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Will Increased Lifespans Cause Overpopulation? – Article by Elena Milova and Steve Hill

Will Increased Lifespans Cause Overpopulation? – Article by Elena Milova and Steve Hill

Elena Milova
Steve Hill

Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by our guests Elena Milova and Steve Hill, originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) on October 30, 2016. In this article, both authors provide evidence that if aging was cured, then overpopulation would not be an issue. Not only is there a common trend among industrialized nations, in which, when the citizens become healthier, wealthier, and educated, they have fewer children, but there are also projections showing that global population growth is gradually falling and will come to a halt around the time the world’s population reaches 11 billion people.
***
~ Bobby Ridge, Assistant Editor, July 3, 2019

Any discussion of rejuvenation biotechnology almost certainly includes the subject of overpopulation and the objection that medical advances that directly address the various processes of aging will lead to an overpopulated world. Such dire predictions are a common theme in many discussions involving advances in medicine that could increase human lifespans.

Overpopulation is a word that gives the simple fact of population growth a negative connotation. It implies that an increase in the number of people will harm our lives in different ways, such as famine, scarcity of resources, excessive population density, increased risks of infectious diseases, and harm to the environment.

This concern, first raised by the work of 18th century reverend and scholar Thomas Malthus, has been a constant theme in both popular fiction and early foresights related to population growth. However, is it actually well-founded? We will be taking a deeper look at the historical and present population data and showing why overpopulation is unlikely to happen.

To get you started, this video with Bill Gates summarizes some of the key points about population and why a longer-lived and healthy society is good for keeping population growth in check.

What is the population, and how will it grow in the future?

Since the 1960s, both birth rate and population growth have been gradually falling. This will probably lead to a complete halt at 11 billion people near the year 2100. Here is a chart from the United Nations Population Prospects 2015 edition showing the corresponding projections [1].

Fig 1. Population of the world: estimates, 1950-2015, medium-variant projection and 80 and 95 percent prediction intervals, 2015-2100.

Here we can see the continuous, red trend line gradually leveling out into a straight horizontal line. However, before talking about why population growth is predicted to stop, let’s investigate why the population is even growing.

In order to ensure population growth, the number of children born per year must surpass the number of deaths in a given country. Typically, a fertility rate index equal to 2.1 is enough for the population to renew without growing in numbers, but a higher birth rate will lead to stable population growth.

In the illustrations below, you can see the global map of fertility and the projection of population growth by major regions [2]

Fig 2. World Population 2010-2100 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Data Booklet. ST/ESA/SER.A/377.

Fig 3. Total fertility 2010-2015 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Data Booklet. ST/ESA/SER.A/377.

The biggest contributors to the present level of population growth globally are India and several African regions, while many countries (especially in Europe) face depopulation because of their low birth rate. In the future, most of the population growth will be due to Africa.

Our intuition may tell us that it is unlikely that the least developed countries would be producing most of the population; after all, the standards of living in developed countries make for better conditions to have more children.

However, in reality, there are many factors that can lead to a decline in birth rate during the transition to a developed country: education (access to education for women typically postpones marriage and childbirth), unemployment (families try to control their family size to use fewer resources), and access to contraceptive techniques and cultural norms of using them, to name just a few [3].

Economic development is known to affect the time of birth; for example, recession encourages childbirth later in life [4]. National policies to combine work and family life also represent an important factor that may affect fertility rate in both directions. Globalization will “deepen” (in a world-systems theory sense) the less technologically advanced countries, making it very likely that the “higher birth rate” issue in these countries will also decline.

There is supporting evidence showing that moving to an advanced, industrialized economy changes the birth rate of immigrants. The fertility rates of immigrants to the US have been found to decrease sharply in the second generation [5]. Other studies demonstrate that the presence of immigrants does not compensate for declining birth rates [6].

Fig 4. Declining birth rate leads to gradual slow down of the population growth. The chart shows a UN projection in population size change in percent until 2100 for major regions[7].

The relationship between the level of the development of a country and fertility can be seen in the next chart. It is worth noting that when the Human Development Index (HDI) becomes higher than 0.85, country development starts promoting the birth rate again [8]. However, this kind of situation is very rare, historically, and therefore not significant enough to shape global population projections.

Fig 5.  Fertility vs HDI Index. Data source: United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), UN – Population Division (Fertility), 2015 Revision, Gapminder. Source: OurWorldInData.org/fertility/.

Thus, the least developed countries are more likely to have higher birth rates because people there have no reason to postpone childbirth, nor are measures for contraception widely accessible. The only factor holding back population growth in these regions may be the high level of child mortality and overall mortality due to infectious diseases and undernourishment.

With sustainable development goals focused on the solution of both problems, Africa has the potential to become the biggest human factory in our history. However, taking into account how fast fertility rates can fall because of the adoption of new technologies, this is far from certain.

Fig 6.  How long did it take for fertility to fall from more than 6 children per woman to fewer than 3 children per woman?  Data source: The data on the total fertility rate is taken from the Gapminder fertility dataset (version 6)  and the World Bank World Development Indicators. Source: OurWorldInData.org.

But won’t we run out of space?

In all projected future scenarios for Africa, its population will continue to grow. Today, there are 7.4 billion people on Earth. We are used to thinking that this is already too much, but is that true? First of all, let’s see how much space on Earth we humans actually take up. In 2012, the team of the project “Per Square Mile” led by Tim de Chant produced an infographic showing how big a city would have to be to house the world’s 7 billion people.

The city limits change drastically depending on which real city is used as the model and what its population density is, but this still gives us an idea of how much of our beautiful planet is really inhabited and how much spare space we still have.

If the projection of population growth by the United Nations is correct, in the next 84 years, there will be about 11 billion people. This means that if all of humanity were concentrated in a land area with a population density similar to New York, it would at most occupy the size of 3 US states by 2100.

