An Interview with Aubrey de Grey at Undoing Aging 2019

The Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) volunteers were out in force at the recent Undoing Aging conference in Berlin, networking and conducting interviews. The event was a who's who of the rejuvenation research and broader longevity science communities. These are in fact two different things: despite the growing focus on senolytics to clear senescent cells from aged tissues, work on methods of rejuvenation after the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) model of damage repair is still something of a minority concern embedded within a broader field that is much more concerned with stress response upregulation via calorie restriction mimetics and similar approaches. If the goal is an end to aging as soon as possible, then want to see more rejuvenation capable in principle of large, reliable gains in health and life expectancy, and less tinkering with metabolism that is only capable in principle of small, unreliable gains in health and life expectancy. In this context, it doesn't hurt that central, important events like Undoing Aging are organized by people with a strong rejuvenation focus.

LEAF will be publishing any number of interviews in the weeks ahead, and today's example is an interview with one of the hosts of Undoing Aging, Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Research Foundation. I feel that by now de Grey should require little introduction. For the past fifteen years or more, he has been one of the most vocal proponents of tackling aging as a medical condition, in particularly by developing therapies to repair, reverse, or work around the root causes of aging. Quite early on, de Grey assessed the literature and proposed a set of research programs that would tackle all of the forms of molecular damage and cell dysfunction that cause aging. This was an extensive work of synthesis, drawing together strands of research from throughout the life science community that had, up until that point, been given all too little attention. It has been a long road from the stage of a few voices in the wilderness to today's realization of the first actual, real, working rejuvenation therapies, in the form of senolytics. Nonethless, here we are, finally.

An Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey

How has SENS been progressing over the years, and what's going on right now?

The idea of comprehensive damage repair as a way to really bring aging under proper medical control and keep people useful much later in life has now become completely mainstream. It's been kind of reinvented by various groups over the past few years so that now it's kind of become the orthodox way of thinking. Moreover, the progress that's been made in the laboratory by, of course, us with our various projects, and also by other people, has got to the point where these projects have become investable. They've got to the point where people, perhaps not every investor, but at least the more visionary investors who are comfortable with high-risk, high-reward activities, are getting in there. They're seeing how to join the dots as a value proposition. The result is that we've, so far, over the past few years, been able to spin out half a dozen of our projects into startup companies and align in parallel with us. There's dozens and dozens more companies coming along literally once a week, now, it's ridiculous how rapidly, that are doing stuff that is very much rejuvenation, very much damage repair.

In terms of the seven deadly things that SENS plans to tackle, could you give us some examples of where we are specifically for each of them or some of them?

The best news at the level of SENS Research Foundation is that the most challenging, the most difficult components of SENS are now beginning to yield. We're really now seeing very significant, dramatic progress, albeit still early stage, but going much faster than it was even a couple of years ago. The ones that are slightly less hard, for example, the removal of molecular waste products inside cells, those things have gone far enough that they have become spin-off companies. We've got two companies created that way: we've got a company that's looking at the extracellular stiffening problem of restoring elasticity, and we've got a company looking at death-resistant cells, cells that are getting into a senescent state. This is all going amazingly well.

For the most difficult things, in which I will especially include mitochondrial mutations, we're now undisputedly the world leaders in these areas. These are lines of research that everyone had totally given up on to the point of being really certain that they were completely impossible and would never make progress. We just had the persistence to do enough to get there. It really is a great example of how the short term-ism that is imposed upon scientists by the system of science funding that exists worldwide has had an enormously damaging effect in stopping people from working on the most valuable work and forcing them to work on low-hanging fruit that doesn't scale.

As a final question, how do you like how the conference is going?

The main thing that I've got to say about this particular conference that blows my mind is the sheer number of people that are here. We have run conferences starting with my own conferences back in 2003. We've run lots and lots of them over the years, and they never grow; my first conference back in '03, had maybe 200, 250 people, and all the other ones that I ran, that series in Cambridge, were about the same, fluctuating by 20 or so. We were not seeing any increase in enthusiasm, and so on, resulting from the work that was being done. That was the same with the conferences that we ran in California in the period like 2014 through '17. It was also true for conferences that other people have run, they started but they're not grown.

Now, we may be just hitting that point where it's take-off time. Last year, the first time that the Berlin Conference happened, the first one in Europe in five years since my last conference in 2013 in Cambridge, and it was big. It was 300 people; that's on the high side. I thought, well, that's great, but it's probably just because I haven't done one in Europe for five years. I was thinking this year, they'll do really well to keep it at 300 people, and we sold out, which is 500 people; we literally were not allowed to bring any more people in because of the size of the venue and the fire regulations and so on.


Wow! He looks like Methuselah, I doubt it he'll even make it to his 70's.

