The article linked below is largely characteristic of the recent media attention given to the SENS research programs, Google Venture's Calico Labs initiative, the Palo Alto Longevity Prize, and so forth. One noteworthy difference is space given to researcher Richard Miller's continued opposition to SENS and its principal proponent Aubrey de Grey, presently chief science officer of the SENS Research Foundation. Miller and de Grey have sparred in public in the past, but I wasn't aware that he continued to hold such views. Other opponents of SENS from past years have either fallen silent or turned around to show their support for the initiative in one way or another. The scientific advisory board of the SENS Research Foundation is an impressive lineup of luminaries of medical and life science research.
At this point Miller begins to look out of touch; de Grey heads a research foundation that has for years funded diverse scientific programs, leading to papers published in collaboration with renowned organizations in the field. Areas of research that de Grey has been advocating and funding for more than a decade are of late beginning to show their worth, such as clearance of senescent cells. It seems out of sorts to be claiming that de Grey "does not do any research" or that you "have never seen him present any data or research findings". Wise up, I say. Get with the times.
Aubrey de Grey of the pioneering SENS Research Foundation, a non-profit partially funded by Peter Thiel is optimistic about longevity. "I've taken plenty of heat for suggesting that someone is alive on earth now who will live to 1,000 and it's extraordinary to me that it's such an incendiary claim. People have a bizarre attitude towards aging. They think that it's some kind of separate thing that isn't a medical problem and isn't open to medical intervention."
However, many scientists do not agree with de Grey and are quite vocal about it. Dr. Richard Miller, who has a PhD in Human Genetics from Yale, has been critical of de Grey's work for quite sometime. Miller, along with many colleagues, published a scathing review of de Grey. In it writing that "the idea that a research programme organized around the SENS agenda will not only retard ageing, but also reverse it - creating young people from old ones - and do so within our lifetime, is so far from plausible that it commands no respect at all within the informed scientific community."
When asked if there have been any breakthroughs from SENS in the last 10 years that might sway him or his colleagues, Miller had this to say: "De Grey does not do any research, so far as I know. He comes to meetings a lot, but I have never seen him present any data or research findings. He does not have a lab; he theorizes. What de Grey does is not science - it's advertising. Asking if the SENS theories have been 'proven' in the last 10 years is like asking if there's new proof for the Nike Theory of Athletic Excellence, 'Just Do It.'"
However, de Grey says he is already doing lab work that targets lifelong accumulating damage. This damage is initially harmless when you're young but grows until your body succumbs to it. For example, de Grey says that people will get heart disease unless work is done to fix it but there are better ways to beat heart disease than surgery. He believes the idea of surgery altogether is primitive. "The technology that needs to be implemented to defeat heart disease is an enzyme or enzymes that can be introduced into human cells and allow them to clean up the garbage of the arteries themselves." De Grey says he has already created a proof of concept of this technology at his lab, albeit only in cell culture so far.
Apart from the lab work that needs to go into fulfilling these goals, there is the problem of societal acceptance. "The major obstacle is public popular misunderstanding of the nature of the crusade and the importance of it," says de Grey. In this respect, de Grey faces an enormous uphill battle from the scientific community. "If you were to poll the authors of the most recent 100 papers on aging in Aging Cell, or Journals of Gerontology, or Science, and ask them whether it will, in the next 100 years, be possible to turn old people young again...I think you'd get nearly 100 percent consensus that de Grey's claims are not based on evidence," says Miller.
The other major problem is the same one that arises in any great endeavor - cash. "We could be going three times faster if we had the funding that we needed, and that means that an awful lot of lives are being lost," says de Grey. "The amount of money that is needed to solve these problems is absolutely trivial. The budget that SENS currently has is around $5 million per year and I reckon that we would very realistically be in a position where the money wasn't limiting if we had only one more zero on that."