2012                                                         2100

Fig 7.  7 bln city with population density of New York/11 bln city with the same population density. From the “Per Square Mile” project by Tim de Chant. Note: the picture at right is modified by the article authors to illustrate the potential growth. The state of Texas is about 700,000 square kilometers, which corresponds to about 7 billion people. The states of Texas, New Mexico (about 315,000 km^2), and Louisiana (about 135,000 km^2) combined represent 1,150,000 square kilometers, which corresponds to about 11.5 billion people by 2100.

Does this mean that population growth is not an issue? From the point of view of the space we humans need, likely so. However, our species’ survival is dependent on many other factors, such as the environment necessary to produce our food and other goods.

Are we going to run out of food?

We should admit that it is about fifty years too late to be concerned about extensive population growth and its consequences, such as famine, because the highest birth rate and population growth was observed from the 1960s to the 1980s. Our population grew by one billion people in just 14 years (going from 3 to 4 billion); however, no big societal or economic challenges were encountered.

Moreover, the next two billion increases in population appeared in 13 and 12 years, respectively [9], but once again, no famine caused by the deficiency of global food production followed [10]. The famines of the second half of the 20th century were provoked by how the food was distributed. Factors such as administrative incompetence of local governments, wars and natural disasters happening several years in a row played the greatest role in creating famine during this period.

Today, global society is taking measures to eradicate hunger worldwide by 2030. This is very likely to be the case, as the number of people suffering from hunger is decreasing fast. In 2012, it was one in eight, while in 2015, it was already one in nine, which corresponds to 795 million people. Below, you can see the Hunger Map by the World Food Program illustrating the progress.

Fig 8. FAO, IFAD and WFP. 2015. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015. Meeting the 2015 international hunger targets: taking stock of uneven progress. Rome, FAO. Sources: www.fao.org/publications/sofi/en/ Undernourishment data: FAO Statistics Division (ESS) – www.fao.org/economic/ess

If we compare the food supply in 1965 and in 2007, we can clearly see that overeating is more of a global issue than undernourishment, as in most countries, the calorie intake has grown significantly. This could not have happened if our society was suffering from food underproduction, as the food would not be available to overeat, and problems such as obesity would not be so prevalent.

Fig 9.  Food supply 1965 vs 2007 Source: Gapminder statistics (www.gapminder.org/)

Astoundingly, this means that a population explosion has passed relatively unnoticed – all thanks to the “Green Revolution” (rapid development of new agriculture techniques, such as fertilizers, irrigation and selection). The concern that there will be a food shortage in the future neglects further technological advances such as aquaponics, hydroponics, aeroponics, vertical farming, 3D-printed housing, algae farms, and many other technologies that could provide enough food for all.

The need for more food production represents an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs, so it is unlikely that the development process of new technologies would suddenly stop, especially taking into account the objective need for rapid changes due to environmental issues.

According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Livestock’s long shadow”, in 2006, livestock represented the biggest of all anthropogenic (i.e., due to human activity and with potentially harmful side effects) land uses, taking up to 70% of all agricultural land and 30% of the ice-free terrestrial surface of the planet [11].

Scientists admit that while it is still possible to expand agricultural land in some countries in accordance with the increasing need for food, this expansion cannot go beyond the limits of the carrying capacity of our planet. The report states that livestock is responsible for about 18% of the global warming effect, 9% of total carbon dioxide emissions, 37% of methane and 65% of nitrous oxide. Water use for livestock represents about 8% of all human water use (7% of this being used for feed irrigation).

New technologies can provide solutions for the numerous environmental issues related to traditional farming. For instance, hydroponics offers around 11 times higher yields while requiring 10 times less water than conventional agriculture [12]. The energy needs of a hydroponic facility are much higher (up to 80 times more), but thanks to emerging clean renewable energy technologies, this increased demand may not be an issue [13].

Today, there are many companies engaged in the creation of lab-grown meat, such as Supermeat and Memphis Meats. Making a laboratory into a farm is beneficial in many ways, starting from less pollution and fewer greenhouse gas emissions (mostly caused by animal digestion processes).

Sterile conditions in the lab lead to decreased risk of infections and allow the exclusion of antibiotics from the process of meat production. Lab-grown meat can be designed to contain less fat or even fats and proteins with new characteristics (for instance, essential Omega fatty acids).

With less space necessary for laboratory meat production and no waste, it will be possible to ensure disseminated local production in order to cut transportation time and reduce the usage of preservatives. The same system can be used to grow fish meat as well, thus reducing the impact of fishing and fish-farming on the environment. It is interesting to note that not only meat but also other animal-derived products, such as leather, can be produced in a lab, like is done by Modern Meadow.

There are attempts to create new edible products that taste like meat but are completely without animal ingredients, such as Impossible Foods. The recently created vegan ‘Bloody Burger’ by Impossible Foods “uses 95% less land, 74% less water and emits 87% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than its cattle-derived counterpart”. By concentrating on the heme molecule, the mixture apparently “looks like meat, tastes like meat and sizzles like meat“.

These solutions are also great from an ethical point of view, as this technology can reduce animal suffering. The rate of transition to these new ways of animal product creation is widely dependent on political will and social support. It is important to note that there is also significant progress regarding access to drinking water. During the Millennium Development Goals period (1990-2015), it is estimated that, globally, use of improved drinking water sources rose from 76 per cent to 91 per cent. 2.6 billion people have gained access to an improved drinking water source since 1990.

The MDG target of 88 per cent was surpassed in 2010, and in 2015, 6.6 billion people used an improved drinking water source. There are now only three countries (all located in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania) with less than 50 per cent coverage, compared with 23 in 1990 [14]. New technologies for cheap water desalination and water collection from the air are also helping to improve the situation.

If population growth is not exactly an issue, then what is?

What we really should be concerned about is the age structure of the population. Regardless of the level of technological development, its core are the people of working age who are producing goods, paying taxes, and supporting the non-working groups, such as children and the elderly – the latter needing the most resources because of the state of their health.

Due to population aging, the share of working-age people is shrinking while the share of people who are at least 60 years old is growing. Population structure change is the most evident in Europe and Northern America, while the “Global South” has not experienced it yet – but will experience it in the next few decades.

