The cadence of SENS rejuvenation research fundraising this year will be a little different from that of past years. There will be more groups involved and more smaller initiatives running through existing crowdfunding sites for a start. The first of these fundraisers for 2016 has launched at crowdfunding site Lifespan.io, and is definitely worthy of our support. The Major Mouse Testing Program is a new non-profit group of researchers and advocates, who have spent the last six months making connections and laying the groundwork to run more animal studies of SENS-relevant prototype therapies focused on health and life span. This is an important gap in the longevity science community as it exists today: consider the painfully slow progress in organizing animal studies in senescent cell clearance over the past five years, for example. Given more enthusiasm and more funding, that could have happened a lot faster. Consider also that the research mainstream - such as the NIA Interventions Testing Program - carries out very few rigorous health and life span studies of potential interventions for aging in mice, and of those almost none are relevant to the SENS approach of damage repair, the only plausible path to radical life extension within our lifetimes.
Animal studies are vital; not just one or two, here or there, but a systematic approach to generating rigorous supporting data, establishing dosage, and uncovering unexpected outcomes. The Major Mouse Testing Program can do a great deal to fill this gap for our community, and has the potential to be an important supporting organization for the SENS Research Foundation, for startups working on SENS technologies such as Oisin Biotechnologies, and for labs involved in SENS research. The more diversity the better. The only thing that the Major Mouse Testing Program lacks today is the initial funding and support that we can provide to give them a good start on their plans for the future. With clever organization, a non-profit organization allied with established labs can carry out solid animal studies at a cost low enough for people like you and I to fund the work via fundraisers, and that is exactly what we should do.
I have stepped up to donate to this first fundraiser for the Major Mouse Testing Program, and I hope that you will too. This is a useful, needed initiative, the people involved are solid members of the community, doing the right thing, and pulling together the right networks, and they deserve our support. This first crowdfunding initiative is focused on expanding animal studies of drug-based senescent cell clearance approaches, in collaboration with existing groups that are working in this field. Remember, however, that this isn't just about setting up one set of experiments. This is the first step in building out an organization that can help greatly in the years to come, as the field of potential rejuvenation treatments expands, and the need grows for the non-profit groups in our community to specialize and diversify. This is one piece of the larger picture of building a network of research and advocacy at all levels that will shape the next few decades of progress towards effective therapies to treat and control the causes of aging.
According to modern science aging is the accumulation of damage that the body cannot completely eliminate, due to the imperfections of its protection and repair systems. The good news is that the processes that constitute aging are amenable to medical intervention. We can slow down or even reverse some aspects of aging through the application of different therapies, which prevent or block some of these processes. One of these processes of aging is cell senescence. Senescent cells normally self destruct via a process called apoptosis, but unfortunately not all of them do. These "death resistant" senescent cells accumulate in the body with age and secrete toxic signals. This causes inflammation and damage to organs and tissues, increasing risks for cancer and other diseases of old age. This is why these cells are often called "good citizens but bad neighbors". They remain partially functional, but their presence does more harm than good. A new class of drugs known as senolytics have recently demonstrated the ability to remove senescent cells to improve health. However, the potential of senolytics to increase health and lifespan beyond current maximums remains unknown. This is what we at Major Mouse Testing Program want to investigate - with your help!
In our study we have opted to treat already naturally aged mice. These mice will be 16-18 months old (equivalent to a human of approximately 60 years old). This has two advantages: we speed up research, and also demonstrate the feasibility of translating senolytics to already middle aged or older humans. So far senolytics have only been shown to reduce the number of senescent somatic cells, but what effect do they have on stem cells? This has not been closely studied, and is a question we intend to fully answer in addition to the implications this presents for lifespan. It is entirely possible that senolytics taken alone may not extend maximum lifespan, but rather healthspan. Even if this is the case, it is no reason to be discouraged. What we learn in this first phase, paves the way for our next step - combining senolytics with stem cell therapy to encourage tissue regeneration. As part of our commitment to the sharing of scientific research the team plans to publish the results of our research as open access. We believe that knowledge should be shared and this is the level of our contribution to sharing and growing as a community together.
As we age our bodies accumulate damage in the form of dysfunctional cells that have entered a state called "senescence", which secrete toxic signals that can lead to chronic inflammation, higher rates of cancer and additional aging-related conditions. Today we proudly announce the launch of a new Lifespan.io campaign to test compounds, already known to remove these harmful cells, on their ability to extend healthy lifespan: the Major Mouse Testing Program (MMTP). This program, supported by the International Longevity Alliance (ILA), aims to expedite the identification of compounds which have the potential to increase healthy lifespan in humans via robust testing in mice. By using cohorts of middle-aged mice, the likelihood of discovering promising compounds will be increased in the short term.
The project will be directed by Dr. Alexandra Stolzing at Leipzig University and will involve three compounds already shown to have "senolytic" (senescent cell clearing) properties: dasatinib, quercetin and venetoclax. As such compounds are already FDA approved to treat various cancers, any positive results obtained through the MMTP study would enable a fast-track towards clinical trials. With your support we can help screen these and many more promising senolytic compounds. By donating to the MMTP campaign, your funds can jump start a pipeline towards developing drugs that enhance our healthy life span well into the future. Please check out the campaign, share with your friends, and keep building grassroots support for life extension research!