Posted by: mcm at April 12th, 2019 7:09 PM

Have some respect, please

Posted by: Nicolai at April 13th, 2019 3:29 AM

@mcm judging by your comment you are obviously unaware of this mans work. he has made amazing headway under enormous ridicule and mockery. the credibility of his ideas has sky rocketed since he first put them together. you will likely thank this amazing human being in the future when you are receiving therapies that keep you healthy and disease free

Posted by: scott emptage at April 13th, 2019 5:24 AM

@Nicolai, I respect him and have been following his work for more than a decade now, but I still think he could trim that beard, though.

Posted by: mcm at April 13th, 2019 5:57 AM

This man is a future nobel, for sure. Nobody in the last 20 years have made as much contributions to the field of anti-aging as him.

Posted by: Jonathan Weaver at April 13th, 2019 6:28 AM

@mcm I think he said his wife likes him with the beard and he grew it out for her. I remember him saying he would shave it off for a million dollars

Posted by: scott emptage at April 13th, 2019 8:42 AM

I hope you are all enjoying our interviews from Berlin, we worked hard and I think the result was well worth it.

Posted by: Steve Hill at April 13th, 2019 8:56 AM

Wikipedia says he got divorced 2017.

I don't think he is in a bad shape. Almost no forehead wrinkles which might be correlating with atherosclerosis (I have more and I am in my late thirties). Take away the beard, imagine a bit more tan and a few extra pounds and he certainly would look healthy as anybody else in his age.

Posted by: Chris at April 13th, 2019 9:10 AM

@Steve Hill: Excellent interviews. And Aubrey sounding very positive in this one.

Posted by: Steven B at April 13th, 2019 10:13 AM

Hi Chris! Just a 2 cents.

Same here, albeit I don't have much wrinkles on forehead (very thin almost non apparent and just from 'overforcing face' (you can 'tighten' your wrinkles to fade..but doing 'facial exercice' (dumb soudning but true, strechginh your skin and muscles helps to make skin 'bounce back' to position and not sag like wrinkly sagging aged skin) and, I had atherosclerosis (soon to turn 40). Some people almost no wrinkles at all and *Still had atherosclerosis, very young looking - Still had it anyway. But, yes you are right, with age it's a demonstration of ECM (extra cellular matrix) breakdown of the flesh/skin; mostly, either fibrosis formation, loss of collagen (or rather collagein type I redudes, but other types of collagen (Type II-V) can either increase or decrease, creating fibrosis; but, overally, there is reduction of collage with age, and also, decorin/hyaluronate (hyaluronic general, it is LCH/HMWH (Long Chain Hyaluronic Acid/High Mocelular Weight Hyaluronic Acid) that reduces and you have more SCH/LMWH (Short Chain Hyaluronic Acid/Low Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid; DNA damage can make more SCH/LMWH, instead of LCH/HMWH, like fragmentation of long hyaluronate).
Hyaluronic acid is very present in pulpous young skin, like collagen type I, and is neat orderly fashion, correctly cross-linked by Ascorbate/Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C during the collagen deposition pathway) to form 'tight' collagen ECM scaffolds and not loose sparsed/messed up and with AGEs/glycation/crosslinks like glucosepane/furosine/CML/pentosidine, etc.

As you imply, with age, it is better to Not have wrinkles, because it is a sign that ECM is starting to falter and if force our face/it's even worse(ning)/so keep a 'neutral' (no emotion) face to minimize wrinkling from overemoting in face, which could mean disease problem for you (collagen is becoming filled with AGEs and you lack it now (faster aging generally shows faster loss of collagen or destruction of it), so your tissues are fragile and susceptible to damages/oxidation/mutations in the study have shown that ECM degradation is pretty correlative of biological aging in certain organs (not necessarily the skin..but other Non-UV ray exposed parts of the body (internally)).

When I look at the video above of AdG, it is mostly the beard the element that ages - it's an iconic male element of 'old(er) age'...young boys don't have beard...old men do. When I mid-aged man wheres a beard that looks like a beard of a Older man (AdG beard is big and more like older people), it makes an illusion the person is older than their real age. If AdG shaves his beard he will look much younger - just because of removeing the beard. If his beard turns gray/white..later..that will Age him very much..because it so apparent in the face 'first thing you notice - his big long white beard..making him look older/maturer/Elder senior'.

