The Genre of Popular Science Articles on Treating Aging that Fail to Mention SENS Rejuvenation Research Programs

This popular science article on efforts to treat aging as a medical condition is a particularly good example of the type that fail to mention SENS rejuvenation research and any related efforts that involve repair of the cell and tissue damage that causes aging. This one even omits any mention of senolytics, the rapidly broadening efforts to clear senescent cells that are supported by increasingly robust evidence, which has to be a deliberate omission in any overview of the current state of the field. The rise of senolytics and the current enthusiasm for study of senescent cells is very hard to miss. Why do authors do this? What is the prejudice that leads them to focus on marginal, challenging efforts that haven't made significant progress towards practical therapies, such as work on calorie restriction and calorie restriction mimetics? This author is clearly capable of finding sensible things to say about many of the topics that are covered, which makes it more of a mystery.

As researchers work to develop and test ways to slow aging, they will first look to create treatments intended for people in their 50s and 60s, when chronic diseases often start to set in. Studies evaluating those treatments, some of which are already planned (most notably the trial for metformin), should only take a few months or years, measuring secondary indicators like frailty instead of death itself to ensure their efficacy. Eventually, there might be drugs for people to start taking when they're even younger. But giving pharmaceuticals to healthy people is a hard sell. Without extensive long-term clinical trials, it's impossible to anticipate how the decades-long use of an anti-aging drug will affect other aspects of long-term health. There will almost inevitably be some side effects, and the public will have to wade through discussions of whether or not it's worth it. There are people who question whether the clinical trials needed to prove the safety and efficacy of such therapies are even ethical.

These issues hint at a deeper ideological hurdle stopping anti-aging treatments from becoming commonplace. For now, our medical system is designed to address medical conditions as they arise. Putting interventions to treat aging on the market would mean a fundamental shift in our medical system, towards preventative medicine. "We've been trained in biomedicine to focus on sickness rather than health, so that paradigm shift will take time." And to move from success in the lab to having an actual impact on human wellbeing, you need to have public opinion on your side. Social acceptance of aging interventions could pave the way for the medical shift. The field of anti-aging research suffers from a reputation problem. For decades, products running the gamut from skin creams to herbal supplements have claimed to have "anti-aging" properties, with virtually no science to back them up. "People associate our field with snake oil. That only adds to that perception that it's not rigorous." What's more, people in general are reluctant to talk about getting old and dying.

For now, researchers are still trying to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) onboard. As it stands now, the FDA only approves treatments for a specific medical condition. Now researchers in the field of aging are trying to convince the agency to make a separate designation for preventative medicine. From the FDA's perspective, the field of medicine built around combating aging is still in its infancy. "A question not yet answered is how many aging-related but otherwise independent diseases (coronary artery disease, dementia, sarcopenia, etc.) would need to be improved for us to consider the therapeutic effect an 'anti-aging' effect, rather than an effect on specific diseases. It is worth noting again that a drug that improved any of these conditions would be very valuable," an FDA spokesperson said. It's also still a challenge to figure out how to measure whether or not these interventions are effective.

"If the field of aging is going to move forward in having drugs to treat aging in humans, we're going to have to have an FDA-approved pipeline to do so." Having that framework in place will drive innovation, researchers claim - more research money can be allocated towards prevention, and pharmaceutical companies will work to develop new drugs that could potentially be used by the entire adult population. Though researchers don't believe there will be a special designation for anti-aging interventions anytime soon, a clear FDA pathway, plus more frank public discourse, could give the field a reputation to match the rigorous science already underway. And it seems increasingly likely that some intervention or another will emerge to keep people healthy for longer. "20 years ago, I would have said finding a way to extend the health span had a .5 percent chance of working. It's up to a 25 percent chance now, and every year it's going up."



First, THANKS for this excellent blog, saving me time every day looking for longevity information.

The last thing we want involved in longevity research is the FDA! The FDA is a corrupt, big-pharma-captured, inhibitor of revolutionary research and traditional medicine. Extreme longevity researchers better hope that the therapies they develop can be treated under law the same way supliments and nutraceuticals are. We can not afford the 5 to 7 year pipeline implied by FDA involvement.

