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Andrés Grases Interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II on Transhumanism and the Transition to the Next Technological Era

Andrés Grases Interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II on Transhumanism and the Transition to the Next Technological Era

logo_bgGennady Stolyarov II
Andrés Grases


Andrés Grases, the publisher of the Transhuman Plus website (http://transhumanplus.com/) interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II at RAAD Fest 2018 in San Diego, CA, on September 23, 2018. During the course of this conversation, both the contemporary state of transhumanist politics and future directions are covered – along with the challenges to reforming the educational system, the need to create open access to academic works, the manner in which the transition toward the next era of technologies will occur, the meaning of transhumanism and its applications in the proximate future – including promising advances that we can expect to see during the next several years.

Watch the video here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Apply online here in less than a minute.

From Within Your Own Failing Shell – Article by Nicola Bagalà

From Within Your Own Failing Shell – Article by Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà


Editor’s Note: In this article originally published by our allies at the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF),  Mr. Nicola Bagalà provides a poignant discussion of the suffering associated with the diseases of old age, for which contemporary geriatric medicine can only offer palliative treatments but no lasting solutions. It is imperative to correct this situation by advocating for the advancement of effective rejuvenation treatments which can not only successfully cure the diseases of old age but also reverse biological aging itself.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, September 9, 2018

Some time ago, I noticed a stock photo of an old lady seeing her geriatrician, who was a much younger woman. Nothing special was happening in the picture, which showed just two people talking; however, it made me wonder what it must feel like to be an elderly person consulting a geriatrician.

One initial assumption could be that it isn’t much different than seeing a GP, but that seems unlikely. If you are seeing a GP, the odds are your disease or ailment is not debilitating, let alone life-threatening. Whatever it might be, you went to see your doctor knowing that, most likely, he or she would be able to cure you; especially if you are young, it’s probable that just taking a medicine for some time, or doing physical therapy, will make you better. You know that you will recover, and the discomfort or the suffering you’re going through is destined to go away. You will get back to your life as it used to be, healthy as ever.

Things are rather different when you are seeing a geriatrician. A geriatrician is a specialist who takes care of the needs of elderly patients, an activity that can be summarized as ensuring the highest possible life quality of a patient in spite of his or her failing body, which becomes increasingly less resilient and less able to respond to treatment with the passing of time. Existing drugs and exercise programs, for example, can ameliorate the symptoms that an elderly person experiences and improve his or her life quality, but the vast majority of age-related diseases simply cannot be cured right now.

When you go to see a geriatrician, you do so with the knowledge that your doctor will most likely be unable to make you any better, despite his or her best efforts; you simply can’t shovel water with a pitchfork. You are aware that, as you keep aging, your condition is likely to worsen, and all your doctor will be able to do is help you manage your symptoms. You know that you are not going to get back to your life as it used to be and that you are not going to be as healthy as ever—that’s not what old people generally are like. In fact, one day, one of the conditions that brought you to see a geriatrician in the first place is going to worsen to the point that you will die of it.

Most of us are familiar with the feeling of going to see a general practitioner, getting a prescription for some mild ailment, and going back home, thinking about our plans for the rest of the day or the week, which possibly involve a big project that we have been working on for a while and can’t wait to take to completion. What if, instead, you are going home after seeing a geriatrician because of osteoarthritis in your knees? Whatever you might be thinking then, you probably are distracted by the pain that you feel in your knees with every step you take, and the thought that it’s not really going to ever improve doesn’t make it any better. It is unlikely that you have any big project going on that you are looking forward to finishing; it’s not that you wouldn’t like to have one, but your deteriorating health makes it difficult to do anything too demanding. Probably, your much younger doctor is going to go back home thinking about an exciting upcoming trip or her next night out, but you are not.

It’s impossible not to wonder what it must feel like to watch others get back to their own lives from within your own failing shell, knowing that the life that you are getting back to is likely going to be short and decreasing in quality; to hear your doctor say that your ailments can be managed, but not cured; to know that, as time passes, you are more and more likely to lose your independence and cause problems or suffering for your loved ones.

Putting on a smile and trying to look at the bright side of things may help you cope and avoid making things worse than they have to be, but it’s not going to make them better either. A positive attitude is a great prescription for any disease you might have, regardless of your age, but it is not the only prescription that you would be given for any serious illness that might strike you before old age. There is no reason why staying positive and palliative care should be the only medicines against aging—not now that rejuvenation biotechnology is becoming an ever-more concrete prospect.

People of all ages should have the right to go to see their doctors knowing that, most probably, whatever diseases they have may be cured; that any others they might get in the future can be prevented; that their discomfort or suffering is going to go away; and that they are going to get back to their lives as they used to be, healthy as ever.

About Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà  is a bit of a jack of all trades—a holder of an M.Sc. degree in mathematics; an amateur programmer; a hobbyist at novel writing, piano, and art; and, of course, a passionate life-extensionist. After his interest in the science of undoing aging arose in 2011, he gradually shifted from quiet supporter to active advocate in 2015, first launching his advocacy blog Rejuvenaction before eventually joining LEAF. These years in the field sparked an interest in molecular biology, which he actively studies. Other subjects he loves to discuss to no end are cosmology, artificial intelligence, and many others—far too many for a currently normal lifespan, which is one of the reasons he’s into life extension.

The Case for Reversing Aging – Article by Arin Vahanian

The Case for Reversing Aging – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


As incredulous as it may seem, I have had numerous people ask me why I support research and funding for reversing the aging process.

The usual arguments against stopping or slowing aging are that there is some sort of natural process or natural order of things, and that human beings shouldn’t be “playing God.”

In this short article, I would like to present my personal views on aging and why I believe it is perfectly natural, and in fact, desirable, for human beings to want to overcome this limitation, or at least, slow it down.

We humans have a very peculiar relationship with aging and death. On the one hand, people spend rather large sums of money on products or services that help them look and feel younger and healthier. In essence, what these people are communicating through their spending habits is that they have a desire to slow down the aging process. Yet any talk of actually reversing the aging process is met with puzzled looks or even dismissal by the very same people. On the other hand, most people dread the condition of death but have resigned themselves to the idea that there is nothing we can do about it. So while we tend to believe that death is unavoidable, we somehow also think that it won’t happen to us for a while longer, and so we put these very important topics on the back burner and refuse to think further about them or consider how to overcome them.

My personal viewpoint is that nothing gets solved without there being some sort of action toward solving it. Problems do not normally resolve themselves.

To those who ask why we should spend money, time, and effort on reversing aging, I shall present three reasons why I believe it is beneficial for us to do so.

Firstly, human beings have always wanted to improve, to grow, and to overcome hardships and challenges. Saying that there is some natural order of things is not a valid argument against reversing the aging process.

Imagine if we had, in the past, accepted a shortened lifespan as the natural order of things. It’s good that we didn’t, because global average life expectancy has more than doubled since the year 1900.

Imagine if we had, in the past, accepted a chaotic, uncomfortable, and dangerous life as the natural order of things. It’s good that we didn’t, because we came up with inventions such as electricity, the Internet, the X-ray, indoor plumbing, heating, and so forth.

Imagine if we had, in the past, accepted our young sons and daughters having their precious lives cut short by illness as the natural order of things. It’s good that we didn’t, because we now have cures for dysentery, malaria, and tuberculosis.

The fact is that the human condition involves us progressing, overcoming limitations, and being better human beings. Hence, it is natural for human beings to want to overcome undesirable situations, and I would imagine that most people would state that poverty, disease, and aging are undesirable.  

Next, reversing the process of aging will give each one of us additional time that we need in order to accomplish other lofty goals. Imagine if you had an additional 10 or 20 young years of life. How much more could you accomplish during that time? We could spend more time on goals such as eliminating poverty, coming up with a cure for cancer, working toward world peace, and so forth. I find it hard to imagine that someone could argue against having more time in life to work on their personal purpose, vision, and mission. Therefore, reversing the process of aging would result in us being able to work on other things that are important to the human race, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of improvement and progress.

Finally, perhaps the most beautiful aspect of the human condition is having a human experience. The human experience includes things such as building relationships with other people, enjoying the splendors of a warm summer afternoon with friends or family, and partaking in any number of stimulating and rewarding activities, such as reading, exercising, and doing charity work.

To those of you who are in a romantic relationship, I ask, wouldn’t you want more time and more opportunities to be with your spouse or partner? Imagine never hearing your partner whisper sweetly in your ear again, or forever losing the overwhelming pleasure of making love to them, or no longer experiencing the rewarding growth you’ve experienced with them since you became a couple.

To those of you who are parents, I ask, wouldn’t you want to ensure that your children live long, happy, and productive lives? Imagine if your son or daughter could have more time and more opportunities to become the person who will finally find a cure for depression, or start a movement that helps brings us closer to world peace, or become a source of inspiration for many people around the world through starting an organization, but they won’t, because we have accepted a “natural order of things.”

To those of you who are actively involved in an ambitious project or important cause that means a lot to you, I ask, wouldn’t you want more time and more energy to work on these things that are meaningful to you? Imagine never being able to work on fulfilling your purpose or vision in life.

There are many more reasons why I believe we should focus on reversing aging, but the three reasons above are a good starting point for us to more seriously consider this most important of issues.

