The Anti-Longevity Rhetoric that Characterizes Much of Aging Research

Sizable contingents in the aging research community and longevity industry like to assure us that greater human longevity is not in fact the goal of the growing level of investment in research and development of means to treat aging, or even desirable for that matter. It is a strange phenomenon. Cynically, one might suspect that those working on approaches based on cellular stress response upregulation, mimicking calorie restriction, that cannot in fact do much to extend life in longer-lived species such as our own, and will at best incrementally improve late-life health, are trying to make their work look better to the groups that funded it.

Regardless of motivation, I think that propagating this sort of viewpoint is harmful to the future of the field. While it might be harder of late to make this argument given the existence of Altos Labs, I would say that downplaying longevity as a goal can actively discourage greater public understanding of, and greater investment in, approaches that are not based on cellular stress response upregulation, such as the SENS view of rejuvenation, and which can in principle extend the healthy human life span to a meaningful degree by directly addressing the root causes of aging.

The Buck Institute, Where the Promise of Aging Research Isn't Longevity

The leaders of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging want you to know that they're not going to make you immortal. Even if they could, they wouldn't necessarily want to. Because extending life just to spend a few more years on Earth is not the point. But if their field has something deeper and better to deliver, they have reached the moment when they really have to prove it - which is what they are furiously working to do.

Longevity medicine has already generated several lifetimes' worth of hype and hogwash. There have been opportunistic (or narcissistic) promises of 500-year lifespans that captured the popular press even as reasonable scientists labored for legitimate discoveries in the background. Now, leaders in the field are busy shaking off the shadow of immortality salesmen as they set up for a new stage of growth. Their science, they say, is almost mature enough to deliver real therapies. And the Buck Institute - a small, independent research center in a California suburb almost no one's heard of - wants to lead the field into maturity.

Yet what experts there and elsewhere say the field will deliver may not be what you'd expect - especially if you've been listening to its fanboys. The real promise of longevity science, they argue, is not a longer life - it's a better one. It takes very little spark to start Eric Verdin, the Buck Institute's President and CEO, talking a streak about the possibilities of longevity research - but unlike those who promise imminent miracles, he tempers his predictions with scientific caution. And his predictions are not about finding eternal youth; they're about fighting the diseases that shorten and darken the later years of our regular lifetimes. "I don't think it's a stretch to think we could bring everyone to 95 healthy. The field is not talking about this enough. We're only talking about how we are going to get the tech guys to live to 150, but that's not where the real urgency is."

Verdin predicts that the first approved therapy from geroscience will come within five years, though he won't forecast exactly when a full paradigm shift for healthspan will follow. "Some people have called me conservative or a dream killer, but let's underpromise and overdeliver. I can tell you this field will overdeliver, but I don't know when."


It seems to me this brand of double talk is a lot less common in 2022 then it was in 2018 or 2014.

Posted by: JohnD at August 9th, 2022 4:09 PM

Imagine that rhetoric with any other field. "Oh no, we're trying for anything as egotistical as trying to make it so people can *survive* snake bites. That's silly science fiction nonsense. We're just trying for the far more reasonable and sensible goal of allowing people to be just a little bit more productive during the hour or so it takes them to die from the snake bite."

Posted by: Arcanyn at August 9th, 2022 8:54 PM

Aging reseach? Maybe I'm too much of a cynic, but is there any really?
All I see is a bunch of businessmen trying to get rich. Everywhere I look... Patentable small molecules and natural substance derivates with no proven benefit outside of faked studies, results of 'model organisms' and computer simulations fed into their marketing machine to make the gullible masses spend their money.

Posted by: Jones at August 10th, 2022 5:13 AM

It's about time (actually, way past the time) to come out and say that we are not messing around and we don't care who's fragile ego gets squashed a bit, we want (we in fact DEFINITELY DEMAND) that the pussyfooting around cease and desist, we want life extension and we want the scientific industrialized world to stop funding these useless, destructive wars ( WW1, WW2, Korean, Vietnam, endless middle eastern wars, the current idiotic Putin caused wars, the coming new Cold War with China), I am a little pissed off that ever year, 1000's of billions (1000,000,000 that's a billion dollars) dollars are spent on the worlds militaries industrial complexes, we fund a big portion of basic universities sciences and engineering through the military industrial complexes…….good for Saudi Arabia to start funding a billion dollar per year aging research project and South Korea too, wake up you stupid planet of people….fund longevity research now!!!

Posted by: Gary at August 12th, 2022 11:39 PM

"Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous." ("The Hunger Games", 2012)

Posted by: anonymous at August 14th, 2022 5:57 AM

Perhaps pushing both messages at the same time would be helpful. As in, "This intervention treats conventional diseases AND extends healthy lifespan."

Posted by: K at August 14th, 2022 7:45 PM

Surely there must be some research for people who want to stay young for a long time. Like me for example. I would know at least 10 things that could be improved to increase our life from 300% to 500%.
But I don't know anyone who deals with this and I'm afraid that the billionaires who paid for the research on the elixir of youth will not get anything because they don't understand it, they created the wrong assignment and they don't even know how to check that the assignment is being fulfilled.

In contrast, I follow more wannabe scientists who study aging and age just as fast as everyone else. An example is the scientists associated around lifeextension.

I am informed that considerable sums are being spent on the promotion of aging accelerators and that new, more effective 3rd generation aging accelerators are being developed.

Posted by: Richard Adamec at August 15th, 2022 1:31 PM

People will embrace it the moment we can show results!

Where are the therapies people can have *today* that cause a visible rejuvenation? There are none - and please prove me wrong!

The moment I show up visibly younger, my fellow rich and old neighbours and friends will be happy to join in asap.

Posted by: Joe Da Silva at August 15th, 2022 5:30 PM

First , scientific definition of longevity is necessary:
Age beyond 122 years , which is maximum natural age
With treatment and intervention one possibly could live to the age of 125 years- that would be break through the natural barrier.
To prove that a therapy for longevity is effective will take about 25 years
Those recruited to participate in clinical trial will be centarians 100 or more years old.

Most companies and non-profit researchers want quick results: in 5 to 10 years
They don't want to wait for 25 years

That is why most of them are working on health span extension or rejuvenation, but not on longevity- defined as life extension beyond natural 122 year limit.

Posted by: Nicholas D. at August 15th, 2022 6:41 PM

"visible rejuvenation" it's cosmetics industry as for today in this regard. Just look at how much hydrolyzed elastin and/or GHK-Cu makes people look younger. Does it make people live longer? Nobody knows.

Posted by: SilverSeeker at August 16th, 2022 7:39 AM

The Buck Institute's rhetoric on longevity makes little sense to me either. Take this example:

"Seen through their eyes, the biology of aging is the biology of disease. Solving its mysteries is the key to being able to live in good health for almost our entire lives, then suffer only a brief, steep decline before our deaths. Longevity research, in other words, is designed to maximize our healthspans, not our lifespans."

I'm not an expert in the field of aging, but I am a computer scientist with a specialty in predictive analytics and I did do a project with the Buck once. My intuition tells me that there is no way to fight the illnesses of aging without fighting the aging process itself, and there's no way to do that without extending longevity for its own sake, unless one deliberately built an "expiration date" into the therapies, like the one given the "replicants" in the film "Blade Runner".

My guess is that the Buck is responding to pressures from their funders, both private and public, to adopt a particular ideological stance, which now includes DEI: "The Buck Institute places the highest value on diversity, inclusion and equity".

Posted by: David Slate at July 10th, 2023 12:39 PM
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