Why Extend Life?

"Because I want to" is a perfectly fine and valid reason to live longer in good health, and the early stage development of rejuvenation biotechnology tentatively underway today is all about providing that choice where no viable options presently exist:

Not all of us want to live forever. However, few would pass at the chance of a guaranteed long and healthy life. Seeing our health decline as we grow older, and departing this earth often decades before our 100th birthday is a concept most of us reluctantly accept, but as medical, scientific and technological advances continue to make possible what we had thought impossible just years before, many now see this condition as no longer inevitable.

In recent years, a proliferation of individuals, groups, organisations, institutions and corporations have emerged with a stated mission to combat the effects of aging and prolong healthy lifespan. From the simple blogger, to the esteemed research institution, and on to the multi-billion dollar corporation, a huge and growing international network and community of like-minded people are now attempting to either promote the cause or directly find ways to extend healthy life. With the establishment of big-budget longevity research and development corporations such as the Google-backed Calico and J. Craig Venter co-founded Human Longevity Inc., as well as media focus on high-profile investors such as PayPal founder Peter Thiel, the subject of human longevity is finally moving from the radical or even taboo to become both a key point of discussion and multi billion dollar industry.

But why extend life? Firstly, dying of 'old-age' is in itself a myth. Instead 'damage' to our bodies which accumulates naturally throughout our lifetime leaves us more susceptible to numerous medical conditions such as cancer, heart and lung disease and brain dysfunctions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's as we get older. It is the increased inability of the aged body to combat these diseases which results in death, not age itself. If ways can be found to minimise this damage, repair, and negate the effects it has upon us later in life, then there is no reason why the years in which we enjoy a fully mobile healthy existence both physically and mentally cannot be prolonged in a significant way, and extended beyond what is currently possible in even the most long-lived individuals. Man-made advances in science, medicine and technology have already resulted in us living far longer than our ancestors, so why not find ways that we can stay healthy for longer too? The effect this could have upon lifespan, we don't know, but life extension isn't just about living longer. It is about finding ways to prolong the time we spend in peak condition.

Link: http://lifemag.org/article/why-extend-life

Comments

Because I want to is certainly my answer to that question :)

Posted by: Steve H at May 18th, 2015 7:01 AM

I don't think dying of old age must be all myth. Maybe aging is programmed to prevent cancer and to prevent of spreading heavily damaged genes through sexual reproduction. One indicia is interferon. It not only promote apoptosis of damaged cells. It also makes you less fertile if you suffered huge DNA damage.

Posted by: Martin S. at May 18th, 2015 7:53 AM

Aging is certainly programmed to some extent and that self destruct program is very likely triggered by damage building up to a tipping point that eventually overwhelms the body's repair systems and initiates that downward spiral. That spiral is clearly a programmed response to damage and it is also one that can be reversed.

Also the idea that aging is an anti Cancer measure has been rebuffed, shorter Telomeres for example do not help avoid Cancer as that allows Cancer to hijack the cell, we see Telomerase activity fall to a point then rise again once hijacked. If anything there is good evidence that longer Telomeres do in fact offer Cancer protection so I do not buy the whole its an anti cancer measure. Far more likely the body is simply choosing to shut down and not repair damage as it once did. Damage leads to dysfunction which leads to programmed decline IMO

No one dies of old age anyway there is always a pathology that kills you.

Posted by: Steve H at May 18th, 2015 8:25 AM

I don't think aging is programmed. Anyway, on topic: why life extension??? Why die after decades of fraility and suffering for you and your relatives, in the first place? I still don't understand why some people need a reason for life extension.

Posted by: Antonio at May 18th, 2015 6:16 PM

Not that it's overly important Antonio but certain aspects are to my eye clearly programmed reactions to damage and stimuli. I do agree that damage is the overiding cause of dysfunction which then leads to programmed responses. But anyway not really important as we probably agree on a number of ways to intervene with that regardless of our stance.

