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The Case for Life Extension – Article by Arin Vahanian

The Case for Life Extension – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


“I wish I could live 10 to 20 years less,” said no one ever. In fact, I have never met anyone who didn’t want to live at least a few more years of a healthy, active life. Yet, incredibly, there appears to be some controversy about the topic of life extension. Specifically, there seems to be some pushback from critics, who have attacked life extension as “irresponsible” and “harmful,” cite overpopulation and resource constraints, and in turn paint doomsday scenarios that would occur if human beings were to live longer lives.

With this article, I hope to begin a discussion to eventually lay this controversy to rest, as well as assuage any concerns the general public may have about the growing life-extension movement. For the desire to live longer and healthier is not only natural to the human condition, but I believe it is one of the noblest goals for human beings to strive for.

There are many good reasons to support life extension, but here I shall provide a few reasons why, just to get the conversation started. Firstly, many people already support life extension. Anti-aging products as well as hormone replacement products and therapy generated about $50 billion of revenue in 2009 in the United States alone, according to the American Medical Association. If this isn’t an indication that people are very interested in life extension, I don’t know what is. While the efficacy of some such products and therapies has come into question, that in itself would be a good reason to develop this field so that more efficacious and better products could be developed. This would ensure that we adequately address the enormous demand for life-extension products and therapies.

Not only are many people already interested in life extension, but extending the human lifespan is something we have been working on for quite a while. In fact, the global average life expectancy has more than doubled since the year 1900. This necessarily raises the question,”Why should we stop now?” It seems illogical, unreasonable, and, in fact, inhumane to me to stop working on something so crucial – increasing life expectancy so that more people can have more of what is the most beautiful experience on Earth, the human experience. Therefore, why not dedicate more resources and funding to something that most people are already interested in, consider to be a huge priority in their lives, and which we have already been working on for a very long time?

Also, as I pointed out in a previous article on aging, there are practical reasons why we would want to support life extension. Making progress in life extension means each of us will have additional time with which to do things that are important to us. Imagine if you had an additional 10 to 20 young years of life. Think about all that could be accomplished during this time. The additional time you have in your life might help you come up with a cure for cancer, help eliminate poverty, or fulfill some other important accomplishment that humanity would benefit greatly from. As I mentioned in my article on aging, extending the human lifespan would result in us being able to work on other things that are important to the human race, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of improvement and progress. Imagine the number of world-changing ideas and products that never came to fruition because someone passed away. Let’s make sure that humanity is never robbed again of something it needs, just because of the untimely end of people who could have made a positive contribution.

In addition to logical and practical reasons why we should support life extension, it turns out that concerns about overpopulation and resource scarcity have been overblown. According to biologist Dr. Aubrey de Grey, life-extension therapy could postpone or eliminate menopause, thereby allowing women to space out their pregnancies over more years. What this would do is decrease the yearly population growth rate.

Further, according to Dr. Max More, CEO of Alcor, not to mention numerous other reputable sources, including The World Bank and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the worldwide population growth rate is slowing down and is projected to eventually stabilize and begin falling. Nowhere is this more apparent than in countries such as Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Russia, and even the United States, where birth rates are below the 2.1 live births per woman required to just maintain population equilibrium. Additionally, even countries such as India, which used to have a very high birth rate, have seen huge declines in birth rates in recent years.

In terms of resource scarcity, according to the World Food Programme, while it is true that an estimated 124 million people in 51 countries are facing food insecurity, this is due to reasons such as conflict and political instability, rather than food shortages. In fact, according to a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, the problem of malnourishment is a distribution problem, rather than a production one. Indeed, India actually has a food surplus, but wastes an extraordinary amount of food, leading to a large number of undernourished people. Therefore, the problem is a supply-chain and political problem, rather than a resource problem, and we are not running out of food, as some people have claimed.

Finally, according to the World Health Organization, worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. No matter where you might live, taking a quick glance around you will likely reveal that this is indeed the case. While there are a litany of causes of obesity, lack of food is not one of them. Thus, we actually have too much food around the world, rather than not enough. Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations demonstrated, in a landmark study, that per capita food availability for the world as a whole has risen in recent decades, and the number of chronically undernourished people has been cut by more than 50 percent in just a few decades. Therefore, we have more than enough food to feed everyone.

The same exaggerated fears have been stoked about other resources, such as energy, water, and land, and all have been overcome or handled over the course of human history. It turns out that human beings have been remarkably successful at coming up with solutions to these challenges over the years, and I do not think that we will, all of a sudden, lose this resourcefulness, dedication, and ability to master our environment.

Naturally, over the last few decades, not to mention centuries, doomsday prognostications by people such as cleric and scholar Thomas Malthus, biologist Paul Ehrlich, and economist Stephen Leeb, have not come true, and in fact, in many cases, have been utterly debunked.

