An Interview with Aubrey de Grey at the Longevity World Forum

The Life Extension Advocacy Foundation recently published an interview with Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Research Foundation, on the occasion of the Longevity World Forum in Valencia, Spain. This interview ties in nicely with recent questions regarding whether we should be optimistic or pessimistic about progress toward human rejuvenation over the next ten to twenty years. It is not easy to predict the future, and it is true that even people closely connected to specific ares of work tend to overestimate the progress of a decade and underestimate the progress of two decades. For my part, I am of the opinion that, given the accelerating pace of the underlying science, when moving out to longer time frames the enormous, unnecessary costs and slowdown imposed by regulation of medicine becomes the largest determining factor governing clinical availability of new classes of medical biotechnology.

It was published recently that a therapy to reverse aging will be a reality within five years. What will be its mechanism of action, roughly?

There will not be just one medicine; there will be a lot of different medicines, and they will all have different mechanisms of action. For example, some of them will be stem cells, where we put cells back into the body in order to replace cells that the body is not replacing on its own. Sometimes, they will be drugs that kill cells that we don't want. Sometimes, they will be gene therapy treatments that give cells new capabilities to break down waste products, for example. Sometimes, they will be vaccines or other immune therapies to stimulate the immune system to eliminate certain substances. Many different things. In five years from now, we will probably have most of that working. I do not think that we will really have it perfect by then; probably, we will still be at the early stages of clinical trials in some of these things. Then, we will need to combine them, one by one, to make sure that they do not affect each other negatively. So, there will still be some way to go. But, yes, I think it's quite likely that in five years from now, we will have everything, or almost everything, in clinical trials.

Then clinical trials for seven years until it's perfected. Don't clinical trials usually take a long time?

It depends. For example, in aging, because there is this progressive accumulation of damage, you could have therapies that slow down the rate at which damage accumulates, or you could have therapies that repair the damage that has already happened. The second type of therapy is what we think is going to be most effective and is going to be easiest to do, and you can see results from that very quickly, like in one or two years. Now, of course, you still want to know what happens later on, but the first thing is to determine whether this is working at all, and as soon as it starts to work, then you can start to make it available. Clinical trials are changing in that way. Historically, clinical trials had to be completed before anybody could get these drugs, but now we are getting new policies; there is a thing called adaptive licensing, which is becoming popular in the US and elsewhere, where the therapy becomes approved at an earlier stage, and then it's monitored after that.

Beyond the humanitarian perspective of avoiding the pain and suffering that comes with old age, if increasing the years of healthy life in people will significantly reduce health care spending by governments, why don't they promote research in this area?

You're absolutely right. It's quite strange that governments are so short-sighted. But, of course, the real problem is psychological: it's not just governments that are short-sighted. Almost everybody in the world is short-sighted about this. The reason I believe why that's true is people still can't quite convince themselves that it's going to happen. Since the beginning of civilization, we have known that there is this terrible thing called aging, and we have been desperate to do something about it, to get rid of it. And people have been coming along, ever since the beginning of civilization, saying, "Yes, here's the solution, here's the fountain of youth!" And they've always been wrong. So, when the next person comes along and says they think they know how to do it, of course, there is going to be some skepticism until they have really shown that it's true. Of course, if you don't think it's going to work, then you're not going to support the effort financially. It's very short-sighted, but it's understandable.

Why do you think that the pharmaceutical industry does not devote its research and development efforts to this area, which causes the death of 100,000 people every day?

Today, the pharmaceutical industry is geared toward keeping old people alive when they are sick. It makes its money that way. It's not just the pharmaceutical industry, it's the whole of the medical industry. And so, most people say that they are worried that maybe the pharmaceutical industry will be against these therapies when they do come along. I don't think that's true at all. I think they will be in favor because people will be in favor, but people are not really in favor yet. People don't really trust preventive medicine. They think "Okay if I am not yet sickā€¦" They don't trust medicine in general; they know that this is experimental. So, when they are not yet sick, they think "Well, I'll wait until I am sick," but we can change that. Eventually, people will understand that it's going to be much more effective to treat yourself before you get sick, and then the whole medical industry will just respond to that; they will make the medicines that people want to pay for.



I suspect Aubrey's new found optimism is coming from recent developments in cellular reprogramming. Do remember that he is in a start-up, AgeX, that is working on (I think) invivo cellular reprogramming for both anti-aging as well as regeneration (of lost body parts).

Somewhat over a month ago I got into my mind that I may have a medical issue that would force me to consider one of those international stem cell therapy clinics in the next 5-7 years. It subsequently turned out that I do not have any such medical problem. Nevertheless, I started some internet research on the current state of the art in stem-cell regeneration (iPSC's, etc.) and stumbled onto the in=vivo cellular reprogramming work.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at December 17th, 2018 10:34 AM

I'd like to know if Dr. de Grey has used Dasatinib to kill senescent cells. As I suffer through day 3 of my monthly 4-day monthly water fast, it angers (the grumpier me)that I can't find someone to give me a prescription. I think I can feel the cells dying, it hurts, and it's had to sleep. I just wish I could get the amplified effect with the Danatinib. I'll make a big contribution to the local food bank this year because I can imagine what it is like for those who can't look forward to a 16 oz. sirloin after a few days of this.

Posted by: Tom Schaefer at December 17th, 2018 12:05 PM

Technology is changing fast while governments and other policymakers are always way behind. They're heavily risk-averse, not because they care about what might happen to people, but as an arse-covering exercise. Also, since our societies are heavily corporatist, a lot of legislation protects the profits of old big corporations against the small, new and vigorous. You only need to look at what has happened and is happening with ecigs to know that.

Posted by: Neal Asher at December 18th, 2018 3:32 AM

Aubrey is pretty mellow these days. He's probably privy to various results and plans we can't see, and is now more optimistic than his initial assessment of the difficulty of age-reversal.

Posted by: Mark at December 18th, 2018 5:55 AM

@ Mark

That's my take on it too.

I first saw a change in him last year here in Canada at Idea City.

Something had changed. He knows more than we do, no doubt. All these researchers talk, they don't want to die either. Its a damn good reason to work together.

Posted by: Mark Borbely at December 18th, 2018 10:04 AM

Tom, look into Life Extensions brand new senolytic formula. It has a natural ingredient that mimics Dasatinib as well as high powered Querciten. During my next 3 day water fast I plan to take that as well as 1200 mg of fisetin during days 2 and 3.

Posted by: August at December 20th, 2018 12:10 PM

Tom, I forgot to add Azithromycin to the fasting senolytic stack. Should be easy enough to get a prescription and in vitro is shown to be the strongest senolytic yet. One dose eliminated 97% of sen cells. My only concern - is that translating to humans. If one dose of Azithromycin is such a great senolytic, why isn't everyone walking around younger - seeing a most of us get prescribed a 5 dose Z-pack at least once a year.

Posted by: August at December 20th, 2018 1:37 PM

August wrote:

If one dose of Azithromycin is such a great senolytic, why isn't everyone walking around younger - seeing a most of us get prescribed a 5 dose Z-pack at least once a year.

How do you know that they aren't better off than they might have been without it?

Posted by: Gavril at February 20th, 2019 9:05 AM
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