Mikhail Batin and the Open Longevity Project
The Life Extension Advocacy Foundation folk recently spoke to Mikhail Batin, long-standing advocate for radical life extension, and noted the latest venture from the Russian community, Open Longevity. In keeping with the spirit of the times, this is focused on setting up the infrastructure to run public human trials of interventions that may slow aging, on actually getting something done. That is admirable; we certainly need more of that in this era of stifling, overbearing regulation of every aspect of medical progress. I hope to see this effort succeed and grow. That said, I can't say as I think their initial choices are worth chasing: calorie restriction mimetics and a polypill approach that mixes existing drugs used to lower cardiovascular disease risk. If there were no other options, then yes, a polypill might be a surprisingly good choice, and calorie restriction is certainly better than nothing. But there are other options, and those options are far, far better. For example, it should be perfectly possible to set up open, responsible trials of some of the senescent cell clearance drug candidates such as navitoclax or piperlongumine, given that their pharmacology is well characterized already. Jailbreaking these compounds from the regulatory establishment would be a worthy exercise, assuming their effects on senescent cells in mice hold up in humans. Alas, each to their own, for better or worse.
As an aside for those readers come more recently to Fight Aging!, I should note that there is a fair-sized Russian-language longevity advocacy movement, on a par with that of the US or Europe. It reflects the strong level of support for the goal of health life extension in that part of the world, given the relative sizes of the overall populations. You might look at the Science for Life Extension Foundation as an organization that occupies an analogous position in the Russian community when compared to the Methuselah Foundation and SENS Research Foundation in the US community. Contact and collaboration between the Russian- and English-language communities has grown considerably over the past decade, which I think has as much to do with advances in automated translation as it does with the research community coming closer to clinical therapies capable of treating the causes of aging. There is certainly much more of a sense of the practical possibilities in the field these days, and that draws in ever more supporters and advocates.
As a sweeping generalization, the Russian end of the longevity science community is more in favor of programmed aging theories, and thus more in favor of tinkering with the operation of metabolism as the best way forward to slow aging or make tissues act in a more youthful fashion. This tends to involve drug discovery aimed at altering cellular behavior, such as via recreating some of the effects of calorie restriction, though some more interesting items have emerged, such as mitochondrially targeted antioxidants. It is somewhat ironic that the English-language research community is much more in favor of theories that describe aging as an accumulation of molecular damage, but the members of that community still near-entirely work on tinkering with metabolism to slow aging via drug discovery, something that their foundation of theory should decry as a marginal effort that does nothing to address the true causes of age and age-related disease. We can hope that this will change as SENS rejuvenation approaches based on damage repair, such as the newly popular efforts to remove senescent cells from aged tissues, continue to produce far more reliable and impressive results than any of the other options - and that organizations such as Open Longevity also pick up that banner to help carry it forward.
The rejuvenation research community is very diverse. Despite each of us having their favorite projects or directions of activity, the achievement of our common goal - the extended period of health and productivity - is highly dependent on this diversity. We need advocacy organizations to educate the public and fundraise actively, in order to support fundamental research. Once these fundamental studies are done, we need biotechnology startups to play their role in taking these new potential therapies through preclinical testing. Then bigger companies or venture investors need to support these startups with clinical trials in order to get promising interventions approved by regulatory authorities. Each stage is necessary to transform an idea into a treatment. Regardless of what aspect of this process a person or group works within it is always nice to meet like-minded people who are trying to find a way to achieve results sooner.
There are many drugs which are already approved to treat specific diseases, but which are also known to have the potential to address aspects of the aging process. Sadly, most have not yet been tested in healthy middle aged people in clinical trials, so we cannot be sure about their effect on the human lifespan. So, should we just wait for a research organization or pharmaceutical company to do this? Mikhail Batin, the head of Science for Life Extension Foundation, says no. Recently in the US to attend the conference The Biology of Aging: Advances in Therapeutic Approaches to Extend Healthspan, Mikhail also stopped by to visit with LEAF President Keith Comito and discuss life extension activities in Russia and Mikhail's new ambitious project - Open Longevity.
Mikhail believes there are alternative ways to organize pilot clinical trials and obtain crucial data about promising geroprotectors - information that every member of our community would benefit from. The solution is simple and elegant: members of a local community can become participants of a trial themselves, while a specialized patient organization will ensure proper procedures (study protocol development and observation, analysis of the data and preparation of a publication) are followed. This is the main goal of Russian initiative Open Longevity, started few months ago. So far, Open Longevity is planning to test a combination of statins with sartans as a pilot project, the team is open to discussion regarding the experiment design and protocol.
Our task is to run clinical trials of anti-aging therapies. There are a lot of candidates for anti-aging drugs - geroprotectors. Promising results can be seen in tests on lab animals and in observational human studies. It's time to determine what intervention exactly will be best for each individual. Our plan is to channel the energy of patients to find the best one. We create the infrastructure project linking scientists, physicians and potential subjects.
Open Longevity Project has two parts: First, it's a patients organization initiating clinical trials. Patients will become not only initiators, but also the holders of the obtained data. We want to aim their energy in scientific track and to give everyone a chance to contribute in the fight against aging. Of course, this does not negate the fact that all studies will be conducted strictly under the supervision of professionals. We are talking about a public non-profit organization, and of course there will be other goals for it: fundraising and attracting other resources, lobbying and education. The more members we have, the louder will be our voice.
Second, Open Longevity is an online platform for self health monitoring. Yes, there are a lot of platforms like this. But we're special - we want to turn every patient into the researcher. Do you take medications, supplements or just experiment with your diet? We encourage everyone to pass the required tests before and after your interventions. This will give an understanding of whether it works for you or not. And will generate big data. Isn't it what's been lacking, our little programmers of neural networks?