With that said, AdG himself looks better on here, I've seen past pics videos of him where he looked older; here he looks way to find out the age of someone (it's not the best correlate..but it tells us of the biological age, not the chronological age), is by measuing the SSS (sub surface scattering) of the skin (which is depth at which ligh penetrates the dermal layers and tells us 'how much collagen' is there...when I check his pic, I know he is in 50s or even looking yougner than that (like his nose looks very young, it is visible by inverting the image which shows gradient)...with skin exposed to UVrays, it can mess up the results (such as people that 'sun bathed' and it creates Maillard reaction 'browning' and then melanin production (to protect against UV rays in the skin), which means 'tanning'; but not just tanning - Browning, browning is the action of oxidative stress caused by UV ray exposure which damages the we don't see that much, AdG is naturally pretty light skin and does not seem to have tanned, so is white, thus it's natural 'skin age' not 'UV exposed'.
My grand mother she turned white hair in her 20s...completely 'grayed overnight' in her 20s...she lived to 92 years old.

Just a 2 cents.

Posted by: CANanonymity at April 13th, 2019 7:09 PM

CAN, Some good information on skin aging/cross linking. But I would assert the critical cross linking occurs in the Dermis, not the ECM. And just to voice a general pet peeve I have, while it is true that skin collagen changes/decreases with age, I believe this to be a response to skin aging not a cause. There are receptors in the skin that sense reduced elasticity and down regulate collagen production as a result, thus imo the advice virtually every 'expert' gives to up regulate collagen production is misguided, one needs to break the cross links in the dermis.

Posted by: JohnD at April 14th, 2019 12:07 PM


Some upregulation could be beneficial ,nevertheless. And I am not talking from cosmetics POV of having less wrinkles but rather of keeping the structural integrity of the skin and, probably, connective tissues.

Posted by: Cuberat at April 14th, 2019 12:40 PM

Thanks for your thoughts.

I just started with consuming bone broth daily. Hopefully that slows down age related collagen loss a bit.

Posted by: Chris at April 14th, 2019 3:58 PM

@Jonathan Weaver: That's not how Nobel prizes work. Aubrey de Grey is ultimately far more of a science communicator than a practicing scientist. That's still very important, as the example of Carl Sagan shows, but it's not what people win Nobel prizes for.

Posted by: Dylan Mah at April 14th, 2019 4:52 PM

First thing I noticed while watching the interview was that he looks younger than on some TEDx presentations from 5 years ago.

@Steve: At the next interview please ask AdG whether he wants to share with as his protocol of interventions, supplements, self-experiments etc.

Posted by: Stephan at April 14th, 2019 5:21 PM

AdG said something about SENS being involved for another 10 years, then expect newly created companies to develop the rejuv treatments. Well, that is my understanding. So, if he believe it will be about 15 years for LEV, I suppose SENS carrying the ball for 10 years and expecting another 5 years from private companies.

Posted by: Robert at April 14th, 2019 7:32 PM

I think 2035-2040 will be when we hit LEV. Well hit LEV for people who are extremely knowledgeable and willing to go right onto new drugs. To then spread new drugs across the population is going to take awhile longer after that. For example, drugs that are the standard of care for diseases today, it took time after they were approved by the FDA to spread out to where they were just prescribed by default to anyone diagnosed with a specific condition. Maybe 10-15 years after approval is an estimate to reach that point.

If we can make it out a few decades, AI will take pharma/biotech to new levels. That is why I am hoping to see drugs in the 2040-2050 time frame that together can buy us ~20 years. As that would take us all the way into the 2060's, and AI may be truly godlike in power by then.

With godlike AI, imagine an AI that could do the same thinking as a million scientists working for a whole century.. but the AI could do that in a few days, imagine the progress it could make. Then we would install a second system, a third system, etc.

Posted by: aa3 at April 15th, 2019 1:25 AM

That was at 2012. Back than I didn't feel any need our immediate urge to look for supplements. Now it is a different story. However, he had to be bet careful when endorsing supplementss or therapies as it might backfire for the whole SENS and anti aging movement.

I remember that on one of the conferences his face looked like sheburned. Like having exfoliation or some stem cells or senolitic treatment. Might be just hiking, though...

Posted by: Cuberat at April 15th, 2019 12:50 PM

Interesting. The article doesn't have much detail, however they implyto have more or less solved the vascularization problem. If that is the case there are other organs to be printed, and with less efforts. If they don't need to be connected to nerves, for example. What about kidneys, liver, splint , muscles and such. Although, the size of the printed heart is small... Still interesting...

Posted by: cuberat at April 15th, 2019 6:01 PM

@Cuberat, I was wondering the same thing regarding issue of blood circulation. I know that's the big hold up on printing organs.

I realize they are doing organoids but they're small, so no issue with vascular.

Posted by: Robert at April 15th, 2019 6:50 PM

Audrey's doing well on keeping check on the anti-aging sciences, there needs to be a place all fronts can communicate with each others studies as a mixture of potential treatments and collaborations maybe required.

Posted by: John Archibald at June 25th, 2019 4:32 AM
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