How to End Aging: Aubrey de Grey at TEDxOxbridge

When it comes to extending the healthy human life span and eliminating the suffering caused by age-related disease - and indeed by aging in general - the overwhelming majority of the world's population lie somewhere in the midst of disinterest, disbelief, and ignorance. To a first approximation no-one really cares about medical science, for all that they owe their health to this field of research and development. Similarly despite living in the midst of an age of radical change, with completely new technologies and medical therapies turning up every few years, people generally assume that the rest of their lives will take roughly the same course as did those of their parents and grandparents. If you bring up the topic of great longevity through medical science, often as not the notion is rejected out of hand: people express no interest in their own longevity, or claim not to want to live any longer than their grandparents managed.

All of this is why there must be advocacy for longevity science. In a world in which more than 100,000 people die horribly every day due to degenerative aging and its consequences, while everyone else ambles heedlessly to the same fate, it is vital that some of us speak out, so as to change minds and raise funds for the research programs that can bring an end to all of this suffering and death. Aging is just a medical condition, and will one day be bought under control in the same way as any medical condition: through hard work, research funding, and new clinical treatments.

Medical biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey is one of the more vocal and energetic advocates involved in the present generation of scientific initiatives to treat aging. He and a sizable network of allies associated with numerous foundations and associations have accomplished a great deal in the past decade, changing the culture of the aging research community, and making inroads into changing broader perceptions of aging and medicine held among the public at large. In addition to this work, de Grey helps to manage ongoing research at the SENS Research Foundation, an organization he co-founded in order to accelerate the development of a planned list of biotechnologies needed to create real, working rejuvenation treatments.

Here is a recent presentation given by de Grey at TEDxOxbridge entitled "Rejuvenation biotechnology: the sweet spot between prevention and treatment of age-related ill-health":

Most infectious diseases have been easily prevented: sanitation; vaccines; antibiotics; carrier control. Age-related diseases have not. If historical rates continue, US healthcare spending will be 34% of GDP by 2040. In 2010, the US spent $1.186 trillion on healthcare for 65+ people.

Aging is: The life-long accumulation of damage to the tissues, cells, and molecules of the body that occurs as an intrinsic side-effect of the body's normal operation. The body can tolerate some damage, but too much of it causes disease and disability.

Age-related diseases are caused by aging! Thus, they are: widespread now that infections are "rare"; staggeringly costly; universal if you live long enough; not medically curable, in the strict sense. But they, and aging itself, are nonetheless medical problems and medically preventable in principle.


Best part of that presentation was the slide showing publications. I hope SENS and partners can get allotopic mitochondrial gene expresion and aggregate removing enzymes and IgM antibodies to work in an animal model soon. Then it would be a lot harder to ignore. It would also give Aubrey some data points with which to smash opponents in any future debates.

Posted by: Jim at June 21st, 2014 4:18 AM

Notice how Aubrey has changed his presentation to emphasize more the solving of the aging population issue, and less the desirability of reversing aging for the individual. That's because eternal youth is a surprisingly hard sell, and people have an irrational bias against it.
I wonder how the audience took the new version. It seemed to fall a bit flat, with the audience looking a bit bored and not responding to his jokes.

BTW, I think Alzheimer's should have had Mitochondrial mutations highlighted. That's what the latest research suggests to me. Which helps illustrate why it's so important to just go in and fix everything at once, rather than focusing on one kind of damage per disease, and then giving up when it doesn't work by itself.

I keep waiting for someone in the audience to suggest another category of aging damage that Aubrey seems to have missed, which is the accumulation of junk outside the body that can be removed with a pair of scissors. :-)

Seriously though, I think there aren't enough categories. Take osteoporosis for example. Clearly it is a kind of age related damage, but it doesn't really fit in any category. The related issue of calcification of arteries sounds like junk outside cells to me (or is it inside?), but is clearly not going to be solved by breaking down amyloids. I'd like to see a more complete list grouped more by the kind of solution required, with people assigned to each one, so that nothing gets overlooked.

Posted by: Carl at June 24th, 2014 8:44 AM

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