Finally, on a moral, ethical, and indeed, human level, it seems cruel to inhibit human beings to living a certain amount of time, and no more. To this end, I have a simple question for those who are opposed to life extension based on the idea that there is a predetermined amount of time that all humans are supposed to live.

Would you tell a parent being ravaged by stage 4 cancer or a sibling suffering from cystic fibrosis that they do not deserve to live any longer because their time is up and that this is the “natural order of things”? Everyone deserves to live a dignified, healthy, and fulfilling life, and it is cruel for us to appoint ourselves judge, jury, and executioner.

So I ask people who are vehemently against life extension, “Do you believe that we are qualified to decide how long others should live?” Further, if you support cancer treatment that would prolong the life of a loved one by a few months or few years, why would you not support treatment that would prolong their healthy life for a few more years?

Since the beginning of time, humans have always strived to improve their lot in life, to seek growth in many aspects of the human experience, and to overcome challenges and hardships. Just as it would be absurd for someone to say that they want to regress, devolve, and live a shorter life, it would be equally absurd for us to say we would not want to live longer, healthier lives. Thus, it is natural for humans to support life extension, if not for themselves, then at least for others who desire it, because to reject it would be equivalent to rejecting life, and rejecting the experience of being human.

Anyone who truly cherishes life and how valuable it is, should at least consider the vast number of possibilities that life extension would bring. Of course, it is up to each person to decide for themselves whether they would want to live healthier and longer lives, and we are not the decision-makers for everyone else. This is a personal decision that must be explored by each individual. I am confident that the more we communicate our message that life extension is natural as well as desirable for the development of human beings and the planet, the more people will be on board with something that is frankly very obvious: life extension is a noble cause, and one that is very much worth exploring.

Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Stem-Cell Clinical Trials Show Remarkable Results Against Age-Related Frailty – Article by Steve Hill

Stem-Cell Clinical Trials Show Remarkable Results Against Age-Related Frailty – Article by Steve Hill

Steve Hill


Editor’s Note: In this article, Mr. Steve Hill discusses two very promising human clinical trials using stem cell therapy for age-related frailty. This article was originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) .

~ Kenneth Alum, Director of Publication, U.S. Transhumanist Party, October 29, 2017

The first results of two human clinical trials using stem cell therapy for age-related frailty have been published, and the results are very impressive indeed. The studies show that the approach used is effective in tackling multiple key age-related factors.

Aging research has made significant progress in the last few years, with senescent-cell-clearing therapies entering human trials this year, DNA repair in human trials, and a number of other exciting therapies nearing human testing. We are reaching the point where therapies that target aging processes are no longer a matter of speculation; they are now an undeniable matter of fact.

What are mesenchymal stem cells?

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are one of the most commonly used types of stem cells in therapy. MSCs are adult stem cells that can become other types of cells, depending on stimulus; this ability to become a variety of other cell types is known as multipotency. [1]

The cells into which MSCs can transform (differentiate) include osteoblasts (bone cells), chondrocytes (cartilage cells), myocytes (muscle cells), and adipocytes (fat cells). MSCs are of great interest to aging researchers and are arguably one of the most well studied and understood types of stem cells. [2]

MSCs are currently in various trials to treat conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis. [3] The potential of MSCs for treating neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, are also being explored in preclinical testing. [4-5]

A therapy for age-related frailty

The focus of the MSC therapy in the case of these two clinical trials is to reduce the effects of age-related frailty on senior citizens. This also marks an important step for rejuvenation biotechnology, as this is the first stem-cell treatment that is close to final FDA approval for specifically targeting age-related frailty. Should this be approved, then it opens the door for other similar approaches and the potential treatment of many age-related diseases.

The therapy itself uses MSCs taken from adult donor bone marrow and is infused into patients with an average age of 76 years old. The good news is that patients in both the phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials have shown no adverse effects to treatment.

This is excellent news and now paves the way to move to phase 3 clinical trials, which are larger-scale tests to further determine the efficacy and compare it to the best currently available treatments, for which there are basically none beyond simple coping approaches, such as walking sticks and frames to compensate for frailty.

It is also important to note that at this at this point, the drug or therapy is accepted as having some effect. You can read more about the clinical trial process and what each phase means here.

In the first trial, 15 patients with age-related frailty were given a single transplant of MSCs from donors aged between 20 and 45. [6] Six months later, all patients in the trial showed an improved level of fitness, lower levels of inflammatory tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and improved quality of life in general. TNF is one of the regulators of inflammation and contributes to the chronic age-related inflammation known as “inflammaging”, which drives a number of age-related diseases. [7]

The second trial was a randomized, double-blind study including a placebo group. An improved physical performance level was observed in patients, and, again, the level of systemic TNF, and thus inflammation, was reduced. [8] Once again, there were no adverse effects observed in the patients, and the researchers wrote:

Treated groups had remarkable improvements in physical performance measures and inflammatory biomarkers, both of which characterize the frailty syndrome.