Fig 10. Percentage of population in broad age groups by major area in 2015. Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Data Booklet. ST/ESA/SER.A/377

Soon, one third of the population worldwide is going to be aged sixty or over, which means more social protection and healthcare expenditures and more working age people involved in nursing the elderly. However, it would be wrong and unjust to see the elderly as a burden, while these people have contributed so much to the incredible progress that our society has made.

They have all the same human rights as everyone, including the right to life and right to health. As age-related health deterioration is the main reason why society has to provide so much support to the elderly, it would be only logical to see the development of rejuvenation biotechnologies as the way to improve the situation.

What would life be like if we introduced rejuvenation technologies globally?

Before the era of universal medicine, people who managed to reach their sixties were still in relatively good health. However, once the onset of age-related diseases began, they died very quickly.

Modern medicine has changed that by slowing down the development of age-related diseases, hence extending the period of productivity. The downside is that this has also extended the period of illness, because treatments to prevent age-related diseases are not yet introduced into universal clinical practice.

In the near future, new interventions to slow down the aging process will become accessible, and then a shift will occur: the period of youth and adulthood will be extended due to better health, and the period of illness will be significantly postponed. In their sixties, people will remain as strong and vital as 40-year-old people are today. Some leading scientists predict that this may also lead to maximum lifespan increases of up to 150 years or more.

This is, of course, hard to prove, because as with many other things in human history, it is a unique situation that has never happened before, but some studies have proposed how aging would look given these three scenarios [15].

Fig 11. A:Pre Universal Medicine, B: Current medicine, C: Slowing aging. Source: Blagosklonny, M. V. (2012). How to save Medicare: the anti-aging remedy. Aging (Albany NY), 4(8), 547-52.

Whilst it is too early to be overly optimistic, we still should mention that apart from these three scenarios, there is a fourth possibility called negligible senescence. Negligible senescence in nature happens when a species does not display signs of aging, regardless of the passage of time. A number of species exhibit negligible senescence, including the rougheye rockfish (Sebastes aleutianus).

The ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) and some kinds of turtles are also negligibly senescent, but they still die because the expansion of their shell ultimately limits their movement. More examples can be found here at the excellent HAGR (Human Ageing Genomic Resources) database.

At some point in time, medical technologies may become so sophisticated that they will be able to bring all of the processes of aging under medical control. If that is the case, then aging will always remain at a subclinical stage, because the repairs to our bodies will keep up the pace with damage accumulation, allowing people to look and feel young for an indefinite period of time.

Most likely, it will take decades for medical science to progress this far, but we should also admit that some of the technologies necessary for this transition already exist, e.g., stem cell therapies, early nanorobots, CRISPR and gene therapies, immunotherapies, senolytics, and geroprotectors (drugs that slow down the aging process).

How will increased lifespan affect population growth?

The possibility of significant life extension using medical interventions was not even considered by the academic community until recent years, so there were not many projections of how increased lifespans and negligible senescence would affect population growth. However, a few years ago, such a projection was done for Sweden.

One of the more realistic scenarios is one where only a small share of the population accepts negligible senescence technologies at the beginning (this could be due to a slow dissemination process, ethical or religious objections that people have to overcome, or a high cost of the new technology) with a gradual increase (1% added to the negligibly senescent group each year). It is assumed that some small share of the population will never accept these technologies and will age in the traditional way.

In this case, population change in Sweden will not lead to population growth but can, to some extent, mitigate the process of depopulation over 100 years of medical innovations [16].

Fig 12. Population projection for a scenario of growing acceptance of antiaging interventions. Projection of the Swedish population until year 2105, assuming the negligible senescence scenario for initially small proportion of population (10%), with growing acceptance rate over time. Life extension interventions start at age 60 years, with 30-year time delay from now.

This might be the likely scenario in most developed countries. Taking into account that new technologies tend to be expensive even for developed countries’ middle classes, the developing countries most possibly will reach the same level of implementation later in time, when their fertility rate will be already affected by the index of development. In this case, the fall of their population growth will be smaller due to decreased population mortality.

In a more optimistic scenario, where all the population has access to negligible senescence technologies and they are applied to everyone who is at least 60 years old, population growth in 70 years will be around 22%. The earlier the application, the bigger the population growth. If negligible senescence technologies are applied at the age of 40, then the estimated population growth will be nearly 47% in 70 years.

Fig 13. Projection of the Swedish population until the year 2105, assuming the negligible senescence scenario. Life extension interventions start at age 60 years, with a 30-year time delay from now.

There are three main conclusions we can make based on this data.

  1. The growing share of people using negligible senescence technologies could help optimize the balance between workforce and retirees, hence maintaining economic development. People who are at least 65 years old will be about one-third of the global population in 2100, so we are talking about 3-4 billion old people who could be healthy and productive or ill and frail, depending on which strategy that global society implements.
  2. Negligible senescence is a synonym of good health, which means that the burden of age-related diseases and their social consequences will be mostly eliminated.
  3. Population growth, surprisingly, will not be as dramatic as is often imagined, leaving a significant period of time for adaptation, adequate measures of population growth control, and new territories’ development.

Is mitigating aging not only a need but also a legal obligation?

Even if negligible senescence remains a long-term goal, the emerging technologies to address the various aging processes [17] represent a unique opportunity to maintain older people in good health, allowing them to enjoy healthier lives, remain active, learn new skills, and contribute to the development of society. We owe them our present well-being. Not only have these people contributed a lot to create the things we have now, including better nutrition, healthcare, and a comfortable and safe habitat, they have also worked hard to change traditions and wisdom and helped to carry the concept of equal human rights forwards. This is why it is especially poignant to understand that geroprotective technologies and their potential are being underestimated and that they are not receiving the level of social approval and support that they rightly deserve.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Constitution, the objective of the WHO is “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health”. It is worth noting that WHO defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” [18]. While this definition may seem quite spacious, it was made this way purposefully to ensure that member states’ activities in improving the health of their people would never stop.

Conclusion

The need for constant improvement of health is now a universal consensus.

