The World of Aging Science Must Up-End, Change, Renew Itself
Permalink | View Comments (2) | Post Comment | | Posted by Reason

It is unfortunate that popular culture, that ongoing conversation of countless threads that lies at the center of our diverse society, is so focused on drugs and pills as the sum of all medicine - anything that is consumed, and so especially when it comes to influencing the pace of aging. It is a terribly wrong, horribly damaging viewpoint, but one that is relentless propagated by the loudest voices, coincidentally also those who gain the most in the short term by creating a culture of customers for their products. When the world thinks of medicine for aging in terms of pills and potions, it shuts the door on support for real rejuvenation biotechnology, such as the detailed plans for development advocated by the SENS Foundation and others.

Part of the process of building the true medicine of rejuvenation - which will look like gene therapies, tailored cell alterations, engineered enzymes to strip away harmful metabolic side-products, and so on - is obtaining the support and at least superficial understanding of the public at large. That is still very much lacking, and some fraction of the blame for that can be pinned on the short-sighted idiots of the "anti-aging" marketplace who propagate lies and myths about aging and what can be done about it in order to sell products that do next to nothing. They have spent so much time and effort on this over the past decades that they have shaped the visions of popular culture to follow their message - and that harms us all by stripping away possible support for meaningful research and development, and making it harder to create that support.

The vast majority of commentary on aging, science, longevity, and what can be done about it is garbage at worst, and interesting but ultimately irrelevant to the future of our lives at best. Into the latter half falls work on calorie restriction mimetics such as metformin and rapamycin. They simply don't do enough to worth sinking billions of dollars into further research and development - though of course that research and development will happen anyway, regardless of my opinions on the matter. There are far better paths ahead than tinkering with compounds and genes that have modest effects, on a par with calorie restriction, and potentially serious side-effects to go along with that.

If results are what matter - and I think they are the only measure worth considering given the pace of death caused by aging - then world of aging and longevity research should focus on the SENS vision of targeted, deliberate repair of specific forms of damage, and move on from the tired old model of patching the end results of damage by trying a lot of compounds to find some that sort of do something beneficial. Nor should research spend their time on the comparatively new approach of trying to slow down the pace at which damage accumulates - again by trying a bunch of compounds to find some that sort of do something beneficial.

There are now far more effective paths forward for the treatment of aging than the approaches undertaken in past decades when biotechnology and the state of knowledge was too poor to do better. The world of aging science must up-end, change, become quite different. The SENS Foundation and the network of research groups working on related matters are doing the right thing. Big Pharma, the calorie restriction mimetic developers, the people searching for longevity genes or gene therapies to slow aging - they are heading down a side-path that will do little beyond generating new knowledge. Our lives will not be greatly lengthened by their efforts, as we will be old by the time that they produce therapies with modest effects on human life span by slowing down the pace at which damage accumulates. Ways to slow aging are of little value to those already aged. Our healthy lives will be significantly extended only by the successful development of methods of rejuvenation - of damage repair, ways to actually reverse the toll of aging on cells and systems.

Which, conveniently, are planned out and proposed in some detail.

Comments

I think that most people (including me) are unwilling to donate money to an association in exchange for an unsure benefit in a distant future.
But some people may be interested in investing some money in a company working in the fields of rejuvenation, regenerative medicine, etc...This could lead to a more immediate and tangible revenue.
It would be of some interest to make a list with the private companies (better if quoted on the stock exchange) that are doing research in those fields.

Posted by: au78 at July 12, 2012 1:41 AM

Very good points made in this article. There is a similar problem with Alzheimer's. Most of the effort and money is going into the likes of anti-wrinkle creams :(

Posted by: Richard Wilson at July 14, 2012 7:32 AM
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