The Researcher Who Wants to Cure Old Age

Vice here interviews Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Research Foundation, an organization that coordinates and funds work on the necessary foundations for rejuvenation treatments, near future therapies that will repair the known cellular and molecular damage that causes aging:

Aubrey de Grey has been called many things. "Transhumanist" is one of them, but one he dislikes. "Immortalist" is the tag used to describe him and his colleague Bill Andrews in a documentary shown at South by Southwest this March, though de Grey rolls his eyes when someone drops the word "immortality."

The British gerontologist considers himself a "simple medical researcher," but his research is about fiddling with cells to stop ageing in human beings, and potentially postponing death indefinitely. If it's not immortality (in de Grey's world, you could still be dispatched by an infectious disease or a shotgun), it's quite a close beast.

He believes that tackling the individual illnesses that haunt old people's lives is a fundamentally flawed strategy; the right course of action is to act at the cellular level to prevent ageing from setting off those illnesses in the first place. His Silicon Valley-based foundation-cum-laboratory, the SENS Research Foundation, is completely devoted to this feat.

In the past, de Grey's views were often met with skepticism or hostility, when not openly guffawed at. That has not completely changed, but the idea that ageing should actually be regarded as a disease, and that it might even be treated as such, is increasingly gaining ground. Recently, that's been given a boost by research into tackling ageing on a genetic level. He initiated me in the science and doctrine of which he's the standard-bearer, most of which can be summarized in one question: If we could really wipe old age and death off the planet, why shouldn't we?



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