In the medium term, we can hope that brave pioneers will continue self trials, but in the long run, the FDA and other stifling Government impediments must be benched or cleansed using a libertarian perspective.

Posted by: Tom Schaefer at October 10th, 2017 8:25 AM

The FDA isn't going away anytime soon so it is better to find ways to work with them instead of painting them as the enemy and creating more enemies. Aging research is not overly curtailed by the FDA anyway as it is simple enough to put a therapy through the system just for a named condition, then once approved its use can be expanded to other pathologies.

Senolytics and the majority of repair based approaches can all be applied to treating various diseases so this is not a huge issue as people make out.

Posted by: Steve Hill at October 10th, 2017 8:54 AM

Kirkland is going to talk on the SENS conference. From 0.5% to 25% indeed.

As for the rest, it's because journalists don't seem to do more research besides reading other journos articles. So instead of figuring out why this article excluded senolytics and stem cells we should first figure out which article this one is copied from.

Posted by: Anonymoose at October 10th, 2017 9:00 AM

I've noticed this too. I can speculate as to why... but I won't. Suffice it to say that our community is pushing out its marketing efforts as well, with similar results.

Aubrey has an interview in Master Investor mag. But there is something I want to draw your attention too.

There are several articles in the magazine about investing into the new Longevity economy. However, only Jim and Aubrey really 'Get it'. Take for example the first page and the welcome from Swen Lorenz, Jim makes a bold statement about Longevity replacing the entire healthcare system. He's right... But even with a direct pipeline to Aubrey and SENS, many of the authors are slow to catch on.

The article by Victor Hill is especially confusing. Are we going to live healthy lives or will we need robot care? It can't really be both (In any significant numbers). I'm sure we will need some care for some cases, but they should be the vast minority.

Right here in this magazine, with Aubrey and Jim, easily two of our most outspoken advocates, the rest of the authors are simply not getting it. Or, they are underestimating the work we are doing. Or, they are hedging their bets (As investors do). Or, are people thinking that SENS is just too good to be true.

I have no idea. But one thing is VERY clear. We need to demonstrate and illustrate better. Seeing is believing. Better mouse data will help.

One thing I've noticed, is that these articles don't give much in the way of real "Meat". Lets take senolytics for example. The list of indications that they fight against is getting longer by the week. The overview in most articles give a very brief rundown of the benefits. I think the public can handle more. In fact, I think it needs to be more for people to get it. We need to really spell it out for them.

Anyway, my 2 cents.

Posted by: Mark Borbely at October 10th, 2017 10:54 AM

Like many science writers she graduated from a liberal arts college about 3 years ago with a major in Literature. Everyone ' knows' or thinks, Alphabet is a big player in longevity science and hence they default to whatever they report on.

Posted by: JohnD at October 10th, 2017 11:07 AM

How one can licence MitoSENS if ageing is not a desease? We should press FDA, or mice will live longer than people soon.

Posted by: Ariel at October 10th, 2017 5:01 PM

@Mark Borbely Wow, that Aubrey interview made me cringe. What an annoying twat of a journo.

Posted by: Anonymoose at October 10th, 2017 7:08 PM

It would have been nice (common sense?) to include SENS Rejuv in the article.

Yet, at least it was ABOUT longevity, even if it was written by a clueless writer. I would rather have this simplistic article than no article at all, it will at least get the average readers talking (hopefully).

Posted by: Robert at October 10th, 2017 9:47 PM


''Bad press is better than no press'', ''being ignored is worse than being downed/hated'', of course we would wish good press but still, if they mention SENS somewhere it is better that it is mentioned in the first place, than not at all. Even if people make a bad judgment or think SENS is bad altogether and not worth it/their time; it gets people talking so it is not all a loss. As said by many, when do release a major therapy that works - with conclusive trials/proofs; the floodgates will be open and people will slowly accustome to the idea that 'it could be possible'. Still, I don't hold my breath because there were many therapies and other anti-aging things that came out; are now in the dust bin - people did not give a rat's...
ironically, rats are used for these studies (!). They should give a rat - cause that rat could have saven their ass one day when therapies come out (Thanks to rats and mice dying/serving as guionea pigs pet research in the name of humans -we have to thank them, without them we would be in stone age about 'aging').