Let’s even assume for a moment that implausible scenarios such as reincarnation and life after death are real. Why wouldn’t we want to live this current life better? I do not believe it is mutually exclusive to believe in life after death and also want to live our current lives better. Throwing up our hands in defeat and accepting things as they currently are does not lead to progress and growth; it leads to atrophy.  

So before we give up the good fight and resign ourselves to an old and decrepit future, we must ask ourselves what we are living for.

If I had to give just one reason for wanting to reverse aging, it would be pretty simple: I love life too damn much.

What’s your reason?

Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Why I Believe in Transhumanism – Article by Arin Vahanian

Why I Believe in Transhumanism – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


Someone asked me why I decided to join the Transhumanist Party, and indeed, why I support a movement, which, at first glance, appears to be a fringe movement with members who are out of touch with the needs of the general public.

The truth, however, is far different from what is reported in the media, in books, or even in scholarly articles. Because Transhumanism is the only movement that cares enough about improving the human condition and about building a better future to dedicate itself completely to these monumental tasks. Being human, the human condition is all that we have, and as such, we should cherish and treasure it. Further, the future will be built, but unless we build it in such a way that reflects our values and ethics, we may not be happy with the outcome. This is far too important an outcome to leave to chance, and that is why Transhumanists are so passionate about building a better future.

Going back to the topic of this article, the reason I joined the Transhumanist movement is simple: I love life, and I am dedicated to helping increase the quality of life for every human being on Earth. This is the single most important purpose for me to be working on right now.

Despite what you may have heard, Transhumanism isn’t about becoming a machine; it’s about becoming a better human being.

Since joining this movement, I have been struck by how optimistic, open-minded, and welcoming everyone has been to me. I’ve been accepted with open arms, and people have gone out of their way to help me. It’s a tight-knit community full of passionate, intelligent, and dedicated people who want to work on resolving problems that plague humanity. What could be a more noble purpose?

Despite the negative coverage our movement has received in the media and books, one characteristic that is so consistent across our movement is that our members absolutely adore the sanctity of life. When someone asks me why I am so obsessed with goals such as reversing aging, increasing the human lifespan, dramatically increasing investment in medicine and science, and expanding the human consciousness and intellect, I reply that I am completely and utterly in love with the human experience.

But why do we Transhumanists persevere with such goals?

Because it is cruel and dishonest to say to a person with Stage 4 cancer that soon they will no longer be able to hold their son or daughter in their arms, nor hear their sweet laughter, ever again.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell a quadriplegic that they will never walk.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell someone suffering from severe depression that they should accept a dark, brooding cloud of misery hanging over their head for the rest of their life.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell a child born with a birth defect that they will never live a normal life.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell a student with a learning disability that they should make do with what they have and call them a “special needs” student.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell someone they will never make love to their spouse again, nor hear their voice, nor feel their touch, due to a rare illness that will claim their life far too soon.

In short, I believe it is wrong to be so utterly pessimistic about life and about improving the human condition.

We believe in values such as pacifism, expanding the intellect through increased investment in education, improving the quality of life through science and technology, and improving health services and increasing the human lifespan. How on Earth is any of this fringe?

We must have the courage to proclaim our convictions in front of the rest of the world, because these goals are far too important to leave to chance, and because people all over the world genuinely do want to see progress in these areas.  

The fact is that Transhumanism is the movement that is most in touch with the needs of the general public, because most people, unless they are completely insane, would want to live healthier, be disease-free, increase their intelligence, and build a better future for their children. No, we are not a fringe movement. We are the human movement. After all, Transhumanism has the word “human” in it. And that to me means being a better human.

It is wrong to be defeatist and throw our hands up in resignation, because nothing of significance was ever accomplished by being pessimistic, capitulating, or quitting prematurely. Amazing inventions, advances in medicine, and improvements in quality of life came about precisely because we, as humans, did not give up, but rather, fought for what was right. And increasing the quality of life for all humans is right.

I am a Transhumanist because I am a human being, and because I love the human experience. And this is something I will never apologize for. In fact, this is something I will continue to fight for as long as I am alive. Which, hopefully, will be for a very long time.

Why am I a Transhumanist? Because simply put, I love life too damn much.

Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Boosting Bone Healing Using a Key Protein – Article by Steve Hill

Boosting Bone Healing Using a Key Protein – Article by Steve Hill

Steve Hill


Editor’s Note: In this article, Mr. Steve Hill highlights research on selective bone regeneration using a protein called Jagged-1. This article was originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF).

                   ~ Kenneth Alum, Director of  Publication, U.S. Transhumanist Party, March 7, 2018

Today, we would like to highlight a recent study in which researchers show a way to selectively accelerate bone regeneration. They have achieved this by delivering Jagged-1 to injuries instead of the bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) that have been traditionally used.

