The Popular Press on the Goal of Slightly Slowing Aging

The popular press here covers the ambition of the scientific mainstream to modestly slow aging. Many researchers don't even want to talk about extending life, but only a small expansion of healthspan. This lack of ambition, and refusal to engage with the large body of evidence that suggests we can do far better, is why we need organizations like the SENS Research Foundation. It is possible and plausible to extend healthy life and overall lifespan indefinitely by implementing the approach of repairing the cell and tissue damage that causes aging. Yet all too much of the rhetoric and effort in the scientific community still goes towards tinkering with the operation of metabolism to slightly slow the pace at which damage accumulates - a clearly far inferior approach, that can at best produce only marginal outcomes.

With all of that, it is still a little odd to see senescent cell clearance, a part of the SENS repair strategy, showing up in articles like this, and given no greater weight than, say, treating people with metformin, which can't possibly have anywhere near as beneficial effect. Journalists typically don't distinguish between the potential value and outcome of different approaches to aging - it is all the same to them, just a flat list. That's something of a problem when the differences are enormously important and the expected outcomes are night and day. If there is to be significant progress towards healthy life extension in our lifetimes, the better strategies, those involving damage repair, must gain far greater support.

Imagine a day in the not-too-distant future. You're in your late 40s, and it's time for a special doctor's visit. The physician reviews your lifestyle, sleep habits and health history and orders some blood work to compare certain biomarkers with baseline measures taken when you were in your 20s. Then she gives you a personalized prescription for change that includes a diet that mimics the effects of fasting and a drug that helps your cells clear out malfunctioning proteins. The goal? To make you age more slowly and lengthen your "healthspan." If it sounds like science fiction, you're right - for now. But researchers in the field of geroscience, which explores the relationship between aging and diseases like cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's, see that day coming. They are marshalling evidence that the same cellular processes that drive aging also result in those diseases, and that it's possible to slow the damage down. "The idea is that if you can treat the underlying causes of aging, you can delay all of these things as a group.That's a whole different way of thinking about medicine." The goal is not to extend lifespan, though that may indeed happen. Instead it's to extend the length of time you're healthy and active.

Working with a range of organisms from yeast to worms to rodents, scientists have homed in on several interrelated processes they suspect drive aging. Proteostasis, for one, is a fancy name for the quality-control system at work in your cells. Like a factory, a cell has ways to ensure the proteins it makes are up to snuff. If they're not, the malfunctioning proteins are supposed to be broken down and used to build new proteins or as energy. Researchers are looking for interventions, whether lifestyle or drugs, that might repair this age-related quality-control decline. Another area of exploration is inflammation. Low-grade, chronic systemic inflammation in the absence of an infection is a factor in most age-related diseases; it's even known as "inflammaging." The sources of it aren't well known, but scientists are investigating possible contributors, including a state called cellular senescence. Researchers wondered what would happen if senescent cells were removed. In mice, they've shown that certain drugs called senolytics can do just that - and slow the progression of age-related changes and even partially reverse them. Other drugs, too, are being eyed for their potential. A top contender, which has increased both lifespan and healthspan in mice by targeting a protein that controls key cellular functions, is rapamycin, used in people to prevent rejection of transplanted organs. Researchers now studying whether rapamycin has a similar effect in pet dogs, which might be great models for aging research because they share an environment with humans and are genetically varied.

Link: http://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2016-08-09/the-future-of-aging

Comments

They dont get it Reason this is why Metformin is giving equal footing with Senolytics. The only solution really is to get the bench work done and show them the data. Broadly it is frustrating that so many researchers are so cagey and talk about nonsense like healthy aging and healthspan instead of treating age related diseases at the root. Still we cannot expect a revolution to happen over night and the important work is steadily being done.

As I always say, the general public will be the last to accept such ideas and when they arrive they will simply use them without question and accept them as normal.

Posted by: Steve Hill at August 10th, 2016 9:02 AM

Their vision is just so... pathetically modest. It's like even Calico is government funded and without any kind of foresight, or an organization with a bunch of bureaucrats saying "well now, that's just hoping for too much. Let's just slow yourselves down now and be realistic. Man will never fly."

Posted by: bmack500 at August 10th, 2016 11:12 AM

I don't quite think thats the case with Calico, but who knows. I think Calico may be like HLI and it depends who you talk to. Craig Venter seems to have a much different vision (thinks it's irresponsible to live to 120) than Brad Perkins (who talks about living longer than that), and it seems to me that it might be the case with Sergei/Larry, and Bill Maris than the rest of Calico. I know we can try to deduce what Calico is doing through some of their news, but no one is sure just yet. I would like to see them collaborate with SENS though, but that's a pipedream.

Posted by: Ham at August 10th, 2016 12:01 PM

I think as the mainstream news start to get the average person warmed up to the idea that we can live longer, this idea will become less of a fantasy. Most of us read articles in niche areas regarding longevity.

However, today in the San Jose Mercury News (Silicon Valley) on the front page, an article titled, Tech moguls 'hope to live long enough not to die'. In the article, they did mention Peter Thiel, Larry Ellison, Bill Maris and Sonia Arrison. Alas, they did not mention Audrey DeGray nor SEN.

Still, it is nice to start getting more of these type of articles in front of the average readers.

Posted by: Robert Church at August 10th, 2016 12:37 PM

@Robert : Mentionning Thiel, on the topic of indefinite lifespan, without mentionning Aubrey ?
Ha ! Who are they kidding ? That cannot possibly be a mere omission. Actually, I very much think this is a deliberate censorship on the part of many journalists ; an omerta of sorts.

Because I actually contacted the author of the last month's Science News article on ageing research, and asked her why she didn't mention SENS even though it should have been an obvious pick given the subject. She served me the typical PR non-answer that her piece "wasn't meant to be exhaustive", etc.

Mainstream journalists thus seem to mirror the mainstream scientists' behaviour regarding SENS : "Don't mention it, avoid being associated with it, it's bad fringe research, let's just stay safe and follow the status quo, it's alright really, we're still doing a good job, I swear."

And this pathetic situation reflects the systemic flaws in their respective fields. Journalism and science can be dirty and straying away from their original goals, but better cover that up than exposing the embarrassing aspects for all to see, right ? After all, it kinda works. If it ain't broken don't fix it, huh ?

Posted by: Spede at August 10th, 2016 11:40 PM

@Spede: I sent an e-mail to Michelle Quin (who wrote the article in the San Jose Mercury News) requesting why she omitted Andrey and SENS program? I will let you all know her reply.

Thank you for the experience with the media, Spede.

It just annoys me that the obvious is ignored by both media and people at large. And, why don't more rich people put in more money into the longevity pot? As they say, you can't take it with you.

Posted by: Robert Church at August 11th, 2016 1:18 AM

And thank you for inquiring about this recent article, Robert. If you get a reply, we'll have one more piece to add to the puzzle.

People don't seem to enjoy big challenges anymore. They don't want to hope. They take more confort in ranting everyday about small problems. We do have the tools to make everyone's lives better, but no, looking forward to that is too much to ask. Individualism overdose.

Posted by: Spede at August 11th, 2016 1:40 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.