The SENS Foundation research community is steadily gathering momentum in their work on biotechnologies that, once fully realized, will be capable of rejuvenating the old - restoring youthful health, vigor, and function to the formerly declining organs and biological systems in the body. Even before then, the first applications resulting from SENS research will have a significant impact on health and age-related disease, achieved by partially reversing some of the root causes of aging. To go along with the recently released 2011 annual report, the SENS Foundation staff have also published their 2011 research report (in PDF format):
The subtitle on our logo banner reads "advancing rejuvenation biotechnologies", and in keeping with the dynamic connotations of that statement, we've spent 2011 engaged in focused, concrete actions toward embodying it. ... We're excited to be a part of this revolution in scientific innovation, grateful to everyone who has supported us through their generous gifts of time and funding, and delighted to have multiple exciting developments to report on the research front.
There is a lot of material in the report, and I encourage you to read the whole thing - it's very approachable for the layperson, and a good way to obtain a top to bottom view of the Foundation's research strategy at present. That more or less encompasses these questions: what exactly causes aging, and what can be done here and now to make progress towards preventing it and reversing it? For example, here's an excerpt from the GlycoSENS category, research with the potential to reverse the cause of much of the chemical and structural aging of skin, blood vessel walls, and many forms of connective tissue:
The elasticity of the artery wall, the flexibility of the lens of the eye, and the high tensile strength of the ligaments are examples of tissues that rely on maintaining their proper structure. But chemical reactions with other molecules in the extracellular space occasionally result in a chemical bond (a so-called crosslink) between two nearby proteins that were previously free-moving, impairing their ability to slide across or along each other and thereby impairing function. It is the goal of this project to identify chemicals that can react with these crosslinks and break them without reacting with anything that we don't want to break.
In 2011, we established a Center of Excellence for GlycoSENS and other rejuvenation research at Cambridge University and hired postdoctoral student Rhian Grainger to design and perform experiments to develop reagents that can detect proteins bearing glucosepane crosslinks, facilitating further studies on its structure, abundance, and cleavage by small molecules. We also established a collaboration with researchers at Yale University, who will lend their expertise in generating advanced glycation end-products and lead efforts in developing agents which may be able to cleave glucosepane.
There are other projects recently started by the Foundation in other areas of the SENS program. You'll also find progress reports for the work that has been ongoing for some years: the MitoSENS project to block the contribution of mitochondrial DNA damage to aging, and the LysoSENS biomedical remediation work that is a search for enzymes to safely remove the build up of damaging compounds that the body's recycling mechanisms cannot cope with on their own.