Aging represents the root cause of severe diseases, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke, Parkinson’s, heart disease, COPD, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis and atherosclerosis, leading to disability of the elderly and to a wide range of negative social consequences, which makes it the perfect target for the global healthcare system [19].

These diseases can only be cured if the actual aging processes are directly addressed and halted while the damage is repaired or reversed by medical interventions. Therefore, according to WHO and United Nations policy, this means that global society has an obligation to eventually cancel aging in order to achieve the highest possible level of health for all people.

Literature

  1. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Volume II: Demographic Profiles (ST/ESA/SER.A/380).
  2. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Data Booklet. ST/ESA/SER.A/377.
  3. Mather, M. (2012). Fact sheet: The decline in US fertility. Population Reference Bureau, World Population Data Sheet.
  4. Lanzieri, G. (2013). Towards a ‘baby recession’ in Europe?. Europe (in million), 16(16.655), 16-539.
  5. Nargund, G. (2009). Declining birth rate in Developed Countries: A radical policy re-think is required. FV & V in ObGyn, 1, 191-3.
  6. Camarota, S., & Ziegler, K. (2015). The Declining Fertility of Immigrants and Natives. Center for Immigration Studies.
  7. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. ESA/P/WP.241.
  8. Myrskylä, M., Kohler, H. P., & Billari, F. C. (2009). Advances in development reverse fertility declines. Nature, 460(7256), 741-743.
  9. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (1999). The World At Six Billion. ESA/P/WP.154.
  10. Gráda, C. Ó. (2007). Making famine history. Journal of Economic Literature, 45(1), 5-38.
  11. FAO, U., & Steinfeld, H. (2006). Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental issues and options. Rome:[sn].
  12. Barbosa, G. L., Gadelha, F. D. A., Kublik, N., Proctor, A., Reichhelm, L., Weissinger, E., … & Halden, R. U. (2015). Comparison of land, water, and energy requirements of lettuce grown using hydroponic vs. conventional agricultural methods. International journal of environmental research and public health, 12(6), 6879-6891.
  13. REN21. 2016. Renewables 2016 Global Status Report (Paris: REN21 Secretariat).
  14. Unicef. (2015). Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment. World Health Organization: Geneva, Switzerland.
  15. Blagosklonny, M. V. (2012). How to save Medicare: the anti-aging remedy. Aging (Albany NY), 4(8), 547-52.
  16. Gavrilov, L. A., & Gavrilova, N. S. (2010). Demographic consequences of defeating aging. Rejuvenation research, 13(2-3), 329-334.
  17. López-Otín, Carlos et al.(2013). Hallmarks of Aging. Cell , Volume 153 , Issue 6 , 1194 – 1217
  18. World Health Organization. (2014). Basic documents. World Health Organization.
  19. Kennedy, B. K., Berger, S. L., Brunet, A., Campisi, J., Cuervo, A. M., Epel, E. S., … & Rando, T. A. (2014). Aging: a common driver of chronic diseases and a target for novel interventions. Cell, 159(4), 709.
Elena Milova: As a devoted advocate of rejuvenation technologies since 2013, Elena 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.
***
Steve Hill: Steve serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor-in-Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 500 articles on the topic as well as attending various medical industry conferences. In 2019 he was listed in the top 100 journalists covering biomedicine and longevity research in the industry report – Top-100 Journalists covering advanced biomedicine and longevity created by the Aging Analytics Agency. His work has been featured in H+ Magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, Keep Me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project. In 2015 he led the Major Mouse Testing Program (MMTP) for the International Longevity Alliance and in 2016 helped the team of the SENS Research Foundation to reach their goal for the OncoSENS campaign for cancer research.

Interview of Dr. José Luis Cordeiro by Elena Milova

Interview of Dr. José Luis Cordeiro by Elena Milova

Elena Milova
José Luis Cordeiro


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this interview of Dr. José Luis Cordeiro by Elena Milova at LeafScience.Org, originally published on their site on April 19, 2019.  Dr. Cordeiro is working to foster transhumanist-friendly political policies in Spain, a goal supported by the U.S. Transhumanist Party as part of our policy objectives.

~ Brent Reitze, Director of Publication, United States Transhumanist Party, May 1st, 2019


At Undoing Aging 2019, jointly organized by SENS Research Foundation and Forever Healthy Foundation, there was a session focused on the ways to make healthy life extension and medical progress a greater part of the global agenda. Among the speakers there was Jose Cordeiro, the vice chair of Humanity Plus, director of The Millennium Project, fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, and board member of the Lifeboat Foundation.

Jose earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His thesis was focused on the modeling of the International Space Station. Jose has also studied International Economics and Comparative Politics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and received his MBA in France at INSEAD, where he focused on Finance and Globalization.

Last year, Jose decided to begin his political activities in order to foster the development of rejuvenation biotechnologies in Spain and to work on the integration of Latin American immigrants into Spain’s aging society and thus maintain the country’s productivity. He kindly agreed to give me an interview to discuss more about his ambitious initiative.

Hello, Jose, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. You are currently beginning your campaign to win several seats in the European parliament. This is a very unusual situation, because it’s still rare that transhumanist ideas like significant life extension are part of a political agenda. Before we dig into your political program, I would really want to know more about you as a person and what kind of experiences led you to becoming a transhumanist in the first place. Please tell us a few things about your childhood; what life events or books helped you to develop the vision that you have right now?

My family is from Spain. During the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, this country became very poor, and that pushed my family to consider moving to Venezuela. At the time, Venezuela was a prosperous country, so we had moved, and I grew up there. When I was a little child, there was no color TV; it was black and white back then. I remember that the first transmission in color was the moon landing of the Apollo mission. I was so fascinated by the idea that man had gone to the moon and also by the color picture, even though the moon was mostly gray. That sparked my interest in science fiction. My mother gave me books by Jules Verne. To me, he was an idol; I loved his writing. Then, there were other writers, like Isaac Asimov and Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who helped me develop my imagination.

