Complaining About Hype in the Longevity Industry

The author of this commentary is overly critical of the science of rejuvenation as a whole, if one takes a tour of his work, but here he makes legitimate points about the harms done by an excess of hype. He picks on one of the easier targets, the publicity that David Sinclair has generated for his work, initially on sirtuins and later on reprogramming, with which it is fairly easy to find issues. Raising awareness, marketing potential programs, is a necessary evil in the matter of directing funding into new fields, but unrealistic promises sustained over time become damaging.

Is aging treatable? In the sense that the rate of aging can be modified by genes and the environment, yes. However, aging is easy to accelerate, i.e. by smoking, overweight, infectious diseases, and other factors, and much harder to slow. Do sirtuins extend lifespan in yeast, invertebrates and vertebrates? Has David Sinclair discovered sirtuin activators? Based on 25 years of work by academic and industrial investigators, the clear answer to both questions is no. Whereas Sinclair claims that sirtuins are dominantly acting longevity genes from yeast to humans, early reports of sirtuins extending lifespan in invertebrates could not be independently replicated. In 2011, researchers from 7 institutions published together that sirtuin genes do not extend lifespan in worms or flies.

Sinclair's theories were au courant for two decades. Indeed, sirtuins and resveratrol have been subjects of hundreds of stories in the mass media. A 2008article reported that sirtuin activators would be developed as diabetes medications that, as a side effect, would extend lifespan. The global interest in sirtuins and sirtuin activators was such that companies - most notably GSK - spent many billions of dollars trying to get a positive result and could not because the so-called sirtuin activators do not activate sirtuins and because sirtuins are not longevity genes. Sinclair's book Lifespan therefore represents a pivot in which a person central to the failure of the largest longevity medicine program in pharmaceutical history turns to the general public to retell his story. In the retelling, sirtuins are longevity genes and sirtuin activators are real.



if he'd waited a few more days to publish this article, the writer could have taken umbrage with Sinclair's latest claims about partial reprogramming - only he wasn't going to do that because there is much more substance to PR than to last decade's snow. Yawn.

Posted by: Barbara T. at January 16th, 2023 7:50 AM

It is unfortunate that Sinclair is currently the best known figure in the longevity space because there are many good reasons to distrust him.

Posted by: JohnD at January 16th, 2023 8:03 AM

The second I saw this title in my news feed, I instantly knew who the unnamed "author" was. Charles Brenner is far more than just "critical" of Sinclair. He's been waging a personal/professional *war* against him for the last year. So predictable. Why not devote that time and energy to actually *doing* something about aging?

Posted by: Thomas at January 16th, 2023 8:09 AM

@Thomas: I didn't check the author's name but now that you say it I am not in the least surprised. Brenner has been behaving more like a troll than a scientist for years and the manner in which he debated Aubrey De Grey in a podcast ( is eye-opening. It seems like his agenda is to dissuade the whole scientific community from working on aging in any meaningful way. I guess that's how he gets attention.

Posted by: Barbara T. at January 16th, 2023 8:54 AM

@Barbara T. 100%. And thank you for the link. I wasn't aware of this, but it certainly fits his M.O. When I first noticed his attacks on Sinclair, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and follow his reasoning--until I realized he was actively and overtly using cognitive distortions in his arguments. I even went so far as to politely and gently walk him through several instances of this I noticed on Twitter, but he chose to ignore any and all critiques; this, in turn, led me to conclude that he's entirely comfortable with letting his emotions and/or beliefs guide his reasoning, so now I see him as a non-voice to be ignored.

Posted by: Thomas at January 16th, 2023 9:46 AM

Since we have proven human trials for senolytics and no proper study for rapamycin all we have now are promising animal studies and at best tons of speculation if not outright hype. It is unfortunate, but until there's a "sputnik" moment where one single treatment works in humans the scepticism will be the prevailing POV. Of course once we have it it will be a different era. Every VC will try to jump on the wagon.

Posted by: Cuberat at January 16th, 2023 2:39 PM

@ Cuberat, we are so close. BTW, I love the work Insilico is doing. Hopefully they will help move the needle.

Posted by: Robert at January 16th, 2023 4:43 PM

Yawn, Brenner is not someone I take seriously at all. Unprofessional conduct and what amounts to childish name calling and trolling are his forte.

Posted by: Steven at January 17th, 2023 4:23 AM
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