Determination and Vision for a Better Future, Achieved via the Medical Control of Degenerative Aging

In the long run, the span of decades and centuries, the only thing that really matters is technological progress. It is how we measure the division of eras, it is what makes the difference between poverty and wealth. It is why we live longer than our immediate ancestors and suffer far less pain and disease. Of all our technologies, the most important at this time are all in the field of medical science. Biotechnology is advancing at a rapid pace, and this is the era in which all of the manifold ills caused by aging will be eliminated. The causes of aging will be treated successfully, and in the fullness of time all age-related disease will be banished as a relic of a barbaric past, alongside smallpox, scurvy, and many other medical conditions that existed only because our knowledge and ability was lacking.

Significant, rapid progress in medical science and its clinical application requires large-scale research, however, and sad to say but medical research is funded at a tiny fraction of the level of investment it merits given the potential benefits. In our societies more funding is devoted to drinks with pretty umbrellas in them, or the lighting of game fields, or the tools of organized murder used upon the members of other tribes. Better medicine is a very low priority, and most people don't give any thought to medical research at all - or at least not until they are ill, which is far too late. Progress in a newly wealthy society full of distractions therefore depends on the unreasonable, the zealots, the motivated, the visionaries, and there are never enough of them to go around.

When we are out there raising funds for early stage research into human rejuvenation that won't pay off for another decade or two, strong motivations and compelling visions are very necessary. We must paint a persuasive picture of the terrible cost of aging today, and show a vision of a near future vastly improved by cures for age-related disease. Most people won't think about this and won't help to make it happen unless it is put in front of them at some point, and that is really all that advocacy is at root; persuading the world to help make things better, one person at a time.

Fighting Death

The most significant event in a person's life is death. It changes everything. More precisely, it takes everything that a person had. If he was in love, he no longer is. If he was aspiring to pleasures, there will be none any longer. The world will be gone for the person. Every single neuron will disappear that was responsible for the wishes, desires, and feelings. We don't realize this, but everything single thing we accomplish, we do so looking in the face of inevitable death. Death takes away the sense of a person's life.

That little human being that you were once, who looked at the world with eyes wide open, got surprised, laughed, sometimes cried, this human being will cease to exist. Will disappear. Forever. Death is the triumph of unfairness. It is bloodcurdling that everybody will die. Kids, olds people, adults, women, men. Every person's life is a tragedy, because it ends badly every time. Death is so horrible that a man denies the very fact of its existence to protect himself. He simply doesn't think he is mortal or comes up with a unproven theory that there is no death whatsoever.

The inevitability of death is defined by the fact that people age. Therefore, the most rational behavior will be to study aging, and to try to slow it down and stop. I am standing in the middle of the hall in the institute where aging will be defeated. When? When there is enough funding. When there are large-scale scientific projects. When a lot of people understand that aging has to be eliminated without proposing any additional requirements.

A Vision of a Future Free of Alzheimer's

It is the year 2025 and it seems like a miracle reminiscent of John F. Kennedy's moonshot. A multi-modality cure for Alzheimer's disease was recently discovered, fast-tracked and approved by the FDA. Not just a prevention (although that came first, back in 2020), but breakthroughs in science and technology have actually caused a reversal of the disease. Just a decade earlier in 2015, the statistics were alarming and held the potential to create a global pandemic of catastrophic proportions. Half of all those over age 85 - the fastest-growing segment of the population - had some form of dementia. People of all ages cited Alzheimer's disease as the scariest of all disabling diseases in later life.

And for good reason. Back then, we didn't even know the cause of the disease let alone how to slow it, prevent it or cure it. And for the sufferers, the progression of the disease got worse over time until memory and judgment faded, followed by vast mood and behavioral changes, and eventually dementia victims had no ability to care for themselves in the most fundamental ways. Yet many often lived up to 20 years after diagnosis ... a life sentence for both the victims and their families. The projections for the future were staggering: By the year 2050, more than 115 million people world-wide could be suffering from Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

But fast forward to the future when we woke up from that nightmare with a cure that combines advanced stem cell therapeutics, precision pharmaceuticals, trans-cranial direct-current stimulation and a highly specific lifestyle regimen. The results have been phenomenal. Suddenly cognitively impaired older adults who had been either living in long-term-care facilities or at home with around-the-clock caregiving could not only live with dignity but gain back their ability to remember, think, and live active lives again. And, it transformed the way everyone thinks about aging and the potential for the later years of life.

