Wolf has been Cried So Very Many Times When it Comes to Anti-Aging Therapies

If you look at the media coverage of work on senolytic therapies, treatments that can clear out senescent cells and thus remove the contribution of these cells to the aging process, it is usually the case that there isn't much to distinguish it from the coverage of any random claim of progress towards anti-aging effects from either within or outside the scientific community: supplements, vitamins, diets, pharmaceuticals, and so forth. None of these other items work in the sense of repairing some of the cell and tissue damage that causes aging. The few that do slow aging do so marginally and in many cases unreliably. The output of the press is not the place one should be looking for accuracy or enlightenment, and it is futile to either demand or expect it to become any better than it is at the moment. Nonetheless, it is somewhat frustrating to see this in action now that the world is changing, and the first means of producing actual rejuvenation are almost upon us.

One could probably construct a metric of press quality that progresses in a spectrum from the worst tabloid to the best popular science effort, built on the basis of whether one can see any difference in the coverage of, say, the effects of senolytics on longevity (significant) and the effects of blueberry consumption on longevity (non-existent). Are objective measures offered? Is the tone exactly the same? Is the hypothetically entirely ignorant reader left thinking that senolytics and blueberries are in the same bucket of expected benefit? Or how about senolytics and antioxidant supplements? Or senolytics and whatever the diet of the month happens to be today? Or senolytics and metformin? Or senolytics and vitamin C? And so forth.

One of the problems here is that much of the press has a very limited number of buckets with which to categorize things, and an equally limited set of output formats. This is how they work cost-effectively when not being paid to propagate a specific viewpoint. So once a thing is tagged as "someone claims this can treat aging," into the same bucket as blueberries and metformin it goes, and the public at large is duly informed - with no attempt to draw any sort of distinction of truth, quality, or expected value to patients. Thus we live in a world in which everyone is told, repeatedly, that ways of turning back aging exist. Since we are in fact all aging to death, no-one believes this to be true. Or if they do, they know that the effects are obviously small and limited, or involve papering over aging in some way without much affecting the self-evident fact that people get old and die. Smoke and mirrors.

Now, I think that the public at large is generally smarter than most journalists credit. Media is primarily used as a way to note the advent of new things and changes in existing things, not as a resource for specific details. Even when the quality is terrible, it is better than trying to find out yourself, even if finding out for yourself was a practical possibility. However, this system breaks down in the scenario in which the media treats all new things in a category as being different shades of the same item. Blueberries and senolytics, just colors of blue or red on the same basic model. People then filter out these updates as being just background noise, and rationally so until now.

I have a vision of what will happen after the first human trials of senolytics demonstrate promise: much of the press will mangle this into something that looks exactly the same as a discussion of the alleged (and entirely non-existent) power of blueberries. It won't be the case that the populations of the world will suddenly awake to the possibilities. Only the parts of it that were already paying attention. Even after significant short-term benefits in human patients are demonstrated to result from the targeted removal of senescent cells, there will still be a need for advocacy and outreach to pull in significantly more funding to the field. That process of fundraising will certainly become easier, but it won't be the case that senolytics will the very next day be a word heard on every street corner.

There is a saying regarding the fact that every good idea needs to be forced upon people, following them to every venue, and waved under their noses until they have no choice but to consider it. It will be that way for the first rejuvenation therapies. It will probably be that way for the second, because they will be different, and work in different ways. Progress in creating the foundations of the future medical industry of rejuvenation becomes incrementally less challenging to engineer the more that the benefits are proven, but it will never become simply easy.


It's hard to advertise when the face of a "product" is Negative Nancy (Jaundiced Judith ?). I can easily imagine her sitting right next to Barzilai and presenting senolytics as just another geroprotector. Well I don't really need to imagine it, I've seen her do it...

Instead of worrying about badly researched articles I think we should be more concerned by overpessimistic researchers. After all they are the people getting emails and calls by the journalists, the journos can only transmit an interpretation of what they were told. Or an interpretation of what they read from other articles.

