A Recent Interview with Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Research Foundation

A recent interview with Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Research Foundation touches on a range of topics relevant to progress in the development of rejuvenation therapies:

I got involved in gerontology about 20 years ago when I discovered that hardly any biologists were trying to do anything about aging. Until then I had always assumed that everyone understood that aging is the world's worst problem and that defeating it was a major focus of biology. I co-founded SENS Research Foundation (and the Methuselah Foundation before it) because I saw that the most promising source of funding for this sort of long-term translational work was philanthropy, rather than government funding or the private sector. We have about a dozen different projects going on, which span most of the areas that have been described in my publications, out of the $5 million that we spend each year, most goes on these research projects, two of them in our center in California, and the rest in various institutes and universities across the USA (plus one in the UK). We also spend some money on outreach and education.

To me, gerontology is the study of aging as a basic science - the quest to understand aging better and better. But what SENS Research Foundation does is to try to manipulate aging - to postpone it better and better. And promising advances in one of those quests are not necessarily promising in the other one. So the most promising developments in gerontology would include things like the finding that calorie restriction doesn't work much in monkeys, or that naked mole rats protect themselves from cancer using long-chain hyaluronic acid; the most promising advances in engineering negligible senescence would include things like the removal of amyloid in Alzheimer's patients using vaccination, or the protection of cells from oxidised cholesterol by giving them a bacterial enzyme that breaks it down.

Everyone in the field knows that longevity is a side-effect of health: if you increase healthspan (i.e. you postpone the ill-health of old age), you will similarly increase lifespan. Everyone in the field also knows that there is no good age to die - that however much we succeed in postponing age-related disease and disability, we will always want to postpone it more. But they also know that politicians and the general public are petrified of thinking rationally about all this, because aging has them in such a tight psychological stranglehold that all they want to do is put it out of their minds - so they feel forced into this downright dishonest kind of language that implicitly deprecates those few people who dare to be honest about the fact that the longevity side-effect of postponing ill-health is a side-effect that we should welcome. They feel that if they were to endorse the desirability of much longer lifespans, they would cause a backlash in political circles and a reduction in research funding. I'm quite sure they are wrong, and that if the whole field were as honest about all this as I've always been then it would have far more money by now - but there seems to be no way to persuade most of my colleagues of that.

Link: http://www.planettechnews.com/interviews/ptn-interviews-dr-aubrey-de-grey-researcher-and-a-thought-leader-in-anti-aging-regenerative-medicine

Comments

"I am actually a vocal supporter of cryonics, and one of the projects we have supported is focused on the development of a new cryopreservation protocol that could be immensely effective in improving the quality of cryopreservation."

What protocol is this?

Posted by: Antonio at July 14th, 2015 7:51 AM

Thanks! I read about the bridge loan some time ago but I didn't know it was related to cryonics.

Posted by: Antonio at July 14th, 2015 11:30 AM

I believe that UN population control initiatives may be the greatest hindrance to public funding and endorsement of longevity research. Public money means that treatments would be used on the general public, which would be great, but I think unrealistic. I do think that longevity initiatives are desired by many, but the research and benefits thereof will be limited to a few. My cknv errs at ions with gov't officials indicate a misunderstanding of public needed to maintain longer lifespan (soc security), as opposed to providing public sick care (medicare and Medicaid). Unfortunately, public funding involves this kind of discussion, whereas it should be a discussion on the value of human life. Just my 2 cents.

Posted by: amy at July 22nd, 2015 8:31 AM

Sorry. Spelling errors. Sentence 3 should read: My conversations with gov't officials indicate a misunderstanding of public monies.....

Posted by: amy at July 22nd, 2015 8:36 AM

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