What is Jagged-1?

Jagged-1 is an osteoinductive protein that activates the Notch signaling pathway, which regulates bone healing at the site of injury. Osteoinduction is the process by which osteogenesis is induced.

Osteoinduction involves recruiting immature cells and stimulating them to change into preosteoblasts. In a bone healing situation, such as during a fracture, the majority of bone healing depends on osteoinduction.

The new technique avoids the issues of inappropriate or excessive bone growth because, unlike BMPs, it targets osteoinductive mechanisms that are more directly associated with the regenerative process.

Testing their hypothesis

The researchers led by Kurt Hankenson, D.V.M., Ph.D., a professor of orthopedic surgery at Michigan Medicine, hypothesized for some years that by binding Jagged-1 to a biomaterial structure and delivering it to the site of injury, it could improve healing of the bone.

The published study results confirm this to be the case [1]. Mice and rats that were given Jagged-1, applied using a wet collagen sponge, saw improvements to both femoral and skull injuries. In contrast, the rodents treated with BMPs benefited but also experienced problematic bone hypertrophy, which is also observed in humans using BMPs.

The findings of this study suggest that the use of Jagged-1 for location-specific bone injury could potentially be developed into a therapy to help people recover from fractures and broken bones.

Conclusion

The use of signal molecules rather than drugs to encourage tissue regeneration is likely to increase in popularity in the coming years as the process becomes increasingly refined. This study is yet another example of how researchers are exploring the use of signalling molecules produced naturally in the body as an alternative to drug approaches, which can often have unwanted side effects. It should prove interesting to see how this approach develops in the next few years.

Literature

[1] Youngstrom, D. W., Senos, R., Zondervan, R. L., Brodeur, J. D., Lints, A. R., Young, D. R., … & Loomes, K. M. (2017). Intraoperative delivery of the Notch ligand Jagged-1 regenerates appendicular and craniofacial bone defects. NPJ Regenerative medicine, 2(1), 32.

About  Steve Hill

As a scientific writer and a devoted advocate of healthy longevity technologies, Steve has provided the community with multiple educational articles, interviews and podcasts, helping the general public to better understand aging and the means to modify its dynamics. His materials can be found at H+ Magazine, Longevity reporter, Psychology Today and Singularity Weblog. He is a co-author of the book “Aging Prevention for All” – a guide for the general public exploring evidence-based means to extend healthy life (in press).

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.

Dentists May Soon Regenerate Teeth Using GSK3 Antagonists – Article by Steve Hill

Dentists May Soon Regenerate Teeth Using GSK3 Antagonists – Article by Steve Hill

Steve Hill


Editor’s Note: In this article, Mr. Steve Hill explains a teeth-regeneration technique that works by activating the stem cells that reside in the dental pulp of teeth. The technique has the potential to translate to other tissues to help encourage regeneration. This article was originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF).

                   ~ Kenneth Alum, Director of  Publication, U.S. Transhumanist Party, March 6, 2018

What if I told you that we could regenerate our teeth? Well, that may soon be a possibility thanks to new research showing that teeth can be encouraged to regrow. Rather than drilling holes into teeth and plugging them with artificial fillers, dentists in the near future may be able to rebuild your teeth with a new technique.

Stimulating stem cells

Professor Paul Sharpe, a scientist based at King’s College in London, and his team have found a way to do just this in mice. They published a study last year that described this new approach [1].

The researchers wanted to increase the natural ability of teeth to repair themselves by activating the stem cells that reside in the dental pulp of teeth. They knew that previous research showed that the wnt signaling pathway is a key pathway for stem cell activity in many parts of the body, and they wanted to see if it works the same way in teeth.

The researchers believed by that using drugs to stimulate the wnt pathway, they could increase stem cell activity in teeth and boost their regenerative potential significantly. Normally, this level of regeneration is only seen in animals like starfish and salamanders, but the researchers wanted to see if we can benefit from the same regenerative capacity.

To see if this would work, the team drilled holes into the molar teeth of mice to simulate dental cavities. Next, they exposed collagen sponges (the same protein found in the dentin in teeth) to a variety of drugs known to stimulate the wnt pathway. Then, they placed these sponges into the cavities and sealed them in for between 4 to 6 weeks.

After this time, the researchers saw that the teeth exposed to these sponges had created a lot more dentin than the control mice and mice given typical dental fillers. The researchers observed that this was essentially a full repair and, in most cases, the teeth of the mice were as good as new.