With the end of Alzheimer's disease, the world has changed for us in some very significant ways. More than half of all nursing-home beds have been emptied, saving hundreds of billions of dollars for families and governments world-wide. Tens of millions of caregivers have been unshackled from the burden of providing physical, emotional and financial care to loved ones suffering from the disease. And the health of these caregivers has improved dramatically, giving them a second chance at life. Research dollars aimed at finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias can now be funneled into finding a solution for other diseases. Millions of individuals cured of Alzheimer's disease have now come out of the shadows to live independently, be a loving and interdependent part of their families, and find ways to be productive, contributing their wisdom and experience to their communities and society at-large. The fear of living a long life but being struck down by Alzheimer's disease has now been quashed. It has liberated us all to think about the future through the prism of possibilities which could include work, giving back, time with family and friends and the opportunity to stay active, engaged, and productive.

Of course, this isn't yet fact because we're here in 2015, speculating about the future. However, many share the hope and are working hard to turn that hope into a reality: that one of the biggest fears of aging - Alzheimer's disease and other dementias - can be thought of as a thing of the past by the year 2025.

Comments

I like Maria's blog and she is a very much on the front line of advocacy. She might not totally follow the SENS approach but she is very much out there motivating people. Her longevity cookbook she is releasing is an excellent kick starter for those wishing to support her.

I had the dubious pleasure of visiting my wife's mother in hospital last night who has had a stoke and to say it was an unpleasant experience is an understatement. I looked around at all the people in beds and thought "I want to help these people", I don't know them, I don't need to know them but I wanted to help them. As a former healthcare worker it breaks my heart seeing people suffering.

I don't totally agree with the wear and tear theory of aging that SENS follows as I think aging is a mixture of damage leading to loss of Homeostasis that starts the epigenetic drift (program) that leads to the downward spiral of aging. However I do agree that aging should be a priority for society so I donate to SENS periodically. There are enough things SENS is working on that I believe will make a huge difference eg, the foam cell removal and the Senescent cell removal being the two things I see being available quite soon.

I try to spread the word and get people on board when possible and I am met with a range of reactions from people including enthusiasm, disinterest and even rejection of the idea or that it can be done. The most shocking was a friend of mine who is a Physicist and even acknowledged that the human body is an open system and therefore could be intervened with but even so he considered me a mad man for thinking the idea!

TLDR: Advocacy is something we can all do and should do as well as donating when possible to drive the idea forward that aging is something we can intervene in and more importantly it is something we SHOULD intervene in!

Posted by: Steve H at April 30th, 2015 1:42 AM

I like the boldness of Maria's statement. She not only wants to defeat age-related diseases, as Aubrey de Grey and others in the field lately emphasize in their talks, but she wants to defeat death itself. That's it, her research goal is immortality, not only healthy lifespan, and she has the courage to say so in public. Maybe focusing on the defeating of age-related diseases is best for marketing (at least in the short term), but I prefer the focus on the biggest problem, even if it's bad for strategy, instead of pretending it doesn't exist and our only problems are AD, atherosclerosis and the like.

Posted by: Antonio at April 30th, 2015 2:58 AM

OT: There is a good analysis of this study here which presents some counter arguments to this, its definitely not black and white what effect telomeres have. Personally I feel the replicative clock is less important a function for them over their influence on gene expression via TPE.

http://joshmitteldorf.scienceblog.com/

I also note that telomere numbers do correlate to mortality as the graphs show and I expect that boosting them will reduce mortality correspondingly. The Danish study is very interesting but it still has positive indications for Telomeres.

Even if it doesn't extend lifespan used alone, restoring tissue function which has been seen in various studies using TERT is still a compelling reason to explore its usage even if it is simply to improve health span or rejuvenate damage.

I do not propose that Telomeres alone will change much but a combination of that and other therapies may well reap culmulative benefits. Imagine that combined with Senescent cell clearing for example.

The point is we do not know and we will not know until someone tries it as a therapy. If it does nothing (unlikely) then focus can shift onto other things that do work. We really should eliminate or confirm its usefulness in humans before any final decision is made IMO.

Posted by: Steve H at April 30th, 2015 3:14 AM

I also agree with your sentiments about Maria and her boldness though I share ADGs dislike of the word Immortality as that tends to provoke in people images of conspiracy theory buffs and people who wear foil hats to stop them reading their thoughts. The danger then is that it makes a mockery of legitimate research and invites people to think its part of the snake oil/supplement crowd or simply nonsense and a pipe dream. That said I support Maria and believe she has the right can do attitude.

We should be bold and come out and say we can change the paradigm of aging and disease (dislike all this skirting around the issue talking about health span not lifespan, the two are a package deal IMO.

Liz Parrish of BioViva who work on Gene therapy biotech has a good way of talking about how her company is tackling aging. She describes the current medical paradigm nicely in this recent talk here:

http://youtu.be/87OUb8TBwX0

Now as to if she can deliver this is another matter but I like the way she describes what is wrong with the current system and how aging should be viewed. She doesn't use the word Immortality which to me is a red flag for most people who hear about aging intervention IMO.