When I was older, I even went to meet Sir Arthur C. Clarke in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It turned out that he had a scuba diving center in Indonesia. You see, he believed that going into outer space and going into the ocean were the ultimate experiences and that they both showed how weak our bodies were. To me, it was one more piece of proof that we really need technology to survive in outer space or in the oceans. I had an opportunity to invite him to talk at the transhumanist conference that I had organized. That was really beautiful.

Speaking of the other books, I also read Robert Heinlein’s books on Mars, and all of this combined really made me go into engineering. I decided to go to MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and I majored in engineering in order to be able to participate in all these fascinating projects of mankind in space. I have been very lucky to have four Nobel laureates among my teachers, and I’ve been always following future trends. Since that time, I read the books of the Club of Rome and the World Future Society. There were many magazines about science, such as Popular Mechanics, Computer World, and others. Then, I learned about Extropians and the World Transhumanist Association when it was being created, and I learned a lot from this community, too.

I lived three years in Japan and four years in California. Then, I met Ray Kurzweil at MIT, as he was one of its board members. He’s a fantastic person, and I read all his books, the Age of intelligent machines was the first one, and then in 1998-99, he published the Age of Spiritual Machines, where he makes all his forecasts of the future.

It seems to me that there is still a huge gap between technology, which involves developing all sorts of machines and engineering, and life sciences, rejuvenation research, and life extension. What were your ideas or some events in your life that actually made you look into this direction as well?

Because of my science fiction reading and my training at MIT, I have been very much a technologist, futurist, and transhumanist. Like Ray Kurzweil, I believe that we will transcend the biological condition and move into a post-biological condition. Arthur C. Clarke said that we are carbon-based bipeds and that we should actually evolve and transcend.

I was not particularly interested in longevity and rejuvenation technologies until 1999-2000, when a friend of mine died. Also, sadly, my father died in 2013, and that really affected my life and my views. I was living in California back when the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela had happened. My father died of something that no one dies of today, which is a lack of access to dialysis. The crisis was so bad that there were no medical services, no food, no clean water, no electricity, no gasoline in the country with the largest oil reserves on the planet. My family had to witness how a bad government can destroy a country and put a whole nation into misery. I consider myself lucky that I managed to take my mother from Venezuela back to Spain, and I am so happy that she is alive. Then I decided to stay in Spain and work internationally.

I am traveling around the globe, as I am giving lectures at major universities in many countries. As you know, I teach in two universities in Moscow: in the MIPT and in the Higher School of Economics. I also teach in universities in Japan and in Korea, focusing on several main topics that are important for shaping the global agenda in a reasonable way. In the Higher School of Economics, I talk about technologies, because economists need to know about emerging technologies, while the MIPT is just the opposite; I talk more about the future of economics, the world moving from scarcity to abundance, and how technology can help with that. I talk about energy, about the necessity to switch from fossil fuels to renewables. Actually, I coined the word ‘energularity’: it’s an unlimited amount of energy that we can use for our needs. I talk about longevity, rejuvenation, regenerative medicine, the possibility to control aging and remain healthy for as long as we want. I am teaching the young generation of leaders how to build the future of global prosperity, and I decided to bring my knowledge and my vision to the political arena, too.

Could you please tell our readers about the pillars of your political program? What are the specific goals that you are going to focus on?

Two main things that I plan to focus on are the healthy longevity of the Spanish population and the integration of immigrants from Latin America. Let me explain why I consider these two topics extremely important and how they are intertwined.

Spain, as you know, is one of the countries with the highest life expectancy in the world. Our people live very long. However, this also means that our population is aging; there is a large and fast-growing share of people who are 65 years old and older, which is now over 20%, and these people have age-related chronic diseases. The medicine of the 20th century cannot restore health, and there are many age-related diseases that remain incurable, causing enormous amount of human suffering. However, it was recently proven in animal studies that by directly targeting the processes of aging, the root causes of aging, we could learn how to cure these diseases, reverse aging, and ensure better health and productivity in later life. If we support scientific research on the mechanisms of aging, we can develop cures for people very soon; in the next 10 years, there will already be several therapies of a new type that will be able to slow down and even partially reverse aging.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, Volume II: Demographic Profiles

So, healthy longevity for the Spanish population is my primary focal point. I have three very clear targets. The first is the creation of the European Institute on Aging to work on the problem of aging and on the latest rejuvenation biotechnologies and to put together all the knowledge in different areas and different countries to give our aging society innovative treatments as soon as possible.

The second target is the development of more flexible regulations. I actually like to say that Americans invent things, the Chinese or the Japanese improve things, and the Europeans regulate. Sadly, there is overregulation all over Europe. Let me give you an example. In Japan, if you have already done phase two of human clinical trials, which means that you have already proven that the treatment is safe and it works, even if the experimental group in phase two is not large, a patient can get those treatments, especially if the patient is in critical condition, or, even worse, terminal condition. People in Japan have a chance to use the innovation and a chance to overcome the disease. You can do that in Japan but not in Europe, despite the fact that the pace of population aging in Japan and in Europe is the same; we have many old people around.

The third target is an increase in the science and technology budget of the European Union. For the next framework program, which is called Horizon Europe, beginning in 2021, the budget is expected to increase to 100 billion euros, but I think it should be increased even more, to 120 billion. The projects sponsored by Horizon Europe should be more also focused on regenerative biotechnologies in order to cope with the massive population aging and population decline.

So, you would like to contribute to the creation of a coordination center on aging research, appropriate funding for this research, and on regulatory improvement in order to ensure that the emerging rejuvenation biotechnologies can be available as soon as possible?

That is right, and I have done a great deal preparing the ground for these improvements. As you know, as a proponent of healthy life extension, I have organized many scientific conferences in Spain, and I have invited international luminaries from the field of aging research, such as Dr. Aubrey de Grey, who was the first to recognize the mechanisms of aging as new therapeutic targets.

I have always tried to spread the word about the work of our brilliant Spanish scientists, and I have also written several books on this topic to educate the public on this matter and to allow more people to benefit from the development of rejuvenation technologies; the last one of my 13 books is currently a bestseller in Spain called La Muerte De La Muerte (The Death of Death).