Regards needing a reason for life extension it is mind boggling some people need convincing of the benefits of longer life. I feel sad for people who genuinely want to die at age X despite the chance that they could be healthy and fully functional via rejuvenation therapies. Mind boggling but its all due to social conditioning where people do not believe we can intervene because they are taught this as they grow up. That paradigm is starting to shift though which is good and more people appear to be asking why not.

Posted by: Steve H at May 19th, 2015 2:16 AM

Well, that there are programmed reactions to aging damage is not the same thing that aging is programmed. We also have programmed reactions to infections and that doesn't mean that infections are programmed. It doesn't seem to me that aging is like, say, body development, where the organs follow a genetically programmed schedule of changes.

About the post: people don't ask "why antibiotics?" or "why organ transplants?". It amazes me how these same people ask "why life extension?".

Posted by: Antonio at May 19th, 2015 4:07 AM

Antonio I agree, factors controlled pretty much everything about aging, they tell cells how old they are, what role to play and lots more. The programming comes in at that level and it can be re-programmed as demonstrated many times. I think the body reaches a point where homeostasis fails and the programmed response begins, it is that program I refer to and that we can intervene with this directly to mitigate it.

It is why TPE effect on gene expression I believe is a key player in that dysfunction and why I believe that Telomerase rejuvenation will pull the system back towards homeostasis again through Epigenetic control. I don't think Telomeres are the cause of aging btw but I think they can help redress the unbalance.

About the post: People rioted in the streets when Antibiotics were first announced believing it was ungodly and yet society didn't end. My stance is simple if you dont want life extension don't take it but don't stand in the way of those who do.

Posted by: Steve H at May 19th, 2015 4:22 AM

@Steve

It's never that easy. People tend to make a big scene about things they personally don't want, in order to hold up progress for the rest of us. They just can't keep to themselves. Whether or not this particular case will be a small but vocal minority, or a majority of people remains to be seen. I would not doubt seeing a fair amount of religious protest. People speak of things being unnatural or ungodly, yet they have no issue with taking advantage of everything that modern science and medicine provides us with today.

Posted by: Ham at May 19th, 2015 4:31 AM

Ham you are right it is never that simple which is why people like us have to fight tooth and nail to get these technologies supported and through the system. I agree about religious protest but they are free to choose their paradise but they are not free to choose mine.

It will be an uphill battle but it is a battle I personally believe we can win and the tide is turning in our favor slowly but surely. Even the NIH is now actively funding aging intervention research so there is a sea change happening.

Reason can likely tell you things are changing compared to only ten years ago and all around me I am seeing people becoming more receptive to the possibility of life extension. But yes you are right and it will be a hard battle but it is one that we must absolutely win.

Posted by: Steve H at May 19th, 2015 6:54 AM

Yep. There's various things going on. Over on reddit someone started a thunderclap, which will spread the word about sens to over 50,000 people in one shot via social media. And that's only with less than 150 backers. It's not a lot, but it's something. And yes people and companies are becoming more receptive. I just hope it's not all for naught with FDA regulations and other hold ups, especially given the time required to see actual results will be decades.

Posted by: Ham at May 19th, 2015 7:08 AM

I think the FDA is coming under increasing pressure to steamline the process Ham. A lot of biotech is also going offshore and will simply bypass them if they dont change. The NIH has at least three aging inteention studies proposed now which will bring in excellent data over time so it is starting to change.

Companies like Calico have made aging research more cool and mainstream too and whilst we might not agree with their methods they have certainly helped the "streetcred" of the field.

I am hearing a lot of things from the gene therapy field too and there is a lot going on, sooner or later someone will dive into life extension and I think it will be very soon.

Posted by: Steve H at May 19th, 2015 7:15 AM

Also the Longevity cookbook which is being used to fund an AI research system has raised $10k in 5 days with a goal of 50k. People are getting on board and Maria is one of the people leading the way towards making longevity cool. LOL as if people should need a reason to want to live.

