Browsed by
Tag: Healthy life expectancy (HALE)

Why I Hope to Be Alive at 75 – Article by Steve Hill

Why I Hope to Be Alive at 75 – Article by Steve Hill

U.S. Transhumanist Party Logo

Steve Hill


Editor’s Note: In this article, originally published on November 13, 2020, by our allies at the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), Steve Hill explains why the attitude of Joe Biden’s new advisor on COVID-19 strategy, Ezekiel Emanuel, is supremely counterproductive. Emanuel infamously wrote in 2014 that he hopes to die at age 75. Given that COVID-19 is a disease whose toll is greatly amplified by biological aging, Emanuel’s statements render him uniquely ill-suited  to remedy the ravages of the ongoing pandemic. Moreover, his pessimism toward what life is like at age 75 is no longer justified, in light of emerging medical advances that could enable rejuvenation and biological youthfulness for those who are in late middle age today. Perhaps, if he sees these advances become a reality in the not-too-distant future, Emanuel might change his mind regarding the desirability of longer lifespans.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, November 17, 2020


2020 has been a strange year for a variety of reasons, but the societal changes that the COVID-19 pandemic has created are probably the strangest. However, it is perhaps even stranger that Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel has been appointed to advise Joe Biden on COVID strategy.

Emanuel is best known for writing a controversial article in the October 2014 edition of The Atlantic, headlined “Why I Hope to Die at 75”, in which he strongly rejects the desire to live beyond the age of 75 and expresses his opinion that continuing to live after such an age is meaningless.

Living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived.

Needless to say, I strongly disagree with this baffling point of view and am somewhat concerned that someone who thinks this way of his own life, and presumably the lives of others, may be appointed to a position of influence for a disease whose primary risk group is the elderly. This seems almost as foolhardy as spending a vacation weekend in a caravan with Hannibal Lecter.

Emanuel listed quite a few methods by which people extend their lives and stated that they were a “valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible,” but his response to them was, “I reject this aspiration. I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive.”

Age is the #1 risk factor for COVID

The scientific evidence clearly shows that the primary risk factor for contracting and dying from COVID-19 is age, with people over the age of 75 at particularly high risk. This is due to the decline of the immune system, which becomes increasingly weak and dysfunctional with age in a process known as immunosenescence.

Globally, the strategy has been to try to shield these vulnerable people as best as possible due to their weakened immune systems and limit their exposure to the disease while vaccines are developed.

Needless to say, I find Biden’s nomination of him to address a disease that mostly affects seniors ironic in itself, given that he thinks the lives of most people beyond 75 are pointless and that they don’t live meaningful lives and would be better off embracing death rather than desperately trying to extend them. Therefore, I hope for the sake of the older people in our society that he has rethought his priorities.

Why I hope to be alive at 75

Predictably, there is already a storm raging on social media around his appointment, so there is no purpose to adding more fuel to that fire. Instead, I am going to talk about why the future of aging could be very different to the grim picture that Emanuel paints.

At age 63, he is getting closer to the age at which he thinks life is pointless, and I believe that a large reason why he is so pessimistic about life beyond 75, whether he realizes it or not, is based on the current state of medicine. This line of reasoning does not take into account how medicine, and in particular how we treat aging could change in the next decade or two.

Current medicine does a great job at keeping people alive for longer, but they often have to live with one or more chronic diseases. Given that, I am not surprised that Emanuel is not enamored with living a long life, especially as that could entail being disabled, bed-bound, or otherwise suffering a poor quality of life as the result of debilitating age-related diseases.

Thankfully, the world healthcare strategy is slowly starting to shift to one of prevention over cure, but right now, the typical approach is to play whack-a-mole with diseases. As one pops up, it is treated, then the next, and the next, and so on. This strategy works great for infectious diseases, but it is an exercise in futility and diminishing returns when applied to the chronic diseases of aging.

However, things could be different in the not so distant future, and being 75 could see the majority of people far more fit, healthy, and vibrant than ever before in human history thanks to advances in aging research. Therapies that directly target aging could potentially make people biologically younger (in particular their immune systems) and much more able to withstand COVID-19 and other diseases.

As explained on LEAF’s What is Aging? page, aging consists of multiple processes (“hallmarks”) that gradually cause damage to organs and tissues and lead to age-related diseases. Rejuvenation biotechnology is advanced medical technology that directly addresses any of the various aging processes in order to restore tissue and organ function to a more youthful state, thereby ameliorating, delaying, or preventing age-related diseases. Let’s take a brief look at some of the promising near-future research that could bear fruit by the time Emanuel reaches 75 and perhaps change his mind.

Rejuvenating the immune system

The decline of the immune system is a key reason why the elderly are most susceptible to infectious diseases such as COVID, and there has been considerable interest in the rejuvenation of the immune system in recent years.

Dr. Greg Fahy from intervene immune has had some early success with thymus rejuvenation in a small human pilot study and demonstrated that it is possible to cause the thymus, which shrinks and loses its capacity to produce immune T cells during aging, to regrow and resume production of those cells. Dr. Fahy is now moving forward into a larger-scale study, and if the results continue to be positive, it is not hard to imagine that thymus regrowth could become a staple of helping the elderly stay healthy.

Another example of immune rejuvenation is currently being developed by Samumed, a biotechnology company that is developing drugs that target the Wnt pathway to restore it to youthful function. The Wnt pathway is a key pathway that regulates the function of our stem cells and ensures that they supply our tissues and organs with new cells to replace losses from injury, disease, and wear and tear.

If successful, this approach would allow the body to resume efficient repair of tissues, and it would replenish aged and failing tissues and organs with fresh, healthy cells supplied by the rejuvenated stem cells.

Therapeutic plasma exchange

Researchers Irina and Mike Conboy at UC Berkeley have been researching blood factors and their role in aging for over two decades. During that time, they have identified a number of factors present in aged blood that appear to regulate aging.

These factors are also present in younger people, but in typically far lower amounts, and tend to serve useful functions. However, during aging, the levels of these proteins become deregulated, and they often rise to detrimental levels and cause damage to the body, which typically involves preventing stem cells from working and tissue from regenerating.

Decades’ worth of research from the Conboy lab has shown that, in mice at least, it is possible to filter out these harmful pro-aging blood factors and bring them back down to a level similar to younger animals. When this happens, the result is rejuvenation of tissues and the reversal of some of the aspects of aging, making the mice more youthful.

This approach uses an already approved technique known as therapeutic plasma exchange to filter and calibrate these key factors and could be readily modified for human use. Should the results seen in animals translate to humans using this approach, it would have a profound effect on our health as we age and potentially delay, prevent, or even reverse some age-related diseases.

Conclusion

These are only some of the examples of why healthy life expectancy could rise significantly in the near future, and there are plenty of reasons to remain future positive. This is the future direction of medicine and healthcare that we support at Lifespan.io, a world where being 75 does not mean you are thrown on the scrap heap and where people like Emanuel will no longer feel that life has no meaning. I am confident that in such a world, being 75 would not be the burden he thinks it will be, and this is why I hope to be alive at 75.

Steve Hill serves on the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (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, interviewed over 100 of the leading researchers in the field, hosted livestream events focused on aging, along with attending various medical industry conferences. His work has been featured in H+ Magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, Swiss Monthly, 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.

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.