Yes, I have seen it – are you planning to have it translated into other languages?

Yes, it is coming out now in Portuguese, then in Korean, and then in other languages. I hope that there will also be English and Russian translations soon enough.

However, this is only one part of my program. The other one is based on the other pressing issues of Spain. You have heard the motto of my campaign, #SomosMIEL – MIEL stands for ‘Movimiento Independiente EuroLatino’ (the Independent EuroLatino Movement).  Because of the crisis in Latin America, and especially Venezuela, Spain has become a home for many immigrants; around 10% of the Spanish population are immigrants. Think about it. The native Spanish population is aging, our population is declining, and our workforce is shrinking. The immigrants are people with a similar cultural and religious background, who speak Spanish perfectly, and who have a good education and could contribute to the development of the country much better if we removed certain barriers and restrictions.

First, I think we need to eliminate the Schengen visa for people in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Bolivia, at least in the case of family reunification. Next, I would focus on extending the approved period of being an independent worker from one to five years. The third target is to contribute to the homologation of titles and degrees in education. When all these immigrants come, even though we speak the same language, their degrees are not accepted. There is already a good precedent of solving this problem in Europe with the Bologna Declaration, the agreement that allows homologation of all titles in Europe. However, now we have to take this to the international level and certainly with Latin America.

There is one more question that I plan to work on: the recognition of Spanish as one of the official languages of the European Union. Spanish is the second most frequently spoken language in the world after Chinese. It is not even recognized in the European Union, which has only three official working languages: English, French, and German.

As we are moving towards a world that is more and more strongly connected, I think it makes perfect sense to facilitate communication and exchange of valuable knowledge and experience between the major regions, such as Spain, the European Union, Latin America, and the United States. There are 50 million Spanish speakers in the United States.

So, technically, what you’re trying to achieve with your program is to remove the barriers that prevent Spanish-speaking society from acting as a whole. One example is the integration of immigrants from Latin America, and the other one is the improvement of cross-border communication by making Spanish an official language of the European Union. I find that fascinating. Because, as we all know, there are these global challenges that we’re dealing with, like climate change, pollution, lack of renewable energy, and population aging, and they require global cooperation. The barriers become increasingly unwelcome, I would say, because these problems just cannot be solved at the level of one country. I find it a very valuable social experiment.

Yeah, that’s a beautiful way to put it. However, we have a long way to go. We live in a world of abundance that is full of opportunities brought to us by technological progress, and it is quite disappointing that we still have poverty, we still have suffering from aging, and we still find ourselves witnessing humanitarian crises like the one in Venezuela that killed my father. Five million Venezuelans have been forced to leave the country, five million. This is not a small number, and we still don’t know how to deal with it in a way that these people can have the decent lives that they deserve. We need to learn how to not leave anyone behind. We have to become more compassionate. This could happen to any country, like it happened to Germany during Hitler’s government. We have to collaborate to make sure that we will not make the same mistakes ever again. We live at the borderline between a fantastic positive future and a horrible, terrible past, and we have to move forward, positively contribute to it, and create a better society, a better world for everybody.

What insights would you like to share with our readers?

Life is so beautiful; it is a fantastic gift. I think everybody should enjoy life, should have a chance to improve and extend life and to do more things. I speak five languages, and I’d want to speak ten if I had the time. I have been to 137 countries, and I would like to go to two hundred more. I would like to write and read more books, watch many movies, and listen to so much more music, and there is no time. Time is so valuable. Ask yourself, who could you become if you had another century of healthy life? Therefore, we need more lifetime so that we can enjoy more, develop and reinvent ourselves to become better people, and make this world a better place. Going into politics for me is my reinvention. I think that I have enough experience to take all these fascinating academic findings and ideas professionally into politics and to make a difference. That is my mission: to bring healthy longevity and profound social integration to Spain. Wish me luck.

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.

New FDA Regenerative Medicine Framework is Win-Win for Gene Therapies – Article by Keith Comito and Elena Milova

New FDA Regenerative Medicine Framework is Win-Win for Gene Therapies – Article by Keith Comito and Elena Milova

Elena Milova
Keith Comito


Editor’s Note: In this article, Keith Comito and Elena Milova positively discuss new a FDA regulatory framework on RMAT (regenerative medicine advanced therapies) and on how it benefits the healthy-life-extension community. This article was originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF).

                   ~ Kenneth Alum, Director of  Publication, U.S. Transhumanist Party, March 3, 2018

Back in November 2017, the FDA announced a comprehensive policy framework for the development and oversight of regenerative medicine products, including novel cellular therapies. Both draft guidance documents had 90-day comment periods, and we at LEAF joined forces with the Niskanen Center to submit comments to the FDA to ensure that the voice of the community for healthy life extension was heard. These new regulations could have considerable implications for the therapies and technologies being developed as part of the biomedical gerontology field.

The first draft guidance addresses how the FDA intends to optimize its regulatory requirements for devices used in the recovery, isolation, and delivery of RMATs (regenerative medicine advanced therapies), including combination products.

The second document explains what expedited programs may be available to sponsors of regenerative medicine therapies and describes what therapies may be eligible for RMAT designation.

According to new FDA regulations, a drug is eligible for designation as an RMAT if:

  • The drug is a regenerative medicine therapy, which is defined as a cell therapy, therapeutic tissue engineering product, human cell and tissue product, or any combination product using such therapies or products, except for those regulated solely under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act and part 1271 of Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations;
  • The drug is intended to treat, modify, reverse, or cure a serious or life-threatening disease or condition; and
  • Preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug has the potential to address unmet medical needs for such disease or condition

We hope that this joint project will support the improvement of US regulations that concern these innovative treatments and will make the overall regulatory landscape more friendly. Below, we cite the most important notes from our resulting paper.

Last week, the Niskanen Center joined with the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation in filing comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), offering our support for the agency’s new regenerative medicine advanced therapy (RMAT) designation draft guidance for industry.

Although there are opportunities for marginal improvements to the guidance, and FDA approval processes more generally, we are happy to see that the agency chose to include gene therapies in its interpretation of what qualifies as a regenerative medicine therapy.

