As I'm sure you're aware, the Longecity community raises funds for modestly-sized research projects in longevity science: things that can be accomplished for a few tens of thousands of dollars and in six months to a year. In this day and age that encompasses a lot of useful, cutting edge research if you can find a group with access to an established laboratory - biotechnology costs are a fraction of what they were even a decade ago, and a single postgraduate student can achieve today what would have required an entire dedicated laboratory staff in the 1990s. For example in 2012 Longecity funded a study on transplantation of young microglia into old mice to see if this can help to slow or reverse age-related neurodegeneration.
Here is an even better goal for 2013: funding a stepping stone project for mitochondrial repair carried out by a SENS Research Foundation team. Mitochondrial damage is one of the root causes of degenerative aging, and the SENS Research Foundation is the leading coordinator of scientific work aimed at doing something about this. The funding deadline is November 28th, and Longecity will provide $2 to the project for every $1 donated by folk such as you and I:
After careful consideration of a very competitive round this year, we are delighted to have identified a research team and project that we can warmly recommend for community funding:
Development of an Innovative Gene Therapy Method to Cure Mitochondrial Aging - "Backing Up" the Mitochondrial Genome
Mitochondria, the power plants of the cell, contain their own DNA. Unlike the nucleus, mitochondria lack an efficient system to repair damaged DNA, and this damage accumulates over time. As we age, these accumulated mutations result in an increase in oxidative stress throughout the body. It is no coincidence that organisms which age more slowly consistently display lower rates of mitochondrial free radical damage. Reversing and/or preventing damage to mitochondrial DNA may be a key factor in slowing the aging process.
In this project, engineered mitochondrial genes will be used to restore function to cells that contain defective mitochondrial genes.
The SENS team is developing a unique method for targeting these genes to the mitochondria; this step has been the bottleneck in research on this topic over the last decade. In their system, the mRNA from the engineered mitochondrial gene is targeted to the mitochondrial surface before it is translated into a protein using a co-translation import strategy. Once imported, it is incorporated into the correct location in the inner mitochondrial membrane. The long-term goal of this project is to utilize this improved targeting strategy to rescue mutated mitochondrial DNA and thereby prevent and cure one of the major causes of cellular aging.
The research brief is available to logged in Longecity members, but you can download a PDF copy here if you want to take a look at the details. This is a small but valuable project within the larger SENS strategy for dealing with the contribution of mitochondrial damage to aging. In the future a great deal of science will look this way: more effort made to break down long-term research plans into goals that can be crowdfunded easily in a step by step fashion.
Our six month goal is two-fold. First, we will create cells that are null for two mitochondrial genes: CyB and ATP8. Second, we will "cure" the cells by inserting engineered versions of CyB and ATP8 into the nuclear genome, rather than the mitochondrial genome, and then target the functional protein into the mitochondria.
We are requesting a budget of $21,000 to pay for the supplies necessary to continue this project. We have a talented team of highly trained mitochondrial biologists working on mitoSENS. Right now the rate-limiting factor is the cost of the expensive reagents that we use for these experiments. Increasing our funding will allow us to double the pace of our research and bring results to the public much faster. Two areas which are costly are reagents for operating our qPCR machine and for culturing our mutant cells. The bulk of the money will be spent on reagents for those two types of work. Additionally, valuable hours are spent manually counting cells under a microscope, and the purchase of an automated cell counter would speed up this work significantly and would provide a lasting contribution to lab efficiency.
You can pose questions to the researcher at the Longecity forums, and donate at the site. The present goal for community donations is $7,000, with the rest of the funds provided through matching by Longecity: for every $1 you donate, $2 will be donated by Longecity.
Do you want to see rapid progress in the foundations of rejuvenation biotechnology? Then do something about it! Putting my money where my mouth is, I donated $1,000 to this project today. I think that it merits your attention as well: look at the research brief, read the SENS Research Foundation's page on mitochondrial repair, and give what you think will help meet the amount. This is the future, in which those of us most interested in any particular research program can collaborate to make it run faster, picking and choosing what we wish to fund first. There will only be more of this going forward, so jump in now, and show your support for rejuvenation research.