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Rejuvenation Research Is Now a Mainstream Topic – Article by Steve Hill

Rejuvenation Research Is Now a Mainstream Topic – Article by Steve Hill

Steve Hill


Editor’s Note: In this article, originally published on August 26, 2019, by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), Mr. Steve Hill reviews an MIT Technology Review article authored by David Adam. Mr. Adam gives his view of the research field of aging, and Mr. Hill is impressed by the factualism compared to the MIT Technology Review’s previous articles that covered the topic. Mr. Hill goes on to discuss aging and lifespan in other species and address the question: Is aging a disease, and does it really matter?

~Bobby Ridge, Assistant Editor, September 9, 2019


It is a sure sign that the tide has turned when mainstream news outlets and magazines start publishing positive articles about aging research and the prospects of rejuvenation.

A refreshing change

Today, I want to highlight an article in MIT Technology Review in which the author, David Adam, gives a sensible and measured overview of what is happening in the field and manages to sidestep the usual negativity and misconceptions that often plague popular science pieces.

Since ancient times, aging has been viewed as simply inevitable, unstoppable, nature’s way. “Natural causes” have long been blamed for deaths among the old, even if they died of a recognized pathological condition. The medical writer Galen argued back in the second century AD that aging is a natural process.

His view, the acceptance that one can die simply of old age, has dominated ever since. We think of aging as the accumulation of all the other conditions that get more common as we get older—cancer, dementia, physical frailty. All that tells us, though, is that we’re going to sicken and die; it doesn’t give us a way to change it. We don’t have much more control over our destiny than a Cyclops.

But a growing number of scientists are questioning our basic conception of aging. What if you could challenge your death—or even prevent it altogether? What if the panoply of diseases that strike us in old age are symptoms, not causes? What would change if we classified aging itself as the disease?

The article skips the sensationalism and assumptions that many journalists typically make about aging research; instead, we get a solid piece of factual journalism. This is in stark contrast to the reporting done by this outlet a few years ago, as it had published irrationally skeptical and frequently negative coverage of the field and the science behind it.

This may be partially due to changes to the editorial staff at the magazine, which happened in 2017, but it is also indicative of the wider acceptance of the idea that we may be able to do something about aging. The same magazine has even published a special issue entitled Old Age is Over! – If you want it, which takes a deeper dive into the topic, though this is paid content.

There may be a choice about how we age

For millennia, it has been assumed that aging is a one-way street and that we must simply accept that there is nothing we can do about it, aside from facing age-related ill health with stoicism. However, the situation has somewhat changed. As researchers have discovered more about how aging works, the processes driving it, and the results from model animals, it has become increasingly clear to many people that something might be done about aging in order to delay, prevent, or potentially reverse age-related diseases.

We already know that a number of species do not age; this phenomenon is known as negligible senescence. This simply means that the organism does not show a decline of survival characteristics, such as muscle strength, mobility, and senses. Such species also do not experience an increased mortality rate with advancing age or a loss of reproductive capability with age.

These species tend to have much more efficient repair systems that are capable of offsetting and repairing damage rapidly enough to prevent it from accumulating and snowballing out of control as it does in humans. We are relatively long-lived as a species, but, compared to some longevity champions, such as the bowhead whale at 200 years plus, the Greenland shark at 400 or more years, and the ocean quahog clam, which lives at least 507 years, our lifespan is relatively brief.

So, the race is now on to see if we can develop therapies to repair age-related damage, slow down how fast that damage accrues, and see if we can emulate these kings of longevity. The key take-home message here is that there is no biological reason that humans might not live longer, healthier lives if such therapies are developed.

Exactly how long that might be is a matter of speculation; it could be a few years, a decade or two, or perhaps more. The key point is that the researchers who are developing these therapies are aiming to make those extra years healthy ones, and that is surely something that most people can get behind.

Is aging a disease, and does it really matter?

Some researchers propose that aging is a disease, and while this is a somewhat contentious view, it has some merit and is absolutely worthy of further discussion. We discussed if aging is natural or pathological in a previous article, and while the case can certainly be made that aging is a disease, it may more accurately fit the description of a co-morbid syndrome: a group of symptoms that consistently occur together and a condition characterized by a set of associated symptoms.

Whether or not they believe in either the disease hypothesis or maximum life spans, most experts agree that something has to change in the way we deal with aging. “If we don’t do something about the dramatic increase in older people, and find ways to keep them healthy and functional, then we have a major quality-­of-life issue and a major economic issue on our hands.” – Dr. Brian Kennedy

This matter is largely a matter of semantics, and the important thing is that, from a regulatory point of view, including aging as a disease state or syndrome would make it easier to develop therapies that directly target the aging processes themselves. Currently, therapies must focus on single diseases in order to progress through clinical trials, which is not the most optimal approach.