Under section 3033 of the 21st Century Cures Act, the FDA was tasked with developing an accelerated approval process for regenerative advanced therapies. Such therapies would qualify for expedited review and approval so long as the drug (a) met the definition of a regenerative medicine therapy, (b) was “intended to treat, modify, reverse, or cure a serious condition,” and (c) “has the potential to address unmet medical needs” for a serious disease or condition. Unfortunately, the bill’s definition of a regenerative medicine advanced therapy was unclear on whether gene therapies, in particular, would qualify. Luckily, the FDA clarified this point. As the RMAT guidance document notes:

gene therapies, including genetically modified cells, that lead to a durable modification of cells or tissues may meet the definition of a regenerative medicine therapy. Additionally, a combination product (biologic-device, biologic-drug, or biologic-device-drug) can be eligible for RMAT designation when the biological product component provides the greatest contribution to the overall intended therapeutic effects of the combination product.

This is an excellent development and one that portends immense benefits for future gene therapy applications submitted for FDA approval. According to the guidance, the new RMAT designation, unlike other fast-track approval and review processes, “does not require evidence to indicate that the drug may offer a substantial improvement over available therapies.” Liberalizing the threshold standards of evidence for RMAT designation ensures that future gene therapies will encounter fewer unnecessary roadblocks in delivering more effective and innovative treatments for individuals suffering from debilitating diseases.

As we note in our concluding remarks:

Overall, we consider the RMAT guidance to be a stellar improvement over other expedited programs, especially in its qualifying criteria. However, greater clarity is needed in order to capture the benefits of more advanced cell therapies that can help contribute to the healthy aging and well-being of American citizens. As FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb recently noted: “The benefits of [gene therapy] science—and the products that become available—are likely to accelerate. How we define the modern framework for safely advancing these opportunities will determine whether we’re able to fully realize the benefits that these new technologies can offer.”

We agree wholeheartedly. Developing a regulatory framework that accommodates safety and innovation will be a key determinant of how quickly the benefits of regenerative medicine, gene therapy, and anti-aging research revolutionize the lives of Americans. This guidance is an important and promising step in the right direction. With the right modifications, it can help usher in a new age of healthcare improvement for individuals from all walks of life.

Read the full comments submitted to the FDA here.

Source: Niskanen Center

About Elena Milova

As a devoted advocate of rejuvenation technologies since 2013, Elena 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.

About Keith Comito

Keith Comito is President of LEAF / Lifespan.io and a long-time advocate of longevity research. He is also a computer programmer, mathematician, musician, lover of life and perhaps a man with too many hobbies. He earned a B.S. in Mathematics, B.S. in Computer science, and M.S. in Applied Mathematics at Hofstra University, where his work included analysis of the LMNA protein.

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.

World Health Organization Puts the Elderly Back in the Picture – Article by Elena Milova

World Health Organization Puts the Elderly Back in the Picture – Article by Elena Milova

Elena Milova


Editor’s Note: In this article, Miss Elena Milova explains the success the anti-aging community has had in influencing policy makers at the WHO in including several provisions related to aging, in their global strategy and action plans of the next decade. This article was originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF).

                   ~ Kenneth Alum, Director of  Publication, U.S. Transhumanist Party, January 27, 2018

Not long ago, we wrote about some complications involving the WHO 13th programme of work. In the initial version of this document, developed by the WHO working group in November 2017, the problems of the elderly were nearly completely overlooked. The joint effort of our community helped to bring this critical flaw to public attention.

During the meeting of the working group, it was announced that 90% of the comments received by WHO (out of 400) pointed out the need to set healthy aging as one of the priorities of the new programme of work. However, we didn’t know if our demand to focus on the implementation of the global strategy and action plan on aging and health would be fulfilled.

The good news is that the new draft programme published on the WHO site on November 5th includes several provisions related to aging. Our community managed to persuade these global policymakers to implement all activities listed in the global strategy to help society prepare for the Decade of Healthy Aging (2020-2030). Let’s have a closer look at these provisions.

15. The foundation of WHO’s work is SDG 3: ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. WHO is an organization focused principally on promoting health rather than merely fighting disease, and especially on improving health among vulnerable populations and reducing inequities. Leaving no-one behind, the Organization aims to give women and men, girls and boys, in all social groups, the opportunity to live not just long but also healthy lives. WHO will explore measuring this foundation of its work using healthy life expectancy, which could serve as one overarching measure aligned with SDG 3, complemented by the triple billion goal, which leads to three more specific priorities, each with overlapping one-billion people goals.

Healthy life expectancy (HALE) is an assessment of the period of time a person can live in full health. HALE is usually lower than total life expectancy, and the difference between HALE and total life expectancy is regarded as years of life lost to disease.

As the goal of our community is to prolong the healthy period of life by addressing the root mechanisms of aging and postponing age-related disease, the introduction of HALE as a way to measure WHO activities is a very good outcome. It is very hard to preserve health in older ages without addressing the underlying mechanisms of aging and implementing an extensive program that involves educating the public about healthy lifestyles. This choice of indicator means that WHO will strengthen its efforts to keep people healthy for as long as possible, which will ease the introduction of rejuvenation interventions once they are available, as it will likely be a cost-effective way to achieve a more favorable HALE.

16. Life expectancy at birth has consistently increased since the 19th century, largely due to socioeconomic developments and public health measures such as vaccination, nutrition and
sanitation. Today, socioeconomic, political, cultural, environmental and economic forces continue to drive changes in the burden of disease. However, efforts are needed to ensure that their impact is positive. Poor health literacy coupled with weak health-promoting policies make it difficult for people to make healthy choices for themselves and their families. Investment in health promotion and disease prevention allows countries to address economic concerns about the rising costs of the health system and enables potential savings if disease can be avoided.

The WHO draft programme of work refers here to the increasing burden of chronic, non-communicable diseases due to the increasing proportion of people age 60 and over. Indeed, it would be really hard to double or even triple healthcare and pension expenditures for many countries, especially taking into account the ongoing economic crisis. However, this is what aging societies will have to do, if HALE does not grow faster.

