Nearly a decade ago ago I hopefully envisaged the Vegas Group as a fictional, near-future, informal association of like-minded people coming together to organize and fund trials of early rejuvenation therapies, a natural outgrowth of longevity-focused conferences and progress in the underlying science. I put the founding date for the Vegas Group as 2016. That might be close, as it turns out. On balance, I think that the Society for the Rescue of our Elders, established this year in the wake of the Revolution Against Aging and Death (RAAD) Festival, has a shot at becoming this association in reality. A number of quite sensible people in our community are apparently involved, and the Society for the Rescue of our Elders is in a position to harness the raw enthusiasm of two generations of longevity advocates and potential trial participants: those who started in the 1970s, tried and failed to make anti-aging medicine work, but who still have the enthusiasm for the cause, and those of today who are focused on senolytics, gene therapies, and other modern techniques that may well produce actual, functional, first generation rejuvenation therapies. The evidence to date looks good.
Individuals associated with the Society for the Rescue of our Elders are coordinating and organizing a small variety of human trials at this point, covering a number of approaches to treating aging as a medical condition. I think some of these are worth the effort and we should be cautiously enthused: primarily senolytics to remove the contribution of senescent cells to the aging process, but also other items with varying degrees of support. The important point here is that this is happening at all, that our broader community has generated an association that can potentially act as a seed, a nucleus, a rallying point for all additional efforts. Many hands can make light work, and once there exists an informal network with experience in running the trials that we want to see take place, then future trials and larger trials and clinical availability all become that much easier to organize. Once the relationships with laboratories and university groups and all the other important groups are there - well, that is the hurdle that would stop most people from proceeding, not the funds. What use money when you are corroding?
I have in the past suggested that at some point the "anti-aging" marketplace, whose participants have built an industry and pipeline and customer base on the basis of selling things that don't work, will gravitate to the first potential approaches that do in fact work. A significant fraction of those involved are still believers in the original goal - to meaningfully turn back aging. The Society for the Rescue of our Elders, like the RAAD Festival, emerges from the Life Extension Foundation crowd. They have always had the burden of being supplement and "anti-aging" focused, but their initiatives have been incrementally stepping towards engagement with the most promising new medical technology, and I suppose that the current explosion of interest in senolytics has finally tipped things over the edge. Rejuvenation therapies are almost here, cheap candidate drugs exist, and it would be foolish to think that the "anti-aging" community would ignore this development. In the present environment, an alliance between those who can bring funding and a broad base of interested participants and those who know the presently most promising science and medical initiatives could go a long way. That is exactly what may be happening here.
I can say that had I the funds to pay for organizing a trial of one of the more promising senolytic drug candidates, I'd certainly be interested in coordinating with the people who are already running a small senolytic trial with the Society for the Rescue of our Elders. There are, I think, any number of individuals ten or twenty years my senior with the resources to do just that, were they aware of the opportunity. One of them already has. In my hypothetical had-I-the-funds trial, I'd collar a dozen volunteers in their late 40s, a selection of the assays I suggested would be good for a single-person experiment, and look for significant effects in the demographic who are just starting to see the first declines of aging. It would be an interesting counterpoint to the current - and quite sensible - strategy of restricting trials to people in their late 60s and older, possessed obvious manifestations of aging. Larger and more pressing problems make it easier to quantify the results of treatments like clearance of senescent cells. But aging doesn't start at 60, and the ideal time to begin rejuvenation therapies is earlier in life. Therefore we want to be able to prove that the first senolytic drugs are or are not capable of producing meaningful outcomes at those earlier ages.
The Society for the Rescue of our Elders is still at the stage of understanding how to best manage the self-assembly of a community, and how to channel help. But they have a contact form, they have an email address. If you can help to make things happen, given a network of connections to laboratories, clinics, and research groups, let them know. Tell them what you can bring to the table and ask for their contacts, then see what can be made to happen. It is a much better path that sitting around waiting for someone else to do the work of bringing therapies to the clinic.