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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. 

The Good Sides of Aging? – Article by Nicola Bagalà

The Good Sides of Aging? – Article by Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà


Editor’s Note: Nicola Bagalà in this guest article elaborates upon aging as a topic distinguished in terms of Chronological Aging and Biological Aging. This article was originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF).

~ Kenneth Alum, Director of Publication, U.S. Transhumanist Party, October 17, 2017

Sometimes, and especially in articles aimed at mitigating people’s fear of aging, it is said that aging doesn’t come just with downsides, such as frailty and diseases, but also with upsides — for example, wisdom and a long life experience.

It is often subtly implied that these two very different aspects are two sides of the same coin, that you can’t have one without the other, and perhaps even that the ill health of old age is a fair price to pay for the benefits that also come with it.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Setting the record straight

There are plenty of good reasons to be afraid of aging, because the diseases and disabilities it causes are very real and far from being observed only in exceptional cases. It would be foolish not to fear cancer, for example, because it is an extremely serious and often fatal condition; in the same way, and for the same reasons, it is foolish not to fear aging; perhaps, an even stronger fear is justified, because aging can and does give rise to many diseases, including cancer itself.

There’s nothing wrong with fearing aging, because it may help us steer clear from its inherent dangers, just like the fear of any other harmful thing keeps us away from it. This is true so long as by ‘aging’ we mean biological aging, which is not at all the same as chronological aging. It is very important to draw a line between the two so that we don’t end up accepting the downsides of the former, which are neither necessary nor sufficient to enjoy the benefits of the latter.

What’s the difference?

Chronological aging is a rather fancy term to indicate a very mundane thing, namely the passing of time. For as long as time will keep passing, everything will age chronologically. This is obviously a good thing because if time did not pass, the universe would stand still and nothing at all, including ourselves, would ever happen.

However, it is easy to see how chronological and biological aging are not the same thing by means of a simple observation: Although time runs essentially uniformly everywhere on Earth, different life forms have different health- and lifespans. If time passes at the same rate for me and for a cat, and yet I’m (biologically) old at age 80 while a cat is (biologically) old already at age 15, clearly there must be something else than just the passing of time that accounts for this discrepancy.

This ‘something else’ is metabolism—the intricate set of chemical reactions the bodies of living creatures perform on a daily basis for the very purpose of staying alive. As we have discussed in other articles, what we call biological aging is really just a process of damage accumulation; this damage, which eventually leads to pathologies, is caused by metabolism itself, and therefore a faster metabolism means faster aging. Different species have different metabolic rates; as a rule of thumb, the smaller the species, the faster its metabolism and thus its aging, leading to shorter health- and lifespan. This is, in a nutshell, why a cat ages faster than I do.

As a confirmation of this fact, one may observe that species in a regimen of caloric restriction tend to live longer (sometimes much longer) than their normal lifespan, and the insurgence of age-related diseases is delayed accordingly: A lower caloric intake causes metabolism to slow down; consequently, the aging process follows suit.

Interestingly, some lucky species, the so-called negligibly senescent organisms, don’t show any signs of biological aging at all with the passing of time.

At this point, you don’t have to be clairvoyant to see that biological aging implies chronological aging, but not vice-versa. No chronological aging means no time passing, and no time passing means nothing takes place, metabolism included. However, since different creatures age differently (or not at all) despite time passing at the same rate for all of them, chronological aging doesn’t imply biological aging. Quite simply, they’re not the same thing.

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s

Having cleared the difference between chronological and biological aging, we must now correctly attribute the aforementioned pros and cons of old age to each of them.

From the very definition of biological aging above, it’s clear that it is the culprit responsible for the cons—the diseases of old age.

Speaking of the pros, all possible benefits of old age—life experience, wisdom, sense of accomplishment—certainly do not come from the damage that metabolism has wrecked throughout your body over the years. Clearly, they depend on the events of your life, and thus they’re not at all granted to happen, no matter how long you live. If you spent your life in isolation doing nothing, avoiding new experiences, and not learning anything new, your wisdom as an eighty-year-old would hardly compare to that of a well-traveled, seasoned scientist or philosopher of the same age, for example. Ultimately, the benefits traditionally attributed to old age obviously depend on the passing of time (i.e., chronological aging), and most of all on the use you made of your time. Just because you’re old, you’re not automatically wise, accomplished, or well-learned.

What’s more, the debilitation that comes with biological aging makes it harder for you to relish and expand the wisdom and experience you’ve accrued over the years. So, not only does biological aging bring no benefits; it is a hindrance as well.

In conclusion, the pros and cons of old age are due to different causes, and, as such, they aren’t interdependent. The diseases of old age are not a currency you can use to buy yourself the wisdom of the aged, and thanks to the emergence of rejuvenation biotechnologies, you might relatively soon be able to enjoy the pros of old age without having to pay any undue and unfair tolls.

 

About Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà has been an enthusiastic supporter and advocate of rejuvenation science since 2011. Although his preferred approach to treating age-related diseases is Aubrey de Grey’s suggested SENS platform, he is very interested in any other potential approach as well. In 2015, he launched the blog Rejuvenaction to advocate for rejuvenation and to answer common concerns that generally come with the prospect of vastly extended healthy lifespans. Originally a mathematician graduated from Helsinki University, his scientific interests range from cosmology to AI, from drawing and writing to music, and he always complains he doesn’t have enough time to dedicate to all of them—which is one of the reasons he’s into life extension. He’s also a computer programmer and web developer. All the years spent learning about the science of rejuvenation have sparked his interest in biology, in which he’s planning to get a university degree.

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.