 in donations to meet the project cost: volunteers have so far raised $1,700. So as the year comes to a close, why not step in and help out here? You'll be in good company; I just pitched in another $200 for the pot.