João Pedro de Magalhães is one of the few rising notables in the aging research community who has, from day one of his career, been absolutely and openly in favor of radical life extension through progress in medical science. To his eyes, as mine, the defeat of aging and age-related disease is a goal to strive for, plausible and attainable with the right research strategies. More than ten years ago, de Magalhães penned Winning the War Against Aging, I asked permission to reprint it online, and there is still is:
Imagine that your grandmother looks like a teenager, plays soccer, parties at the clubs all night, and works as a venture capitalist. Or imagine your grandfather teaching you the latest high-tech computer software in his office, which you hate to visit because of the loud heavy metal music. Such a scenario is hard to envision because we are taught to accept aging and the resulting suffering and death as an immutable fact of life. We cannot picture our grandparents in better physical shape than we are. Nonetheless, aging may soon become nothing more than a scary bedtime story, perhaps one your grandfather will tell your grandson after a day of white-water rafting together.
A decade on and my online efforts have become Fight Aging!, while de Magalhães now heads a research group investigating the molecular biology of aging at Liverpool University. He also runs the senescence.info website and associated databases, which are collectively an excellent resource on the science of aging for laypeople and scientists alike. I in no way suggest equivalence in our efforts: he is doing far more than I to advance this cause. Great things lie ahead in this field, and I have the greatest of admiration for people who plant a flag in the ground, set a target, and then stride forth to do what they say they were going do. The world could use more people of this ilk.
On that note, allow me to draw your attention to a position paper by de Magalhães in the pending publication queue of the Rejuvenation Research journal. In it he recapitulates his long-standing views on aging, radical life extension, and medical science - which is to say that the defeat of aging is possible and plausible, but efforts to that end remain woefully underfunded in comparison to their importance.
People have always sought eternal life and everlasting youth. Recent technological breakthroughs and our growing understanding of aging have given strength to the idea that a cure for human aging can eventually be developed. As such, it is crucial to debate the long-term goals and potential impact of the field. Here, I discuss the scientific prospect of eradicating human aging. I argue that curing aging is scientifically possible and not even the most challenging enterprise in the biosciences. Developing the means to abolish aging is also an ethical endeavor since the goal of biomedical research is to allow people to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible.
There is no evidence, however, that we are near developing the technologies permitting radical life-extension. One major difficulty in aging research is the time and costs it takes to do experiments and test interventions. I argue that unraveling the functioning of the genome and developing predictive computer models of human biology and disease are essential to increase the accuracy of medical interventions, including in context of life-extension, and exponential growth in informatics and genomics capacity might lead to rapid progress.
Nonetheless, developing the tools for significantly modifying human biology is crucial to intervene in a complex process like aging, yet in spite of advances in areas like regenerative medicine and gene therapy, the development of clinical applications has been slow and this remains a key hurdle for achieving radical life-extension in the foreseeable future.
You'll note from the abstract above, and from the work of his research group, that de Magalhães has a position on the best path forward that is fairly close to that of the present focus on genetics and longevity in the US research and development community. For my part, I ascribe the failure of past efforts to produce progress as being due to the fact that next to no work has been focused on repair of root causes in the SENS model. I predict that we will see significant progress when that state of affairs finally changes, which is something that we can help along by funding SENS or other similar disruptive approaches, pushing them closer to providing ever more convincing results that pull in other researchers as allies and supporters.