I want to believein making pressure on FDA but from all the articles that have come out; it seems almost futile. They have so much power that it is the reason why things are moving more slowly than they should be. Yes, it is a problem of money but not just that, a regulatory one - big one too. If FDA are okay with metformin trial, I don,t see them being very open to rejuvenation types of therapies anytime soon - unless SENS 'happens' and tangibly 'proves itself' in rejuv. mice - then, FDA would say 'OK. We give in....we Shall Allow/Tolerate....'. Sometimes, it sohuld be called Federal Denial Agency (FDA), because that is what they do - they Deny you.
Your SENS therapies - Denied...ant other rejuvenation - Denied. While Health Canada should be called Unhealthy Canada; when they start wisening up and realizing we are aging/dying (all of us here and them at these agencies), then they can rename themselves
FAA (Federal Acceptance Agency) and Very-Longevity Canada. (kidd) So, in a sense, all they need is a bit of sensical SENSening out of them (and we have tried so far, it is impossible, they are thicker than thick. They will take metformin over SENS can you imagine. It is why the futility of it).

2 cents.

Posted by: CANanonymity at October 11th, 2017 3:12 AM

To the best of my knowledge, SENS has published 0 primary articles. They have generously given money to academic labs that study aging which has resulted in publications, but the SENS organization itself has never published original work of its own. Why should articles on aging research have to mention an organization that hasn't made any direct contributions to aging research?

Posted by: Doug at October 11th, 2017 4:25 PM

@ Doug :
Isn't Aubrey's foundational book enough of a contribution to science ?
Or do you not find it worthy of consideration because it wasn't peer-reviewed ?

Furthermore, why couldn't less-direct contributions to ageing research such as giving focused grants, training young scientists in a specific field, organising major age-related conferences, etc. warrant a mention in a mainstream article about rejuvenation ?

If you take all of the above into account, I see no reason why a few words couldn't be spared for the sake of SENS and the SRF.

Posted by: Spede at October 11th, 2017 5:49 PM


The article is about major discoveries in aging research and the potential hurdles standing in the way of translating these findings into drugs and therapies. While I appreciate the funding that SENS and other organizations (NIA, AFAR, Glenn Foundation and previously the Ellison Foundation) provide, I don't think all funding organizations need to be mentioned in every popular article on aging research. Most readers only care about the discoveries and what it could mean for their health, not who funded these discoveries. Until SENS starts conducting and publishing their own research, I think they'll continue to be left out of articles that are specifically focused on research efforts.

Posted by: Doug at October 11th, 2017 7:30 PM

Has anyone thought about writing (politely) to the author (Alexandra Ossola) of that article to point out the gaps in its coverage?

(I can't see the article from the link, I think it is geoblocked).

Posted by: Jim at October 12th, 2017 3:23 AM

I was at the bookstore today and saw this magazine. I have been a subscriber of Popular Science for a number of decades. Since they now publish it once every two months, I quit subscribing it over a year ago. Also, in their web site, they now changed it a few years and do not allow any comments anymore. Every so often, PS puts out a special edition for a certain topic. Now I see at the bookstore, this was a special edition on Longevity.

I don't know what is going on, but this PS has been going downhill in the past decade or so. They don't write about interesting topics very often, but are more like the cell phones. Cell phone get marginally better each year. PS articles are about the newest tech (marginally better products?) or future tech over the next couple years. PS seems to have no interest in anything beyond 5 years.

I was quite disappointed when I leafed through the special edition and as Reason mentioned, nothing about any medical tech that SENS talks about exploring with the exception of gene therapy. Very disappointed, but then, not surprised either.

Posted by: Robert at October 12th, 2017 7:47 PM
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