David G. Le Couter and colleagues have written about the clinical trials in a guest editorial in The Journals of Gerontology:

There are always caveats associated with interpreting efficacy in small numbers of subjects, yet it is remarkable that a single treatment seems to have generated improvement in key features of frailty that are sustained for many months.

The next step for the researchers here is to begin a phase 2b clinical trial with 120 patients in ten different locations. Following the conclusion of this, a large randomized phase 3 trial will be launched, and this will be the final barrier to public approval for the therapy.

Conclusion

With an ever-increasing number of aged people in our population, stem cells hold great potential for treating a number of age-related diseases and combating the disability and frailty that accompany the aging process. Developing therapies like these could potentially help older people to enjoy an improved level of physical performance and a better quality of life. Being able to remain mobile and independent as we grow older would be of huge benefit to not only the individual but also to families and society as a whole.

There are currently no FDA-approved treatments for age-related frailty, so this represents a huge unmet need that will only worsen with an increasingly aging population if those needs are not met by new medicines.

Seeing such tangible results in humans is a clear indication of the potential of rejuvenation biotechnology, and how we regard and treat aging will be changing in the near future.

Literature

[1] Nardi, N. B., & da Silva Meirelles, L. (2008). Mesenchymal stem cells: isolation, in vitro expansion and characterization. In Stem cells (pp. 249-282). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

[2] Stolzing, A., Jones, E., McGonagle, D., & Scutt, A. (2008). Age-related changes in human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells: consequences for cell therapies. Mechanisms of ageing and development, 129(3), 163-173.

[3] Wang, S., Qu, X., & Zhao, R. C. (2012). Clinical applications of mesenchymal stem cells. Journal of hematology & oncology, 5(1), 19.

[4] Danielyan, L., Beer-Hammer, S., Stolzing, A., Schäfer, R., Siegel, G., Fabian, C., … & Novakovic, A. (2014). Intranasal delivery of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells, macrophages, and microglia to the brain in mouse models of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Cell transplantation, 23(1), S123-S139.

[5] Naaldijk, Y., Jaeger, C., Fabian, C., Leovsky, C., Blüher, A., Rudolph, L., … & Stolzing, A. (2017). Effect of systemic transplantation of bone marrow‐derived mesenchymal stem cells on neuropathology markers in APP/PS1 Alzheimer mice. Neuropathology and applied neurobiology, 43(4), 299-314.

[6] Golpanian, S., DiFede, D. L., Khan, A., Schulman, I. H., Landin, A. M., Tompkins, B. A., … & Levis-Dusseau, S. (2017). Allogeneic Human Mesenchymal Stem Cell Infusions for Aging Frailty. Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biomedical Sciences and Medical Sciences, glx056.

[7] Franceschi, C., Garagnani, P., Vitale, G., Capri, M., & Salvioli, S. (2017). Inflammaging and ‘Garb-aging’. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, 28(3), 199-212.

[8] Tompkins, B. A., DiFede, D. L., Khan, A., Landin, A. M., Schulman, I. H., Pujol, M. V., … & Mushtaq, M. (2017). Allogeneic Mesenchymal Stem Cells Ameliorate Aging Frailty: A Phase II Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biomedical Sciences and Medical Sciences, 72(11), 1513-1522.

 

About Steve Hill

As a scientific writer and a devoted advocate of healthy longevity technologies, Steve has provided the community with multiple educational articles, interviews, and podcasts, helping the general public to better understand aging and the means to modify its dynamics. His materials can be found at H+ Magazine, Longevity Reporter, Psychology Today, and Singularity Weblog. He is a co-author of the book Aging Prevention for All – a guide for the general public exploring evidence-based means to extend healthy life (in press).

About LIFE EXTENSION ADVOCACY FOUNDATION (LEAF)

In 2014, the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting increased healthy human lifespan through fiscally sponsoring longevity research projects and raising awareness regarding the societal benefits of life extension. In 2015 they launched Lifespan.io, the first nonprofit crowdfunding platform focused on the biomedical research of aging.

They believe that this will enable the general public to influence the pace of research directly. To date they have successfully supported four research projects aimed at investigating different processes of aging and developing therapies to treat age-related diseases.

The LEAF team organizes educational events, takes part in different public and scientific conferences, and actively engages with the public on social media in order to help disseminate this crucial information. They initiate public dialogue aimed at regulatory improvement in the fields related to rejuvenation biotechnology.