This is why WHO is only promoting evidence-based interventions that represent the “best buy” scenarios: the most realistic and cost-effective. When it comes to age-related diseases, which can last 20-30 years or longer, prevention could be much cheaper, and it is more humane, as this scenario would reduce unnecessary human suffering. Therefore, we could consider this provision of the new draft programme as supporting our efforts to introduce longevity lifestyles and even “soft” (careful and evidence-based) biohacking.

17. Healthy life expectancy has not increased at the same pace as life expectancy, and increasing age often brings increasing morbidity and reduced functioning, making healthy ageing an important focus. Most disability-adjusted life years in older age are attributable to chronic conditions and the accumulated impact of such conditions can lead to significant loss in function and care dependence in older age. At the same time, there is emerging evidence that healthy ageing depends on early childhood development and is epigenetically determined. Ensuring healthy ageing is an urgent challenge in all countries.

This provision once again underlines how important it is to focus on prevention. I would like to point out that if childhood is perceived as the foundation of healthy lifestyles, longevity advocates receive carte blanche for working with the younger generation. Activists could think of developing corresponding education programs for schools and universities, and this very provision can be a strong argument when offering such a program to educational authorities.

37. Ensuring healthy ageing is central to universal health coverage, just as it is to the other priorities of GPW 13. The number of people over the age of 60 is expected to double by 2050 and this unprecedented demographic transition will require a radical societal response. The Secretariat will support Member States to promote healthy ageing through the actions defined by the Global strategy and action plan on ageing and health (2016), as well as through the Decade of Healthy Ageing that is planned for the period 2020−2030. These actions include aligning health systems to the needs of older populations, with a special focus on enhancing the functioning of older persons and the management of chronic disease; improving access to medicines; developing systems of longterm care including community-based services; promoting palliative care, creating age-friendly environments; and improving measurement, monitoring and understanding of healthy ageing.

This provision is exactly what we were aiming for when calling the members of our community to take part in the Open Consultation or the Draft. As you remember, all mentions of the WHO documents related to aging were absent; this provision clearly shows that we achieved our goal! Even though the global strategy and action plan on aging and health may not be ideal in terms of rejuvenation research promotion, it helps member states navigate the field with more confidence. This global strategy, which we wanted so much to be the foundation of the draft programme provisions related to aging, contains a very important paragraph that every activist should know about:

105. Finally, better clinical research is urgently needed on the etiology of, and treatments for, the key health conditions of older age, including musculoskeletal and sensory impairments, cardiovascular disease and risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes, mental disorders, dementia and cognitive declines, cancer, and geriatric syndromes such as frailty. This must include much better consideration of the specific physiological differences of older men and women and the high likelihood that they will be experiencing mutimorbidities. This could also be extended to include possible interventions to modify the underlying physiological and psychological changes associated with ageing.

Conclusion

Dear friends, this is a victory! Our community managed to influence policymakers of the highest level: the World Health Organization. We managed to ensure that the new programme of work considers aging and age-related diseases to be an important issue, and the resulting global strategy and action plan on aging and health is an effective guide to helping our society adapt to population aging.

In terms of advocacy, this is a complete victory, which shows two important things. First, when we join forces, we can influence global health policy at the highest level. Our community became stronger, and our voice is being heard! Second, this victory shows that dialogue with the UN and its institutions, including decision-makers in these agencies, is possible, and it goes in the directions that we need: more focus on prevention and more focus on public health education related to aging.

I offer special thanks to Dr. Ilia Stambler for initially turning the attention of the community to this issue. I want to thank and congratulate all participants of the Open Consultation with this achievement. Of course, we are still at the beginning of our path to rejuvenation as a public health priority, but outcomes like this one make me believe that there are more victories to come. Let’s keep working, as the main reward is worth it: health, youth, and freedom from age-related diseases for all!

About Elena Milova

As a devoted advocate of rejuvenation technologies since 2013, Elena 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.

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.

LEAF Panel: How to Promote Longevity? ft. Drs. Aubrey de Grey, Alexandra Stolzing, Oliver Medvedik

LEAF Panel: How to Promote Longevity? ft. Drs. Aubrey de Grey, Alexandra Stolzing, Oliver Medvedik

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Keith Comito
Oliver Medvedik
Steve Hill
Elena Milova
Aubrey de Grey
Alexandra Stolzing
Alen Akhabaev


The U.S. Transhumanist Party is pleased to feature this extensive discussion, hosted by our allies at LEAF – the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation.

Description by LEAF: Dr. Alexandra Stolzing, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Dr. Oliver Medvedik and a number of other guests discuss longevity, advocacy and rejuvenation biotechnology in an exclusive panel hosted by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF). This panel, moderated by LEAF president Keith Comito, talks about the latest progress in rejuvenation biotechnology and about how to engage, educate and excite the public regarding cutting-edge medicine.

Panel: Dr. Alexandra Stolzing, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Dr. Oliver Medvedik , Elena Milova, Keith Comito, Steve Hill and Alen Akhabaev.

Subscribe to LEAF’s video channel for more.

Support LEAF’s work by becoming a “Lifespan Hero”: http://lifespan.io/hero

A “Disease” Approach in Life-Extension Advocacy Can Facilitate Communication with the General Public – Infographic by Elena Milova and Keith Comito

A “Disease” Approach in Life-Extension Advocacy Can Facilitate Communication with the General Public – Infographic by Elena Milova and Keith Comito

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Elena Milova and Keith Comito


The U.S. Transhumanist Party is pleased to share this infographic from our friends at the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), one of the Transhumanist Party’s most active Allied Organizations. Life-extension advocates Elena Milova and Keith Comito have compiled a set of tips for communicating ideas regarding the progress of medical science and technology, for the pursuit of healthy life extension, in such a manner as to enable many in the general public to understand and sympathize with our goals and the science behind them. We encourage you to distribute this infographic to any activists and advocates who you think would benefit from the advice therein.