So the problem starts at a higher ladder in the hierarchy. And I don't think there is much that we can do about that.

Posted by: Anonymoose at September 22nd, 2017 8:37 PM

Unless the therapeutic outcomes (and chronic use saftey / tox / carc profile) of senolytic drugs are significantly better in specific disease indications in humans, from what is on currently on the market in relation to the range of diseases that they are being promised to impact, you will never see them registered and marketed by big pharma, prescribed by physicians, or reimbursed by third party payers.

Until that day, which I would say is at least 10 years away, senolytics don't even compare with blueberries as to their health benefits, which may not be "life extending", but which have been technically studied for thousands of years in humans as far as their oral consumption safety profile, and which have been studied in many small human trials as adjuvants in various health indications (see Pubmed)

The real damage that is occurring is from the LE advocacy commiunity with their daily repetitive mantra that their interventions will be universally beneficial in all health indications, will be on the market tommorow, and will miraculously get some aging related claim from regulators sympathetic to the cause - this is all true smoke and mirrors.

Posted by: DrugDev US at September 23rd, 2017 7:47 AM

If they start to work out the way we think they will work out (And I still want to get my hands on Unity's list of positive markers), I'm pretty sure the Governments of the world will be highly interested in helping out the community, getting the word out and helping older people stay in the workforce longer.

The age wave crisis is real. The costs are real. The FDA is already talking about their broken Clinical Trials model and is looking to change it...


Posted by: Mark Borbely at September 23rd, 2017 10:12 AM

DrugDev US - agree with you on the blueberries. Let's hope the senolytics come along a little faster than your predictions.

Posted by: CD at September 23rd, 2017 10:39 AM

@DrugDev US
"The real damage that is occurring is from the LE advocacy commiunity"

Hard to imagine that considering we barely have mainstream representation.

"interventions will be universally beneficial in all health indications"

The ones directly caused by aging. The example with senolytics is always apt - they will help with the inflammatory component of most age related conditions based on the current accumulated research. But only that. So they can halt arthritis progression - and from what we know better than NSAIDs and steroids - but it won't make bone spurs disappear, probably won't reverse bone erosion on it's own either.

This is an obvious thing. I don't know of anyone who has claimed such efficacy, at least I've not read such a claim personally and I frequent a lot of LE "commiunity"s. I imagine that claim is mostly in your own head.

"will be on the market tommorow"
Yes. We ask for more support and advocacy because we think the drugs will be on the market tomorrow...
Most people interested in LE self experiment, and have spoken openly about the freedom to do so - so in a way, for us they might be.

That being said there are examples where treatments with known safety profiles have been pushed into fast tracked trials with the aging or age related disease as an indication recently. So whether you want to admit it or not, regulation is flexing under the sociopolitical pressure.

By the way tomorrow is written with double r and not m.

"and will miraculously get some aging related claim from regulators sympathetic to the cause"
Not miraculously. Through lobbying and scientific evidence.

A funny paragraph even without the typos. Reminds me people like to be contrary for the sake of being contrary in most cases.

Posted by: Anonymoose at September 23rd, 2017 12:20 PM

@Anonymoose: shame that your ideas are always mired in arrogant, patronising contempt. It's cringeworthy.

Posted by: Barbara T. at September 23rd, 2017 2:40 PM

@BarbaraT Just to make things clear - which definition of arrogance are you using specifically?

Egotistic? I'd gladly admit I am egocentric instead. You'll find quite a few people in this community who are not, some prefer to hide it, I personally don't see a reason to be disingenuous about my character. It is the benefit of anonymity and quite honestly the realization my opinions will never matter much in the grander scheme of things which leads to my lack of tact and can be interpreted as egotism.
It's a simple display of frustration.
And there are many things to be frustrated about - from the public opinion, to the regulatory climate, to the common blusters our community would have been doing, if anyone was willing to look in our direction, in many ways I suppose we're blessed by our lack of popularity.

