How to Best Hinder or Halt the Aging Process, A Roundtable Discussion on Regenerative Medicine

One slice of the comprehensive package of biotechnologies needed to reverse the causes and consequences of degenerative aging involves next generation cell therapies. The aged body has lost needed cells, while other vital but small cell populations fall into a state of damage and dysfunction. Replacements will have to be generated, and cell therapies are how this goal will be achieved. These future therapies are presently in the early stages of development; they follow on from and will greatly improve on today's stem cell transplants. The introduction of new stem cells is the present best tool for achieving beneficial changes in native cell behavior, but the destination for this field is to discard the stem cells and simply make the desired changes directly. The stem cell therapies available now are a stepping stone to future treatments that directly repair cells and adjust their behavior in situ.

Cell therapies are neither more noteworthy nor more needed than any of the other items in the proposed rejuvenation toolkit, such as repair of mitochondrial damage and targeted clearance of metabolic waste, but they are considerably further along in the long path leading from first concepts to commercial therapies. A lot of money is available for stem cell research, and there is much to be said for making hay while the sun shines. Success here in steering groups within the community towards the treatment of aging will hopefully lead to successful businesses that branch out into other needed areas of development in rejuvenation biotechnology.

The 2014 World Stem Cell Summit was held last month in Texas. As you might expect, there is an ongoing discussion at such events prompted by those who are interested in going beyond merely treating age-related disease in its late stages, the traditional approach in medicine that has produced only marginal gains when it comes to extension of healthy life. These researchers want to turn the tools of regenerative medicine to tackle the causes of aging:

How to Best Hinder or Halt the Aging Process, a Roundtable Discussion on Regenerative Medicine

Medicine is the diagnosis, treatment, and, increasingly, hopefully, the prevention of what ails us. Most people's experience of medicine is likely focused on diagnosis and, unfortunately, the treatment of symptoms, the mitigation of the condition, with time bringing an amelioration of the problem. The excitement of regenerative medicine is the ability to replace or regenerate cells, tissues, or organs. So instead of a lifetime of taking injections, tablets, or using prostheses, patients actually become healthy again. Looking at tissue engineering, the classic approach is cells + scaffold = restored functionality.

It may be useful for researchers to think further out of the box regarding regenerative medicine than the areas that the term conventionally encompasses. Stem cell therapies are, in essence, a form of damage repair: they restore the number of cells of a given type that have been depleted, thus leading to ill-health. But tissue engineering restores not only cell number but also the structure of the extracellular matrix, among other things. Emerging technologies, often utilizing gene therapy or immune stimulation, powerfully complement these approaches. For example, in many cases they act to remove superfluous cells or detritus that the body is unable to eliminate naturally. The potential combined benefit of these therapies and classic regenerative medicine far exceeds the sum of its parts so there is considerable value in viewing the entire arsenal as facets of the same kind of medicine and thereby promoting cross-disciplinary thinking and research.

Clearly, heterochronic parabiotic studies have shown that the aged environment is hindering normal regenerative processes. How much these results can be recapitulated in humans is up for grabs right now. Anyone who works with rodents and humans knows that rodents are much more forgiving in terms of recovery from injury than humans. If the disease is one of aging, like age-related heart disease, macular degeneration, Alzheimer disease, or Parkinson's disease, we have no choice but to develop therapies that will work for older people. What is regenerative medicine if not the treatment of an event or condition that is increasingly likely to occur with years lived?


Given that young sten cells don't grow well on old extra cellular matrix, and old stem cells grow well on young extra cellular matrix. You've got to doubt the effectiveness of stem cells as a monotherapy.

I just hope researchers try to focus on fixing the extra cellular mileu. As has been noted in the past on this blog, stem cell medicine is on a collision course with needeneeding to repair the other types of damage in the body.

Posted by: Jim at January 26th, 2015 10:11 PM

Projecting forward, is there any chance that a possible route for regeneration may come to fruition by 3-D printing the entire body and all constituents thereof, followed by a consciousness transfer, much in the vein of the 2045 plan?

Posted by: Adam at January 27th, 2015 2:01 PM

@Adam: See this post on that topic:

it is probably feasible for brain transplant on a timescale of decades from now, but that isn't really all that plausible as an outcome for practical use because other in-situ repair technologies will come to maturity first. Bodies will be repaired from within, and replacement of parts will be a rare occurrence associated with traumatic injury and little else.

For the 2045 plan of transferring the mind to a new substrate, see the standard critiques here.

Basically a copy of you is not you, which is a good reason not to head down roads that do not primarily focus on repair of the existing brain infrastructure.

Posted by: Reason at January 27th, 2015 3:14 PM

regarding old vs young environment please see the Alkahest clinical trial at

Posted by: Eugene at January 31st, 2015 8:23 AM
Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.