Posted by: Steve H at May 19th, 2015 7:17 AM

Programmed non-programmed blah blah define your terms please. This is a big deal right now, because misunderstandings about aging arising from semantic confusion are proliferating and influencing funding choices. I got annoyed enough about it recently that I wrote a really thorough analysis which has just come out:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25902458

Posted by: Aubrey de Grey at May 19th, 2015 7:19 AM

Well my definition is more a programmed response to damage in that case, the body is designed for homeostasis and reaches a point where damage causes dysfunction, that is how I see it. When I speak about programming and re-programming I am talking about making epigenetic changes to cells via either gene therapy or via blood factors/small molecule intervention. I see aging in a similar manner to Liz Parrish if that helps Aubrey?

Posted by: Steve H at May 19th, 2015 7:27 AM

Importantly I also see Telomeres and the effect they have on gene regulation via the TPE and TPE-OLD effect as a key reason why I believe they will help rejuvenate human cells and tissue as they have in every study they have been used in both on rodents and on human cells and tissue. I agree with Dr Fossel, Dr Blasco and others that intervention on Telomeres is a viable strategy. It isn't the only thing that needs fixing but it could yield substantial gains in lifespan as seen in animal studies.

It is the gene regulating effect Telomeres have not the replication clock that is the important thing here and there is reason to believe rejuvenating them reprograms cells to believe they are younger, much the same as blood factors can.

Blood factors can also rejuvenate Telomeres too so it's a two way street but you have likely read the study showing hormones can increase Telomere lengths and likely other factors do the same.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2745844/

I am however aware of your stance on Telomeres so we likely will not agree they could be a viable therapy.

Posted by: Steve H at May 19th, 2015 8:14 AM

@Aubrey: Can the paper be downloaded from somewhere?

Posted by: Antonio at May 19th, 2015 8:24 AM

1. Would be nice to have access to full paper.
2. Though a "new" paper is good, in fact what is needed is a real study that prove or not, or at least conclude something. In this day and age, we should be looking just at studies (conducted in humans if possible), as papers based on other papers will just continue the dispute between these theories. If SENS doesn't have the financial resources, they should just design a thorough study and outsource that, I'm sure the community will support the study. Cutting the Gordian Knot is what is much needed.

Posted by: Adrian C at May 22nd, 2015 10:26 AM

I DO want to live forever - I worry about the heat death of the universe and how to avoid it. From a more immediate point of view we can only focus on the things that may have an affect on the rate of aging. Those are largely lifestyle and nutrition. Nobody is perfect on either. Right now, supplementation is the ONLY approach that we can add to lifestyle. So, LEF and others are very valuable resources. They provide good information, backed by studies (even if those are never adequate, but that is not their fault - I won't live long enough for perfect studies using conventional approaches). They are also pioneers in supplementation quality control testing.

I see a lot of focus on the mitochondrial theory of aging. But I read a study yesterday that failed to find DNA damage. "Epigenetic regulation of the nuclear-coded GCAT and SHMT2 genes confers human age-associated mitochondrial respiration defects" Lack of glycine may be a culprit. Again, supplementation (e.g. PQQ) can help increase the number of mitochondria. So can exercise. Both are better. Exercise and supplementation can remove heart disease from my list of concerns. Various supplements can remove plaque build-up, mineral supplementation can help prevent electrical issues and exercise, COQ10 and PQQ can help ensure that my heart won't become weak. Just COQ10 gave my mother an extra 20 years of life.

On the other hand, regardless of mitochondrial issues, that does not address telomeres. These are completely independent. I'm sure that both are necessary, but no matter what you do for the mitochondria, it will NOT help the problem of short telomeres. It is clear that telomeres are a sequencing mechanism that allows different genes to be expressed as a person develops. This is necessary during growth from infancy, but unfortunately doesn't stop at maturity. The experiments where aging was reversed using telomeres is a pretty strong clue. I keep seeing research about cancer and telomeres - but WHO CARES? Lengthen the telomeres and most of the cancer will probably go away. What about telomere therapy? There are only a couple of VERY expensive supplements (astragaloside iv and cycloastragenol) that can help, but they are not very effective. Where is the research? This would be a DIRECT attack on aging, but it is being ignored because of cancer sidetracking. We need better supplements to lengthen telomeres or some other affordable approach.

Posted by: Michael Lee Finney at May 27th, 2015 12:01 PM

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. 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.