The next step towards clinical trials

Since then, the researchers have tested the technique on rats, which have considerably larger teeth than mice, making them the logical next step. The research team report that the therapy worked equally well on the rats as it did in the mice in the original study; however, the data is yet to be published.

The researchers are now screening their drug candidates to identify the most effective of the wnt-stimulating drugs. They are also adapting the technique to work with modern dental practices by injecting a gel containing the drug into a dental cavity and hardening it using a UV light to seal it in. This is similar to how dentists currently seal and repair teeth, so this technique would be easy to incorporate into dental practice.

Literature

It will be several years before this enters human clinical trials, but the results so far are promising, and the process may be quicker than normal because a number of the candidate drugs are already approved for human use. The arrival of this technique will revolutionize dentistry and is a great step forward for regenerative medicine in general.

Such techniques have the potential to translate to other tissues to help encourage regeneration, so it is also relevant to aging research. We look forward to more developments from this team in the future.

References

[1] Neves, V. C., Babb, R., Chandrasekaran, D., & Sharpe, P. T. (2017). Promotion of natural tooth repair by small molecule GSK3 antagonists. Scientific reports, 7, 39654.

About  Steve Hill

As a scientific writer and a devoted advocate of healthy longevity technologies Steve has provided the community with multiple educational articles, interviews and podcasts, helping the general public to better understand aging and the means to modify its dynamics. His materials can be found at H+ Magazine, Longevity reporter, Psychology Today and Singularity Weblog. He is a co-author of the book “Aging Prevention for All” – a guide for the general public exploring evidence-based means to extend healthy life (in press).

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.

International Team Publishes Roadmap to Enhance Radioresistance for Space Colonization – Press Release by Biogerontology Research Foundation

International Team Publishes Roadmap to Enhance Radioresistance for Space Colonization – Press Release by Biogerontology Research Foundation

Biogerontology Research Foundation


 

IMAGE: These are ways to reduce health risks from space radiation during deep space travels. Multiple approaches from medical selection of radioresistant individuals to gene therapy may be proposed.

Editor’s Note: Below is a press release by the Biogerontology Research Foundation which features a roadmap to enhance radioresistance for space exploration and colonization, published by an international team of scientists from NASA, Health Canada, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and many other organizations. This press release was originally published here.

~ Dinorah Delfin, Director of Admissions and Public Relations, U.S. Transhumanist Party, February 22, 2018

An international team of researchers from NASA Ames Research Center, Environmental and Radiation Health Sciences Directorate at Health Canada, Oxford University, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, Belgian Nuclear Research Centre, Insilico Medicine, the Biogerontology Research Center, Boston University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Lethbridge, Ghent University, Center for Healthy Aging, and many others have published a roadmap toward enhancing human radioresistance for space exploration and colonization in the peer-reviewed journal Oncotarget.

“Our recent manuscript provides a comprehensive review of radioresistance for space radiation. Currently there is minimal research being done for radioresistance against HZE irradiation. The importance of these types of studies will be to reduce the associated health risks for long-term space exploration and allow for the development of potential countermeasures against space radiation. In addition, the synergy between understanding aging with radioresistance will allow for further benefits for humans in long-term space missions and allow for reduced health risk. This review sets the stage for the potential research the scientific community can do to allow for safe long term space exploration” said Afshin Beheshti, an author of the paper and a Bioinformatician at NASA Ames Research Center.

The roadmap outlines future research directions toward the goal of enhancing human radioresistance, including upregulation of endogenous repair and radioprotective mechanisms, possible leeways into gene therapy in order to enhance radioresistance via the translation of exogenous and engineered DNA repair and radioprotective mechanisms, the substitution of organic molecules with fortified isoforms, the coordination of regenerative and ablative technologies, and methods of slowing metabolic activity while preserving cognitive function. The paper concludes by presenting the known associations between radioresistance and longevity, and articulating the position that enhancing human radioresistance is likely to extend the healthspan of human spacefarers as well.

“This paper explores the foreseeable means by which human radioresistance could be biomedically enhanced for the purposes of space exploration and colonization. It also aims to elucidate the links between aging, longevity and radioresistance, and the ways in which research into enhancing human radioresistance could synergistically enable human healthspan extension, ultimately highlighting how ongoing research into the very well-funded sphere of aerospace research could galvanize progress in biomedical gerontology, a massively under-funded area of research despite the grave economic burden posed by demographic aging” said Franco Cortese, an author of the paper and Deputy Director of the Biogerontology Research Foundation.

The publication of the paper in Oncotarget this week is timely, given the test launch of the Falcon Heavy, SpaceX’s largest rocket to date, just last week. Interest into space exploration and even colonisation has been mounting for a number of years. Less than one year ago Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, unveiled a roadmap toward colonizing Mars, outlining the ambitious goal of placing a million people on Mars within the next 40 to 100 years. If interest in space colonization continues apace, research into methods of enhancing radioresistance to protect against the various forms of space radiation that spacefarers would be subjected to needs to be accelerated accordingly.