As for me mocking people from time to time, well, if someone takes it too seriously it's your own problem. This is an echo chamber - it's a blog, a lot of people seem to have forgotten that. Go read a youtube comment section if you think I'm going too far.

Posted by: Anonymoose at September 23rd, 2017 3:50 PM

No Anonymoose, you are just a rude, petty, run-of-the-mill annoying person who baselessly thinks he's the smartest in the room.

"I personally don't see a reason to be disingenuous about my character. It is the benefit of anonymity". Oh wait, I was forgetting 'coward'.

And since all your posts sound more like an excuse to put down people than to have a constructive debate, I am sure you won't mind me doing the same here. You know, it's "a simple display of frustration".

But you are right: you are most certainly not to be taken "too seriously".

Posted by: Barbara T. at September 23rd, 2017 5:36 PM

Give it a rest with the personal comments. There's enough to be done already with taking up gnawing upon one another.

Posted by: Reason at September 23rd, 2017 5:47 PM

DrugDev US:

Blueberries don't produce a 25 % increase in median lifespan in mice, nor improve lung function and other measures of health.

"and will miraculously get some aging related claim from regulators sympathetic to the cause"

LE advocates say just the opposite, getting approval for aging will be difficult.

"their interventions will be universally beneficial in all health indications"

They don't say that.

Posted by: Antonio at September 23rd, 2017 6:03 PM

Dietary anthocyanin intake and age-related decline in lung function: longitudinal findings from the VA Normative Aging Study.

Blueberries are actually pretty awesome.
I would not be surprised if a blueberry-derived senolytic compound were to be discovered.

Posted by: CD at September 23rd, 2017 7:13 PM

Thanks Barbara T.

But comments like those from Anonymoose do not phase me - they are pretty standard when you try to rationaly discuss the minefield that exists between bench research hype (25% in mice) and true translational medicine in humans

Great example - "halting arthritis progression better than NSAIDs and steroids" (hasn't been the gold standard for years with all the DMARDs and BLMs on the market, but that's another topic)- when inexperienced advocates make these types of leaps of faith from bench work to what requires 6+ month minimums in human studies, they do the whole field a disservice

True - the FDA has been talking about their broken clinical trial system for years - at an executive level - but no one the individual review teams (where the real power rests) cares much and if you have any experience with presenting at the agency you will undersatnd why things are unlikely to ever significantly change on that front

Posted by: DrugDev US at September 24th, 2017 7:19 AM

So to be clear - we have more than enough human data, this is not bench science, I'm not sure why senolytics have been presented as some sort of science done in isolation, when senescence has been explored in humans for a good amount of time.

For a bit more background:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26578790 - baricitinib is a jak inhibitor and those modulate SASP.

And methotrexate is a cancer drug modulating the the last stages of cells before they enter senescence. As well as the most common DMARDs in use.

Senolytics are not science done in isolation, the mainstream was forced to admit they are the way forward based on the evidence present.

Posted by: Anonymoose at September 24th, 2017 8:51 AM

Anonymoose, don't waste your time with a naysayer that compares senolytics to blueberries and then, when experiments in mice are pointed out that prove the opposite, simply dismiss them as hype.

Posted by: Antonio at September 24th, 2017 3:24 PM

Reason compared senolytics to blueberries in the original blog post. I have no idea why anyone would diss blueberries, they are our friends, as are capers and strawberries. I read news articles about both senolytics and functional foods with interest, but a different mindset. For senolytics, I set aside a bit extra in the bank should they become available someday from a doctor (if there's any money to be made from them, they will). As for blueberries, I can buy them at Trader Joe's and put in my morning smoothie. Since I started eating them everyday I got rid of my varicose veins. I wonder how that happened...

Posted by: CD at September 24th, 2017 4:22 PM

This whole conversation about blueberries is an "I rest my case" moment.

Posted by: Reason at September 24th, 2017 4:33 PM

My two sense. Maybe it would help to start taking the cosmetic side of anti-aging more seriously. It's not just a matter of vanity. Maybe people will pay more attention. And if people don't really start looking 10, 20, or 30 years younger due to damage repair, than it is not really anti-aging going on, it is just good medicine.

