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A Biohacker’s Letter to Santa – Article by Elena Milova

A Biohacker’s Letter to Santa – Article by Elena Milova

Elena Milova


Editor’s Note: Happy Holidays! If Santa Claus were real, life extension would be the greatest gift that he could possibly give. Elena Milova convincingly illustrates why in this letter, originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF).

                   ~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, U.S. Transhumanist Party, December 21, 2018

Dear Santa,
My name is Elena Milova, and I am from Moscow, Russia. I am a science popularizer, biohacker, and public health advocate in the field of aging and longevity. I am 39, single, and without children, but if you think that I am reaching out to you to ask for a CRISPR-designed baby, I am not. I believe that this type of wish is rather in the pile of letters from China. I am not asking you for a particular health improvement, as one could not wish for a better HOMA-IR (mine is 0.40, because I greatly reduced fast carbs) or total cholesterol level (below 4 mmol/L). I am fine without a new smartphone, too.

The thing that I am going to ask you for is much more tricky to get. I want everyone on Earth to realize that biological aging is amenable to medical intervention and that treatments targeting various mechanisms of aging are already in human clinical trials. 7.6 billion minds, one idea. That is my only wish.

Why this is so important to me

You have probably noticed yourself that your clientele is changing over time. There are more and more people over 60 in the world, and I assume that the number of wishes for recovery from this or that age-related disease are spiking higher every year. This must be a problem for you, as for many diseases of old age, there is still no effective treatment that would actually help to cure people. It must be frustrating to not be able to fulfill a sincere wish of a good person, especially when a child asks for her grandparents to recover so that they can walk and throw snowballs together.

Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017). World Population Prospects 2017 – Data Booklet (ST/ESA/SER.A/401)

By 2050, the elderly will be a quarter of the global population, and these people will likely be suffering from several chronic diseases at once, gradually losing their health, independence and dignity. For so many people, being a burden on their families because of their deteriorating health is unacceptable, which is why the number of suicides in this age group is so high.

Is aging an invisible problem?

The numbers of these voluntary deaths are very upsetting, but what is even more upsetting is that diseases of old age are the major cause of death worldwide and aging kills around 100,000 people every day. This is the population of a small city. Imagine what would happen if everyone in a city like Cambridge, Massachusetts were to die in one day. I bet that there would be a lot of media attention and that thousands of experts would be on television discussing the potential causes of death and ways of preventing this tragedy in the future. Let’s say that the next day, another city becomes deadly peaceful. Take the Russian city of Domodedovo, which has its own airport. Everyone dead. People in neighboring cities would probably be frightened, and some charismatic politicians would be trying to calm down the public and promising to do something about all these deaths. The next day, this happens to yet another city, maybe in India. Then another one in Australia. It would not take long before G20 would set up an urgent conference call to set up an international commission and allocate money and scientists to investigate and solve the problem.

                                                                                                                                              Source: WHO website

Guess what? This type of thing never happens in relation to aging, because people dying from it are spread around the globe, so the disaster does not make the headlines. The public only notices the problem when an actor, scientist, or other significant public figure dies from an age-related disease – most often heart disease, stroke, or cancer. Do you want an example? “Santa Claus, age 90, dies from a heart attack: a critical blow to the industry of giftmaking.”

Sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you, but you get the point, right? From looking at your pictures, I could suspect that you might have some minor problems with glucose metabolism, but your extensive physical activity during gift delivery should be compensating for that, so you should be fine. For other people aged 60 and older, aging is an ever-increasing problem. Here, we come to the other important issue.

What is aging? How it can be addressed?

You see, aging is the accumulation of damage that happens due to normal bodily functions. This damage builds up over time, normal cell functions erode, and, at some point, this leads to the manifestation of age-related diseases. Normal operations, damage accumulation, disease, more damage, aggravation of disease, death. Simple.

It turns out that at the beginning of this century, British scientist Aubrey de Grey published an article in which he described several types of damage done by aging. He suggested the heretical idea of targeting these damages with medical interventions instead of trying to cure the symptoms of each age-related disease. He argued that age-related diseases are only a consequence of damage accumulation and that it would be much more effective to address the root causes.