“In linking ageing and radioresistance and tying together research into enhancing the radioresistance of astronauts with the extension of healthy longevity, we hope to have shown how aerospace research could be used to leapfrog the massive funding deficit surrounding the clinical translation of healthspan-extending interventions, in order to brave the storm of the oncoming Silver Tsunami and prevent the looming economic crisis posed by demographic aging” said Dmitry Kaminskiy, an author of the paper and Managing Trustee of the Biogerontology Research Foundation.

The roadmap highlights the need to converge and accelerate research in radiobiology, biogerontology and AI to enable spacefarers to address both the healthcare challenges that we are already aware of, as well as those that we are not.

“Sooner or later we’ll have to do it – leave Earth and wander into deep space. Such travel, taking one or more years outside the Earth’s magnetosphere, would take a high toll on astronauts’ health due to exposure to cosmic radiation. So it’s better to start thinking now about how we are going to cope with that challenge. Luckily, current knowledge from such fields as radiobiology, aging research and biotechnology in general, with the wealth of recent advances in gene editing and regenerative medicine, allow for the drafting of conceptual roadmaps to enhance human resistance to cosmic radiation. This is exactly what this work is all about. It was fun and a pleasure to partake in this theoretical project with such a diverse international team. We were just throwing ideas on the table, some being quite ambitious and futuristic, and then examining them carefully for feasibility and assessing their potential. The work laid out several interesting directions and concepts that can eventually pay off. Last but not least, I think it is also very important to attract widespread attention and interest to this topic” said Dmitry Klokov, an author of the paper and Section Head of the Radiobiology & Health section at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.

Furthermore, given the massive amount of funding allocated to research into facilitating and optimizing space exploration and optimization, the researchers hope to have shown how research into enhancing radioresistance for space exploration could galvanize progress in human healthspan extension, an area of research that is still massively underfunded despite its potential to prevent the massive economic burden posed by the future healthcare costs associated with demographic aging.

“This roadmap sets the stage for enhancing human biology beyond our natural limits in ways that will confer not only longevity and disease resistance but will be essential for future space exploration” said João Pedro de Magalhães, an author of the paper and a Trustee of the Biogerontology Research Foundation.

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The paper, entitled “Vive la radiorésistance!: converging research in radiobiology and biogerontology to enhance human radioresistance for deep space exploration and colonization”, can be viewed on Oncotarget here.

Citation: Franco Cortese, Dmitry Klokov, Andreyan Osipov, Jakub Stefaniak, Alexey Moskalev, Jane Schastnaya, Charles Cantor, Alexander Aliper, Polina Mamoshina, Igor Ushakov, Alex Sapetsky, Quentin Vanhaelen, Irina Alchinova, Mikhail Karganov, Olga Kovalchuk, Ruth Wilkins, Andrey Shtemberg, Marjan Moreels, Sarah Baatout, Evgeny Izumchenko, João Pedro de Magalhães, Artem V. Artemov, Sylvain V. Costes, Afshin Beheshti, Xiao Wen Mao, Michael J. Pecaut, Dmitry Kaminskiy, Ivan V. Ozerov, Morten Scheibye-Knudsen and Alex Zhavoronkov. Vive la radiorésistance!: converging research in radiobiology and biogerontology to enhance human radioresistance for deep space exploration and colonization, Epub ahead of print. Published online 2018 February 09. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.24461

About the Biogerontology Research Foundation:

The Biogerontology Research Foundation is a UK non-profit research foundation and public policy center seeking to fill a gap within the research community, whereby the current scientific understanding of the ageing process is not yet being sufficiently exploited to produce effective medical interventions. The BGRF funds and conducts research which, building on the body of knowledge about how ageing happens, aims to develop biotechnological interventions to remediate the molecular and cellular deficits which accumulate with age and which underlie the ill-health of old age. Addressing ageing damage at this most fundamental level will provide an important opportunity to produce the effective, lasting treatments for the diseases and disabilities of ageing, required to improve quality of life in the elderly. The BGRF seeks to use the entire scope of modern biotechnology to attack the changes that take place in the course of ageing, and to address not just the symptoms of age-related diseases but also the mechanisms of those diseases.

