October 04, 2011
Aubrey De Grey Talks Regenerative Medicine, Aging & Rational Denial of Aging Process
In an effort to ignite regenerative medicine and transform the way we think about health and aging, Aubrey de Grey spends his time on airplanes between England and Silicon Valley, as well as to conferences and events where he can evangelize his message to those who help accelerate his mission.
How should we go about developing medicine in the near future? he asks a large group who showed up in Louisville for Idea Festival, who committed their time to be there because they're interested in innovation, advanced learning and making the world a better place.
He encouraged people to think about aging and dying differently. Death from aging is not only “natural causes, it’s anything that mainly kills older people.”
A few stats: about 150,000 people die per day worldwide, two thirds of them die of aging which equates to 100,000 per day. In the USA, the proportion is over 90%.
None of us are getting any younger and those of us who live in the United States know how broken our healthcare system is...we don't like to think what that means while we're still under 50 because frankly it's too painful to go there. It's only when we see our aging parents go through the system, where things don't work, their live savings are wiped out within months, service is inefficient and disagnoses happen more than they should but because traditional doctors aren't thinking holistically rather than incompetence.
Aging is considered ghastly but also inevitable. It is rational to put ghastly but inevitable things out of our minds, even if we have to be amazingly irrational in order to do so. He calls this rational denial.
"But what if that inevitability became unclear?" he asks. The focus of his talk revolved around the following issues and how we can make a difference:
- Repair versus retardation.
- Specifics: the seven types of damage
- Intracellular junk/medical bioremediation
- Longevity: escape velocity: the concept
- Some evidence that LEV is realistic
De Grey made it clear that his focus is centered around health not longevity which is where regenerative medicine comes in, which he defines as any intervention that seeks to restore a tissue/organ to its state before it suffered damage.
Aging is essentially when metabolism ongoingly causes damage and damage eventually causes pathology over time. Options for intervention divide into two different approaches: the gerontology and the geriatrics approach.
Damage can be slowed down to some degree and other things along the way can be repaired. He asserts that there are seven deadly things that make up damage in our bodies:
- Junk – inside cells
- Junk – outside cells
- Cells – too few
- Cells – too many
- Mutations – chromosomes
- Mutations – mitochondria
- Protein Crosslinks
If we can develop bioremediation in a way that is sustainable, we can tackle aging diseases that cause damage and eventually lead to our death. Robust human rejuvenation he says, can give the middle-aged 30 years of extra healthy life.
Repairing damage periodically can buy us time. In other words, you can slow aging down.
First generation therapies should be likely to transform the health quality of a 60 year old into a 90 year old body. If you start early, you benefit from buying time and putting off some of the damage from aging by 20-30 years.
Then, 20-30 years later, you can do another therapy that has decades of research and improvement.
Essentially therapies double efficacy only every 42 years. The result is that you can add decades to your life, particularly if you start the therapies early enough.
In Aubrey’s words: “we have a humanitarian duty to fix aging.” Hear hear Aubrey. Hear hear!
Maverick Aubrey de Grey is the editor-in-chief of the journal Rejuvenation Science and co-author of the 2007 book Ending Aging. He challenges the most basic assumption underlying the human condition —that aging is inevitable. He argues instead that aging is a disease --one that can be cured if it's approached as "an engineering problem." His plan calls for identifying all the components that cause human tissue to age, and designing remedies for each of them —forestalling disease and eventually pushing back death…providing for an indefinite lifespan. He calls this approach Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS).
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