The sixth Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) conference will be held in Cambridge, England this coming September. There's still time to register: a group of exceptional figures in aging research and related fields in medicine and the broader life sciences will gather to talk about how to greatly extend healthy human life, with the focus being on how to best move ahead in the implementation of the SENS proposals for rejuvenation biotechnology:
The purpose of the SENS conference series, like all the SENS initiatives, is to expedite the development of truly effective therapies to postpone and treat human aging by tackling it as an engineering problem: not seeking elusive and probably illusory magic bullets, but instead enumerating the accumulating molecular and cellular changes that eventually kill us and identifying ways to repair - to reverse - those changes, rather than merely to slow down their further accumulation. This broadly defined regenerative medicine - which includes the repair of living cells and extracellular material in situ - applied to damage of aging, is what we refer to as rejuvenation biotechnologies.
As usual, the conference has a great line up of speakers, and the range of abstracts for presentation is well worth reading if you'd like to get an idea as to what people are working on these days. Not all of it is directly relevant to SENS, but that's the way these things go: people come to learn and be swayed as much to present the work they're presently engaged in. The SENS Research Foundation staff are presently publishing a steady flow of speaker highlights for the forthcoming conference, and here are the latest in line:
Dr. Rider's most recent efforts have led to a remarkable development within the PANACEA (Pharmacological Augmentation of Nonspecific Anti-pathogen Cellular Enzymes and Activities) project. This new treatment is known as DRACO, which stands for Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomizer. Essentially, DRACO works by triggering apoptosis in cells that contain viral double-stranded RNA, an indicator that they have been infected by a virus. Non-infected cells, on the other hand, are not affected by the treatment. Based on the tests that have been performed so far, DRACO has the potential to be effective against nearly any virus. Trials done in vitro or in mice have shown that DRACO kills cells infected with the common cold, H1N1 influenza, dengue fever virus, a polio virus, and others. Meanwhile, the treatment has been shown to be nontoxic to all of the cell types tested, including those from humans.
Many diseases mirror some aspect of aging. Multiple sclerosis (MS), which is caused by the loss of the myelin coating that protects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, is one example: myelin is also lost and poorly replaced in normal aging. Scientists like Cambridge's Dr. Robin Franklin, a SENS6 speaker, are working hard to repair this damage.
To learn how the axons of nerve cells might best be remyelinated, Dr. Franklin has been studying the cellular and molecular aspects of the process. Stem cells in the brain differentiate into oligodendrocytes, which are responsible for remyelination. However, these stem cells have an increasingly difficult time differentiating in an aging brain. This low level of differentiation may also cause multiple sclerosis, such that true damage repair therapies for MS might also be effective against age-related neurodegeneration.
Dr. Russell has founded several biotech companies, including Agentase, LLC and NanoSembly, LLC, and holds fourteen patents. His many honors include the R&D 100 Award, the National Academy of Engineering's Gilbreth lectureship, and the University of Manchester's Outstanding Alumnus Award. At SENS6, Dr. Russell's talk will focus on the disruptive potential of tissue engineering. He will discuss the great promise of growing new organs to replace failing ones, addressing the underlying cause of disease. He will also cover the problems that tissue engineering faces - among them, its lack of market adoption - and propose solutions. Finally, he will describe some of the research being conducted in his own leading laboratory. This includes work on engineering cell membranes, and using cytotactic surfaces to change the direction that cells roll.