California Transhumanist Party Leadership Meeting – Presentation by Newton Lee and Discussion on Transhumanist Political Efforts

California Transhumanist Party Leadership Meeting – Presentation by Newton Lee and Discussion on Transhumanist Political Efforts

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Newton Lee
Gennady Stolyarov II
Bobby Ridge
Charlie Kam


The California Transhumanist Party held its inaugural Leadership Meeting on January 27, 2018. Newton Lee, Chairman of the California Transhumanist Party and Education and Media Advisor of the U.S. Transhumanist Party,  outlined the three Core Ideals of the California Transhumanist Party (modified versions of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Core Ideals), the forthcoming book “Transhumanism: In the Image of Humans” – which he is curating and which will contain essays from leading transhumanist thinkers in a variety of realms, and possibilities for outreach, future candidates, and collaboration with the U.S. Transhumanist Party and Transhumanist Parties in other States. U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II contributed by providing an overview of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s current operations and possibilities for running or endorsing candidates for office in the coming years.

Visit the website of the California Transhumanist Party: http://www.californiatranshumanistparty.org/index.html

Read the U.S. Transhumanist Party Constitution: http://transhumanist-party.org/constitution/

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free: http://transhumanist-party.org/membership/

(If you reside in California, this would automatically render you a member of the California Transhumanist Party.)

BGRF and SILS Scientists Analyze Viability of shRNA Therapy for Huntington’s Disease – Press Release by Biogerontology Research Foundation

BGRF and SILS Scientists Analyze Viability of shRNA Therapy for Huntington’s Disease – Press Release by Biogerontology Research Foundation

Biogerontology Research Foundation


Friday, December 1, 2017, London, UK: Researchers from the Biogerontology Research FoundationDepartment of Molecular Neuroscience at the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences at the University of Amsterdam, and the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society at the Karolinska Institute announce the publication of a paper in Translational Neurodegeneration, a BioMedCentral journal, titled RNAi mechanisms in Huntington’s disease therapy: siRNA versus shRNA.

After many years of development, RNAi therapeutics are nearing the clinic. There are several variants on RNAi therapeutics, such as antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs), short-hairpin RNA (shRNA), small interfering RNA (siRNA), et cetera. The researchers’ paper aimed to answer the question of why RNAi therapeutics for nucleotide repeat disorders (specifically Huntington’s, a devastating genetic neurodegenerative disease), have lost favor in recent years. After a phenomenal amount of excitement, these therapies were hindered by problems like molecular stability, dosing, and transcriptional control of the gene therapeutic construct.

“We compared various RNAi-based therapeutic modalities available for the treatment of Huntington’s Disease and offered mechanistic proposals on how to break through current barriers to clinical development. One key problem has proven to be modulating the expression level of shRNA constructs, which would otherwise be the clear frontrunner among ASOs, siRNAs, and other methods due to duration of expression, dramatically reduced off-target effects, and ease of delivery by adeno-associated viruses that are already approved by the EMA and FDA. We also put forward novel methods of modulating construct expression and avoiding off-target effects” said Franco Cortese, co-author of the paper and Deputy Director of the Biogerontology Research Foundation.

The researchers analyzed available data on the levels of off-target effects associated with siRNA vs shRNA, surveyed emerging strategies to reduce off-target effects in shRNA therapies (such as tough decoy RNAs, or TuDs), and proposed novel methods of controlling shRNA expression, in particular through the use of negative feedback-driven oscillating promoters.

Mechanism of TFEB at the PGC1-a promoter. The PGC1a promoter contains a CLEAR-box that is known to be bound by TFEB, a transcription factor induced during autophagy and lysosomal biogenesis. A construct being the PGC1a promoter CLEAR-box would be induced by TFEB under conditions of intracellular proteotoxicity due to HTT aggregation. By this mechanism, on-demand suppression of HTT could be achieved | Credit: Translational Neuroscience

 

“We proposed two novel feedback mechanisms that 1) activate construct expression stoichiometrically with mutant Huntingtin expression, or 2) only during aggregate-induced autophagy and lysosomal biogenesis. That way, the problem of excessive construct expression may be mitigated. These ideas were inspired by feedback systems used in synthetic biology, and in ‘nonsynthetic,’ naturally occurring biological systems” said Sebastian Aguiar, lead author of the paper.

Readers can read the open-access paper here: https://translationalneurodegeneration.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40035-017-0101-9.

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About the Biogerontology Research Foundation

The Biogerontology Research Foundation is a UK non-profit research foundation and public policy center seeking to fill a gap within the research community, whereby the current scientific understanding of the ageing process is not yet being sufficiently exploited to produce effective medical interventions. The BGRF funds and conducts research which, building on the body of knowledge about how ageing happens, aims to develop biotechnological interventions to remediate the molecular and cellular deficits which accumulate with age and which underlie the ill-health of old age. Addressing ageing damage at this most fundamental level will provide an important opportunity to produce the effective, lasting treatments for the diseases and disabilities of ageing, required to improve quality of life in the elderly. The BGRF seeks to use the entire scope of modern biotechnology to attack the changes that take place in the course of ageing, and to address not just the symptoms of age-related diseases but also the mechanisms of those diseases.