The seed that Dr. de Grey dropped into the fertile soil of scholarship produced nice fruit in 2013, which is when a group of famous researchers of aging published The Hallmarks of Aging, a paper in which they described nine types of damage that accumulate with age and could be made into new therapeutic targets.

Comparison of a mouse treated with senolytics (at right) and a same-age mouse of the control group (at left). Source: Baker, D. J., Childs, B. G., Durik, M., Wijers, M. E., Sieben, C. J., Zhong, J., … & Khazaie, K. (2016). Naturally occurring p16Ink4a-positive cells shorten healthy lifespan. Nature, 530(7589), 184.

There were other fruits as well: animal studies have definitively proven that even only addressing one type of damage can extend the healthy period of life, postpone age-related diseases, keep animals more active, and, as a positive side effect, extend lifespan. It is worms that hold the best record so far, as tweaking some of their longevity-related genes has allowed them to live 10 times longer. The results in mice are also impressive – the researchers can extend both their healthy period of life and lifespan by 30-35%. Honestly, I find myself jealous of these mice, sometimes. I would not mind adding another 30% of youthful and healthy years to my life, even if I would have to take some pills or get some regular injections.

Can we control aging in humans?

You see, Santa, where I am going with this. I am sure that you sometimes leave gifts under the trees of people who work for the FDA. Accumulating a critical mass of knowledge about interventions against murine aging made it possible to develop the same type of interventions for people. Now, drugs and therapies addressing some of the root mechanisms of aging are in official human clinical trials. At some point, some of these trials will be successful, and drugs and therapies targeting aging itself will come to market.

If you don’t believe me, here is the short list of people whose chimneys’ stacks are the best source of additional information on the topic: George Church, Anthony Atala, Judy Campisi, Vadim Gladyshev, Maria Blasco, Michael West, Vera Gorbunova, Irina Conboy, Kelsey Moody, Brian Kennedy, Linda Partridge, Alexey Moskalev, Cynthia Kenyon, Claudio Franceschi, Alex Zhavoronkov, Nir Barzilai, and, of course, Aubrey de Grey. He wears a great beard, so you have more in common with gerontologists than you would think.

Listen to these people tell their families about their research, and you will get my point. We are on the edge of a revolution in rejuvenation biotechnology. Yet, most people don’t know about it and don’t realize what kind of potential benefit this advancement holds for them and for our aging society as a whole. Most importantly, as they know nothing, they have no say in decision making. How can people possibly speed up the pace of aging research if they don’t realize that aging is amenable to intervention? How can they foster technology transfer and local production of the cures for aging, such as senolytics, in their countries? How can they control prices and make future distribution and access equal? How can they ensure that old people in their families, who need these new treatments the most, would get them sooner?

Knowledge is power. We hear this in almost every interview, and you should be hearing it every Christmas from the researchers of aging, too. They have golden brains; the only thing they need is an appropriate amount of funding to solve the problem of aging more quickly. A strong public movement for aging research could be a game changer and could act as leverage to allocate government funding towards researching and developing treatments that target the underlying mechanisms of aging.

Ending aging and age-related diseases is possible

It is obvious that you are a kind person, Santa. You are perceptive and generous; you know what people want, and you try to give them what they want. However, if you don’t help me with my information campaign, in a couple of decades from now, you will be delivering billions of adult diapers and wheelchairs all over the globe. Wouldn’t it be nicer if you were to pile these up in your warehouse to be covered in dust while you give people therapies and drugs that prevent aging and wipe age-related diseases out of human lives? Just imagine how much happier people would be if they could remain healthy and independent, enjoy full and productive lives, achieve more, and stay with their families and friends for longer.

I was a good girl the whole year, attending scientific conferences, interviewing researchers, speaking at public events, and supporting our partners and colleagues in every way I could, even if that much socializing makes me suffer from an introvert’s hangover. I was eating healthy food and promoting evidence-based means to slow down aging among my relatives and friends. I deserve a nice Christmas gift.

All you have to do is to let everyone on the planet know that aging is amenable to intervention and that treatments addressing the root causes of aging are currently being created. For real. That would make me the happiest creature on the planet. Thank you in advance!