However, it is my personal view that this situation will not change much until the first successful human demonstration of rejuvenation therapy occurs. Until then, researchers will continue to work within the current regulatory system, and while this is, by its nature, slower, it does not prevent progress being made. Fortunately, there are now a lot of companies working in this space, and a number of therapies are quite far along in development.

A therapy that works in humans against one age-related disease by targeting an aging process directly could potentially treat a slew of other related diseases, and so any successful therapy making it through the system would likely rapidly see off-label usage for other, similar conditions.

Conclusion

In closing, it is refreshing to see more balanced and fair reporting on the field and the science of aging rather than the negative and highly biased material that this outlet had published prior to 2017. Reasonable skepticism is perfectly understandable, especially in a field as cutting-edge as rejuvenation biotechnology, which is charting unknown waters and attempting to do what has long been thought impossible.

However, the weight of evidence, the results of a myriad of animal studies demonstrating age reversal, and the rapid increase of scientific understanding should balance that skepticism in anyone interested in science and the actual facts. A magazine devoted to science really should be at the top of its game when reporting the facts, and this and other recent articles on the topic have been much closer to this mark. Oh my, how times have changed.

Steve Hill 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.

2019 New Year’s Message – A Call for Medical Progress and Preservation of the Good – Article by Victor Bjoerk

2019 New Year’s Message – A Call for Medical Progress and Preservation of the Good – Article by Victor Bjoerk

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Victor Bjoerk


I celebrated the end of 2018 like normally with neuroscientist Anders Sandberg and several other “transhumanists” or “technoprogressive people” in Stockholm!

Why am I in that place to start with? Well, I’m quite frustrated with the human condition in the first place; I’ve always questioned everything from social norms and different kinds of problems in the world, and there’s still so much misery around that we need to unite and fix. (I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true!)

As people reading this know, the vast majority of human misery worldwide today occurs due to our bodies damaging themselves with the passage of time, the biological process we call aging. This occurs because evolution has no goals and our ancestors died at the age of 30-40 prehistorically, and therefore there was no pressure for evolution to create humans that could repair themselves molecularly to live thousands of years. The closest we get among Eukaryotes/Vertebrates are Greenland sharks, which can live to 500+ years; that is easy to understand since they have no predators and just have to open their mouths to get their daily food. On the opposite side we have as a prominent example the mouse, with a very poor molecular repair system and subsequent 2.5-year lifespan, easy to understand when you realize how dangerous life is in the wild if having a mouse body.

Thanks to our technology, we have created the “paradise Greenland shark scenario” for humans during the past century essentially, creating very comfortable existences where nearly everyone survives.

So if you’re 25 years old, life is really great nowadays in Western countries (unless you like to complain about everything!); the existential risks are so low in the absence of aging that you would live many thousands of years just by being a young person living in Sweden.

So I’ve worked a lot in nursing homes both before and during my studies in molecular biology, and what those people have to endure would be strictly illegal in most countries if we knew how to change it. Imagine if, for example, Saudi Arabia allowed its citizens to age while the Western world had abolished it; wouldn’t Amnesty International intervene?

But what can be done with the human body? Well, I assume quite a lot! We are seeing so many people who can’t stand the medical monopoly and the 17-year bench-to-bedside status quo, which isn’t an abstract academic complaint but which impact their daily lives, so they start self-experimenting with, for example, senolytic medicines to kill their senescent cells, making themselves “younger” in certain aspects, which is pretty cool!

However I’m not someone who constantly calls for change and “progress”; I mean, if something is nice, then why not keep it? As far as I’m concerned, for example, the beautiful architecture from the past can continue to stand for thousands more years. These buildings fulfill their purpose and look nice; I’m quite conservative on those points – but please accelerate the medical research, and it is crucial to spot the techniques that actually do work and to not waste resources on hype!

2018 has brought me many good things, those which one can call “achievements” and those which are not visible. The Eurosymposium on Healthy Aging in Brussels became a success! (And there will be some events during 2019 that I am also announcing for everyone who enjoyed it!)

I’ve been learning a lot about CRISPR and many other techniques both practically and theoretically, though I have not exactly used them to change the world. Medical progress takes forever to achieve, and it’s not exactly helped by a massive web of bureaucracy/hierarchies/prestige/laws, all contributing to slowing down progress for people in need. What can really be done? One needs to focus on the positive and go where the biotech companies can succeed!

So if things are working out for me as I hope now in 2019, I hope being able to really work full time to impact the longevity industry, I really feel like an overripe fruit that needs to get things done, because implementing stuff is what matters and not becoming some passive “longevity encyclopedia”. I’ll keep everyone as usually updated!

