There is no such thing as a scientific breakthrough. Advances in science and its application don't emerge from out of the blue, especially in very complex fields such as medical research, where any meaningful progress requires a team, and in very close-knit fields such as aging research, where everyone knows everyone else and at least a little about what they are working on. If the latest news looks like a breakthrough to you, that just means that you didn't know much about the people who spent years working on the foundations, the incremental advances, and the early prototypes. And why should you? You have your life to live, your own work to get on with. There is far too much going on in the world for any one individual to notice.
That is just as true of me as anyone else. I certainly don't have a view of every interesting corner of the research community, and even now there are no doubt numerous scientists working on projects relevant to the SENS model for human rejuvenation through repair of cellular and molecular damage whom I have never heard of. Even the highly networked folk at the SENS Research Foundation are surprised by what turns up some days, and they have far more insight than I. One of the consequences of rapid progress in biotechnology is that people outside the core aging research community have the ability to make useful and important contributions. Most of the technologies proposed as means of damage repair to treat aging did not originate in the aging research community, and I'd expect that state of affairs to continue as new options arise. So if you have a few fellows in a well-equipped lab in India or on the other side of a language barrier in China, tinkering on a possible approach and actually getting somewhere interesting when it comes to a proof of concept, it is quite plausible that we'd never hear anything of it until after the fact.
Frankly, it's hard enough just to keep abreast of what is going on in the US. Take senescent cell clearance for example; the demonstration in 2011 of improved health in accelerated aging mice via removal of senescent cells was clearly a wake up call for a number of researchers. In what is a comparatively short time for the research community, we have seen the recent publication on the use of existing drugs to clear senescent cells in ordinary mice, showing improved healthspan as a result, and a startup company was funded by the Methuselah Foundation earlier this year to have a go at commercializing a different approach to the removal of senescent cells. That is just the stuff that makes it to the point of press release and news in this community, however. It is not all that is going on, and the 2011 technology demonstration wasn't a sudden breakthrough from nowhere: work on cellular senescence with an eye to selectively destroying these unwanted cells was underway for years before that point.
For example, Cenexys has existed since 2009 and claims to "develops therapies to clear senescent cells from the body to treat age-related diseases." Perhaps it is a dead venture, judging by the lack of news, but perhaps not; the principal director certainly has an interesting and successful history. Then there is SIWA Regenerative Medicine, a company that has apparently also been working on senescent cell clearance for a while. Being first alas often means being bypassed at some speed by later ventures, but SIWA seems to be alive and kicking:
We have developed inventions that we believe can retard or reverse the aging process, reduce inflammation and enhance stem cell transplant success by promoting tissue and organ regeneration. We believe these inventions also can be applied as therapies in lessening the impact of diseases associated with aging. Specifically, we have developed processes for identifying and removing senescent cells that inhibit cellular regeneration to obtain the recognized benefits in health and function associated with the results of such cellular regeneration. We have filed multiple families of patent applications covering our inventions.
We were the first to publish a practical description of selectively removing senescent cells in order to retard or reverse aging. In a November 2011, paper that appeared in the journal Nature, other researchers reported creation of an artificial system that independently confirmed the soundness of the scientific principles behind the approach and other intellectual property that we published years before.
SIWA Regenerative Medicine Corporation announced today that Lewis Gruber, founder, CEO and inventor of SIWA's injectable drug-based approach to clearing senescent cells for increasing healthspan, will join scientists from Charles River Laboratories at 2:45 p.m. on March 23, 2015 in San Diego at the Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting to discuss and present SIWA's demonstration of successful use in naturally aged mice of a monoclonal version of SIWA's drug candidate. The results of the work performed by Charles River for SIWA include an increase in gastrocnemius muscle mass and reduction of a senescent cell mRNA marker to the level of young mouse controls.
The company has made some interesting patent filings over the past decade, such as Selective Removal of Cells Having Accumulated Agents:
The present invention makes use of the discovery that the differential resonant frequency of a cell caused by the accumulation of at least one agent that causes, or is associated with, a pathological or undesired condition, such as proteins, lipids, bacteria, viruses, parasites or particles, may be used to distinguish and eliminate cells in which the accumulated agent leads to a difference in the resonant frequency of the cell, by applying ultrasound treatment. The cells associated with the accumulated agent have a resonant frequency which is distinct from cells of the same type. By selecting the frequency of the ultrasound applied to the tissue to feed energy into the resonant frequency, the cells with the accumulated agent will be destroyed or induced to undergo apoptosis.