Posted by: Steve H at April 30th, 2015 3:30 AM

Its an admirable goal though I think the "I" word tends to conjure images of foil hat wearing conspiracy theorists and potentially damages legitimate aging research. That said I support her advocacy work fully but share ADG's dislike of the word.

Liz Parrish of Bioviva also considers aging and disease in similar bold terms and describes the change in paradigm that needs to happen in the medical world. She talks about her plan to tackle death and aging in a recent talk here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87OUb8TBwX0&feature=youtu.be

Now she is focused on gene therapy as an approach in this and whether what she says is plausible is another matter but I like how she confronts the issue of aging as a change of paradigm rather than immortality.

As an aside she is planning to test hTERT this year in-vivo in Mexico and plans a hTERT/Myostatin inhibitor combination therapy following that. ADG is on her SAB but as to if she can deliver on her plans is another matter. The point is I like how she approaches aging and doesn't use the "I" word.

Posted by: Steve H at April 30th, 2015 3:44 AM

Yeah, I know the marketing argument against immortality and I can understand it, but I still prefer not hiding things from people. Maybe it's the spirit of our time. We are less adventurous, less bold... In the 60's, NASA put a man in the Moon in less than a decade. Half a century after that, they still not only haven't reached Mars, but haven't ventured outside low Earth orbit either.

PD: Thanks for the links about telomeres. It's interesting Mitteldorf's analysis. I have to think about it in more detail (probably reading the original article).

Posted by: Antonio at April 30th, 2015 4:39 AM

BTW, it seems that there are a lot of deathists commenting on Maria's blog. I wonder why there are none here.

Posted by: Antonio at April 30th, 2015 5:05 AM

No problem the article follows on from his "telomerase does not cause cancer" article which appeared on here recently too.

Josh is an advocate of programmed aging whilst I believe its a mix of Program and damage that disrupts the Homeostasis of the body once damage reaches a certain tipping point.

It doesn't really matter TBH as SENS and Programmed aging do have some common ground and rejuvenation strategies could benefit no matter what the case is. There is far too much attention given to supplements and CR though and that needs to be strongly discouraged as its a waste of time.

Senescent cell removal, plaque/foam removal are examples of therapies I believe would be excellent and could arrive very soon. A number of groups including SENS and big pharma are working on plaque clearance, doesn't really matter if it arrives as part of a treatment for one thing as it will translate into part of the SENS repair toolkit anyway. Big money is being thrown at these two things so its reasonable to hope they will come soon.

Posted by: Steve H at April 30th, 2015 5:08 AM

Would love to hear an update from SENS on how the Foam cell therapy and Senescent cell scrubber are going. I wonder if reason or Michael might enlighten us as their status?

Posted by: Steve H at April 30th, 2015 5:16 AM

Another research that has connections between SENS and other strategies is ALT research. It can have a big impact on cancer, and there is big money to be made too.

Posted by: Antonio at April 30th, 2015 5:37 AM

Definitely and I can see the first therapies being a mix of SENS and other approaches. Clearing out the junk will be major progress IMO and I think we could be close to delivering that considering a number of groups are working on it. Form cell clearance and Senescent cell removal will be massive breakthroughs that should capture public interest big time. Demonstration of even a single therapy should cause a big shift in public perception and even paradigm as it will vindicate that aging can be acted upon. Needs to be demonstrated in people not mice though.

Posted by: Steve H at April 30th, 2015 5:45 AM

I think the WSJ article is a bit wishful. Cure for Alzheimer's in 10 years? If that's going to happen, it would have to be by one overwhelmingly effective therapy not a complex panel of therapies as the author describes. Maybe if tau is at the root of the problem and tau-clearing therapies turn out to be amazing then there could be an Alzheimer's cure in 10 years.

The author is yet more ambitious by proposing to cure all forms of dementia. If one studies the SENS categories as applied to the brain, most of them seem to participate in neurodegeneration in some way or another. Vascular pathology is a known cause of dementia. I just think that if you can solve all these diseases you're seven eighths of the way to SENS stage 1 and ten years is an overly ambitious time-scale for that.

Posted by: José at April 30th, 2015 9:34 AM

Not so sure Jose there are a lot of people working on AL and Dementia with some promising stuff being tested. This is also a fairly well funded research area like Cancer is so I am not so sure its wishful thinking regards curing that.

Another area I think we will see considerable progress is heart diesease/Plaques and foam cell removal is being researched and tested by a few groups.

Posted by: Steve H at April 30th, 2015 12:17 PM

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