Posted by: NY2LA at September 24th, 2017 5:25 PM

How about strawberries?

Posted by: CD at September 24th, 2017 7:21 PM

@Anonymoose: Looks encouraging!

Posted by: NY2LA at September 24th, 2017 11:41 PM

The correct way to inform the public on Senolytics is to make several celebrities aware of them and publicly laud them as a way to improve looks.
Or make athletes / bodybuilders use them to improve performance (not sure if they will, not sure if it would also become illegal/doping.)

Posted by: arren brandt at September 25th, 2017 4:00 AM

A norwegian study shows that anthocyanids from blueberries are the most potent. And here other studies:


Posted by: Norse at September 25th, 2017 8:33 AM

Some supplements already available yield some senolytic benefits, perhaps as much as blueberries do. Take for example a combo of quercetin and resveratrol which activate SIRT1 and FOX3A that in turn repair DNA, facilitate energy pathways, and get rid of cell waste products and senescent cells, and many other things. Again, however, they are flavonoids like blueberries.

Posted by: Biotechy at September 25th, 2017 1:49 PM

Reason: this is a very well-laid-out post, and its analysis of the media coverage and the artificial leveling of real anti-aging research into a swampland of nostrums, ordinary health practices, and preliminary work of questionable likelihood of relevance to human aging is highly insightful.

Biotechy: The ability of quercetin to ablate senescent cells is questionable. I am aware of no evidence that resveratrol - with or without quercetin - can ablate senescent cells; can you cite a study? And blueberry extracts had no effect on lifespan in a well-conducted mouse study.

Posted by: Michael at September 25th, 2017 4:09 PM

Michael: For quercetin (Q). Scientists have discovered that Q can safely remove tired, aging (senescent) cells the body, thereby making room younger, more vital cells. Ref. Aging Cell, 2015 Aug. p 644-658.

For resveratrol: Resveratrol reduces vascular cell senescence through attenuation of oxidative stress by SIRT1/NADPH oxidase dependent mechanisms. Tang, et al 2012. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

Posted by: Biotechy at September 25th, 2017 5:40 PM

Biotechy: I'm aware of the Mayo Clinic Aging Cell paper; please see the link I provided on this matter.

The study you cite on resveratrol does not show that it ablates existing senescent cells, but that it inhibits cells under stress from initiating the senescence program. Aside from having the usual disadvantages of merely retarding the rate of accumulation of aging damage vs. actually removing such damage after it's formed, this also bears the risk of allowing "risky" cells to continue proliferating and become cancers.

Posted by: Michael at September 25th, 2017 6:10 PM

Michael: I take the quercetin resveratrol combo before bed time for cell rejuvenation, senolytic activity and maximum anti-aging benefits. It may not be the best combo for riddance of senescent cells alone, but I want my SIRT1 and FOXO3A activated while I sleep and rejuvenate. Genetic analysis has shown that I am homozygous for the longevity alleles of at least 12 SNP's of FOXO3A that research studies have shown to benefit longevity. Resveratrol activates SIRT1 and FOXO3A and I hope it is doing anti-aging for my cells.

Posted by: Biotechy at September 25th, 2017 6:57 PM

"When compared with non-consumers, frequent consumers of red wine, tea, peppers, blueberries and strawberries were at reduced risk of all-cause mortality (P<0ยท05)..."
study group comprised of young and middle aged women (wild type, free-living humans)

Posted by: CD at October 3rd, 2017 10:37 AM

A happy day for you, Reason!
I somewhat understand your frustration with popular media coverage on SENS and aging research, but at the same time I wonder, 'what does he expect?' - it's the popular media, after all.

But you *must* find the latest Kurzgesagt and CGP Grey videos encouraging. 4.9 million Kurzgesagt subscribers, mostly quite receptive, I should think.

{I watched them this morning while drinking my blueberry smoothie... it was gooood}

Posted by: CD at October 20th, 2017 9:14 AM
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