Sincerely, Elena

Instead of a conclusion

I am 39 years old, and I am an agnostic. There is not much evidence that Santa Claus exists. However, I do believe that miracles happen: the miracles that we create with our own hands. You who are reading these words (thanks for getting this far, by the way!) possess this special power, too. Use it! Let people around you know that science is close to bringing aging under medical control, and let’s build a world where healthy longevity for everyone is a reality.

As a devoted advocate of rejuvenation technologies since 2013, Elena Milova is providing the community with a systemic vision how aging is affecting our society. Her research interests include global and local policies on aging, demographic changes, public perception of the application of rejuvenation technologies to prevent age-related diseases and extend life, and related public concerns. Elena is a co-author of the book Aging prevention for all (in Russian, 2015) and the organizer of multiple educational events helping the general public adopt the idea of eventually bringing aging under medical control.

The U.S. Transhumanist Party’s First 1,000 Members: An Aggregate Demographic Analysis

The U.S. Transhumanist Party’s First 1,000 Members: An Aggregate Demographic Analysis

Gennady Stolyarov II


On July 7, 2018, the United States Transhumanist Party finally reached its major milestone of 1,000 members.  The U.S. Transhumanist Party collects extremely limited information on its members as a way of respecting their privacy; generally, we only request enough information to be able to contact our members and identify where (in terms of general jurisdiction) they are located. However, it is still possible to derive some general, aggregated insights from overall membership data without compromising any individual member’s privacy. The U.S. Transhumanist Party makes such aggregated data available for the purposes of providing insights as to the composition of the largest transhumanist political organization in the world, which may indirectly (though not precisely) shed insights into the composition of the broader transhumanist movement – at least in terms of identifying where transhumanists tend to be concentrated and areas where the movement is making inroads, as well as continued challenges in reaching certain areas and demographics. Caution should be exercised, however, in considering this information to be “set in stone”, as it is merely a snapshot in time of membership composition, which itself will evolve as new members are added. Furthermore, it is possible that the proportion of individuals who have thoughts or sympathies that could be broadly construed as transhumanist would differ from the proportion of members of the U.S. Transhumanist Party – even based on incidental elements such as the current reach of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s social networks and media presence, which may be uneven across various constituencies, but which we are always striving to improve.

Members by Type (United States or Allied)

United States Members (Eligible to vote in U.S.): 704 – 70.4%
Allied Members (Anyone else capable of holding a political opinion): 296 – 29.6%

Commentary: As was anticipated by U.S. Transhumanist Party leadership prior to this analysis, approximately 70% (70.4%) of members are eligible to vote in U.S. elections, and those members largely reside in the United States, while 30% (29.6%) of members are Allied Members – either U.S. residents who are not eligible to vote in U.S. elections, or transhumanists residing in other countries. All members, including Allied Members, are eligible to take part in the internal votes and deliberations of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, as we pride ourselves on our cosmopolitan, international character and see the future of humankind as gradually rendering national distinctions ever less relevant, since the transformative impact of technological progress transcends all national and ethnic boundaries and will hopefully benefit all humankind to the maximal extent possible.

The U.S. Transhumanist Party began to collect information about members’ specific jurisdictions in December 2017. This information was supplemented in the present analysis by additional information known directly to U.S. Transhumanist Party leadership regarding particular members’ jurisdictions of residence. As a result, 437 out of 1,000 members were able to be matched with a particular jurisdiction of residence, which is at presently utilized for aggregate data-analysis purposes only. The U.S. Transhumanist Party does not collect more granular residence information about its members, other than their U.S. state or non-U.S. country of residence.

Members by U.S. State
(Only members who identified their state or otherwise were known to reside there were tabulated.)

Non-U.S. Members by Country
(Only members who identified their country of residence or otherwise were known to reside there were tabulated.)