So happy new 2019 everyone! And make sure to take good care of yourselves!

Victor Bjoerk has worked for the Gerontology Research Group, the Longevity Reporter, and the Fraunhofer-Institut für Zelltherapie und Immunologie. He has promoted awareness throughout Europe of emerging biomedical research and the efforts to reverse biological aging. 

DNA as the Original Blockchain – Article by Alex Lightman

DNA as the Original Blockchain – Article by Alex Lightman

Alex Lightman


I think of DNA as the original Blockchain, code for 3D printing a billion years old.

Thinking of DNA as reusable software might enable us to increase our average life span by 800%.

If you think of DNA as code and don’t get distracted by phenotypes (appearances) and remember the First Rule of Engineering is “Steal, Don’t Invent”, you can find some pretty interesting code that is almost human.

Did you know that there are big mammals that can live over 200 years? And sharks that can live 400-600 years?

Mammals are all genetically over 98% the same DNA (the biological Blockchain) as Homo sapiens sapiens (humans).

One mammal able to live over 200 years is the Bowhead whale. The Greenland shark is known to live over 400 years. Sharks are not mammals, but you would be shocked at the genetic similarity. Start here to learn more.

I think we should breed vast herds of Bowhead whales and Greenland sharks and domesticate them in Seastead Communities, and maintain multi-century interspecies communication, based on the protocols developed by my old friend John Lilly, inventor of the isolation tank.

We have already identified the genetic components of longevity, which include high resistance to cancer.

Did you know this? This is why we need Transhumanist Party candidates and elected officials: we should be talking about and focused on life expectancy and cancer resistance. Half of Americans get cancer and half of those die of cancer – over 600,000 a year!

Genetic Causes of Longevity in Bowhead Whales

It was previously believed the more cells present in an organism, the greater the chances of mutations that cause age-related diseases and cancer.

Although the bowhead whale has thousands of times more cells than other mammals, the whale has a much higher resistance to cancer and aging. In 2015, scientists from the US and UK were able to successfully map the whale’s genome.

Through comparative analysis, two alleles that could be responsible for the whale’s longevity were identified.

These two specific gene mutations linked to the Bowhead whale’s ability to live longer are the ERCC1 gene and the proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) gene. ERCC1 is linked to DNA repair as well as increased cancer resistance. PCNA is also important in DNA repair.

These mutations enable bowhead whales to better repair DNA damage, allowing for greater resistance to cancer.

The whale’s genome may also reveal physiological adaptations such as having low metabolic rates compared to other mammals.

Changes in the gene UCP1, a gene involved in thermoregulation, can explain differences in the metabolic rates in cells.

Alex Lightman, Campaign Director for the California Transhumanist Party, has 25 years of management and social innovation experience and 15 years of chairman and chief executive experience. He is an award-winning inventor with multiple U.S. patents issued or pending and author of over one million published words, including the first book on 4G wireless, and over 150 articles in major publications. He chaired and organized 17 international conferences with engineers, scientists, and government officials since 2002, with the intention of achieving policy breakthroughs related to innovation. He is a world-class innovator and recipient of the first Economist magazine Readers’ Choice Award for “The Innovation that will Most Radically Change the World over the Decade 2010 to 2020” (awarded Oct. 21, 2010, out of 4,000 initial suggestions and votes over 5 months from 200 countries, and from 32 judges). He is the recipient of the 2nd Reader’s Award (the posthumous recipient announced 10/21/2011 was Steve Jobs). He is also the winner of the only SGI Internet 3D contest (both Entertainment and Grand Prize) out of 800 contestants.

Social innovation work includes repeatedly putting almost unknown technologies and innovation-accelerating policies that can leverage the abilities of humanity into the mainstream of media, business, government, foundations, and standards bodies, including virtual reality, augmented reality, Internet Protocol version 6, and 4G wireless broadband, open spectrum, technology transfer to developing countries, unified standards, crowd-sourcing, and collective intelligence, via over 40 US government agencies, over 40 national governments, and via international entities including the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Political credentials include a national innovation plan entitled “The Acceleration of American Innovation” for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, work for U.S. Senator Paul E. Tsongas (D-MA) and on several state campaigns and U.S. presidential campaigns for Democratic candidates (Gary Hart, Richard Gephardt), presentations to the United Nations, and advisory services to the governments of Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, Japan, China, Korea, and India, as well as to the U.S. Congress, the White House (via the Office of Management and Budget), the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Information Systems Agency, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Mr. Lightman is trained as an engineer at MIT and as a prospective diplomat and policy analyst at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.