Commentary: The plurality of United States Members of the U.S. Transhumanist Party reside in California, while other states of prominent member presence include New York, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, and Washington. This is not surprising, given the concentration of technologically oriented businesses in California, as well as the high population numbers in many of the other listed states. Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon, however, appear to have higher concentrations of Transhumanist Party members relative to their populations. Allied Members have a widespread international presence and representation on almost all continents. Among non-U.S. members, the largest numbers appear to be in the United Kingdom and Canada – where transhumanists often closely interact with their counterparts in the United States – as well as India, where we attribute the prominent member presence to interest in technology, a rapidly changing society and economy, strong ties with the West through immigration and educational exchange, as well as the fact that India is now the world’s second-most populous country.  Unfortunately, the world’s most populous country, China, is only represented by one member (who recently immigrated there). We attribute this to the lack of political freedom in China and the restrictions on information access imposed by the Chinese government. While the Chinese government has numerous favorable attributes – including a pragmatic, pro-economic-growth, generally pro-technology outlook, the unfortunate inclination toward authoritarian control of the social and political spheres prevents what would have been many otherwise highly beneficial collaborations between the U.S. Transhumanist Party and residents of China.

Members by Gender

Commentary: The U.S. Transhumanist Party does not directly inquire about any member’s gender – nor does the U.S. Transhumanist Party take any position on gender issues, the origin of gender, post-genderism, or related matters – other than to affirm its commitment to inclusivity and openness to all individuals who share our Core Ideals, irrespective of their gender, gender identity or expression or lack thereof, or specific views on gender issues. However, an aggregate analysis of member composition by gender may be informative as to the extent to which the U.S. Transhumanist Party could continue to expand its reach and the effectiveness of its message.

For most members, it was possible to discern their gender by considering their names – since names are most often gender-specific – or, if the members happened to be personally known to leadership of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, this information was also utilized to accurately determine those members’ genders. For some members such a determination was not possible based on the information provided, so they were classified as “Unknown” for purposes of this analysis. This is a sufficiently small category that it was grouped with those members who are known to specifically identify as agender or non-gender.  The U.S. Transhumanist Party does not guarantee the complete accuracy of this analysis, but we are reasonably confident that at least 95% of the members’ gender was identified accurately. Based on this confidence, we can also posit that the material conclusions of the analysis would not be affected if additional or revised information about a small number of members’ gender were made available.

Male Members: 854 – 85.4%
Female Members: 133 – 13.3%
Agender Members and Members of Unknown Gender: 13 – 1.3%

There is nothing gender-specific about transhumanism, and the aspirations and values of transhumanism are aimed at benefiting all humans and other sentient entities – so, at first glance, it is rather difficult to understand why a significant apparent proportional difference by gender exists in U.S. Transhumanist Party membership counts. There is no single definitive hypothesis as to why this is presently the case. However, the existence of this difference was anecdotally known to U.S. Transhumanist Party leadership prior to this analysis, and a heuristic figure of 80% male / 20% female composition for the transhumanist movement as a whole was used in communications on this issue. It is noteworthy that, while the actual proportions are possibly closer to 86% male  /14% female, the composition of newer members (those who signed up in 2018) has been 83.4% male / 15.2% female / 1.3% unknown, so it is possible that proportionally more individuals who identify as female are becoming aware of and interested in transhumanist ideas and the work of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Furthermore, many female members of the U.S. Transhumanist Party are prominent public figures whose work appears regularly on our website and whose contributions to the actualization of our goals are highly valued.

One possibility is that the initial gender difference in U.S. Transhumanist Party membership composition is an artifact of a similar gender difference in the “tech” industry, with which many (though not all) transhumanists happen to have some association. Any gender disparities in the “tech” industry existed prior to the emergence of transhumanism and arose completely independently of transhumanism or transhumanist projects or activism. It may simply be the case that individuals in the “tech” industry are more likely to be aware of transhumanism and developments in Transhumanist politics in the first place, and it takes additional work to reach constituencies outside of the “tech” industry. Fortunately, if this interpretation is accurate, then the U.S. Transhumanist Party is one of the best available vehicles for undertaking this task, since its leadership is predominantly not culturally or organizationally tied to large technology companies or the norms of Silicon Valley, but rather tends to be substantially more diverse and independent in terms of backgrounds, skill sets, and outlooks.

Ultimately, we seek to grow our membership everywhere and work toward an entire world which identifies as transhumanist. With this, we encourage everyone, of all genders, countries, backgrounds, and skill sets, to sign up for absolutely free membership in the U.S. Transhumanist Party and begin to contribute to the progress of our mission to put science, health, and technology  at the forefront of politics and thereby create a world of indefinitely long life, universal abundance, rational and policy-oriented politics, and protection against all existential risks. The composition of our membership going forward can be affected by you.