About the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences

The Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS) is the largest institute of the Faculty of Science at the University of Amsterdam. The institute comprises biological disciplines including molecular and cell biology, microbiology, plant science, physiology and neurobiology, supported by modern enabling technologies for the life sciences. The research groups of SILS also develop methods in genomics (micro-array, next-gen sequencing, proteomics), bioinformatics and advanced light microscopy technologies. Knowledge from adjacent fields of science, in particular biochemistry, biophysics, medicine, bioinformatics, statistics and information technology make SILS a multidisciplinary research institute with a systems biology approach to the life sciences. SILS’ research objective is to understand the functioning of living organisms, from the most basic aspects up to complex physiological function(s). Biological processes are studied at the level of molecules, cells, cellular networks and organisms. SILS research topics have in common that similar cellular processes and interactions are studied, likewise using similar methodologies and technologies. Therefore SILS scientists often study the same concepts in different biological systems. Within the institute, this leads to exchange of information and extension of research over the borders of different disciplines. Part of SILS research activities are directed to application-oriented research in close collaboration with industry.

Review of Philip Tetlock’s “Superforecasting” by Adam Alonzi

Review of Philip Tetlock’s “Superforecasting” by Adam Alonzi

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Adam Alonzi


Alexander Consulting the Oracle of Apollo, Louis Jean Francois Lagrenée. 1789, Oil on Canvas.

“All who drink of this treatment recover in a short time, except those whom it does not help, who all die. It is obvious, therefore, that it fails only in incurable cases.”

-Galen

Before the advent of evidence-based medicine, most physicians took an attitude like Galen’s toward their prescriptions. If their remedies did not work, surely the fault was with their patient. For centuries scores of revered doctors did not consider putting bloodletting or trepanation to the test. Randomized trials to evaluate the efficacy of a treatment were not common practice. Doctors like Archie Cochrane, who fought to make them part of standard protocol, were met with fierce resistance. Philip Tetlock, author of Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (2015), contends that the state of forecasting in the 21st century is strikingly similar to medicine in the 19th. Initiatives like the Good Judgement Project (GJP), a website that allows anyone to make predictions about world events, have shown that even a discipline that is largely at the mercy of chance can be put on a scientific footing.

More than once the author reminds us that the key to success in this endeavor is not what you think or what you know, but how you think. For Tetlock pundits like Thomas Friedman are the “exasperatingly evasive” Galens of the modern era. In the footnotes he lets the reader know he chose Friedman as target strictly because of his prominence. There are many like him. Tetlock’s academic work comparing random selections with those of professionals led media outlets to publish, and a portion of their readers to conclude, that expert opinion is no more accurate than a dart-throwing chimpanzee. What the undiscerning did not consider, however, is not all of the experts who participated failed to do better than chance.

Daniel Kahneman hypothesized that “attentive readers of the New York Times…may be only slightly worse” than these experts corporations and governments so handsomely recompense. This turned out to be a conservative guess. The participants in the Good Judgement Project outperformed all control groups, including one composed of professional intelligence analysts with access to classified information. This hodgepodge of retired bird watchers, unemployed programmers, and news junkies did 30% better than the “pros.” More importantly, at least to readers who want to gain a useful skillset as well as general knowledge, the managers of the GJP have identified qualities and ways of thinking that separate “superforecasters” from the rest of us. Fortunately they are qualities we can all cultivate.

While the merits of his macroeconomic theories can be debated, John Maynard Keynes was an extremely successful investor during one of the bleakest periods in international finance. This was no doubt due in part to his willingness to make allowance for new information and his grasp of probability. Participants in the GJP display open-mindedness, an ability and willingness to repeatedly update their forecasts, a talent to neither under- nor over-react to new information by putting it into a broader context,  and a predilection for mathematical thinking (though those interviewed admitted they rarely used an explicit equation to calculate their answer). The figures they give also tend to be more precise than their less successful peers. This “granularity” may seem ridiculous at first. I must confess that when I first saw estimates on the GJP of 34% or 59%, I would chuckle a bit. How, I asked myself, is a single percentage point meaningful? Aren’t we just dealing with rough approximations? Apparently not.

Tetlock reminds us that the GJP does not deal with nebulous questions like “Who will be president in 2027?” or “Will a level 9 earthquake hit California two years from now?” However, there are questions that are not, in the absence of unforeseeable Black Swan events, completely inscrutable. Who will win the Mongolian presidency? Will Uruguay sign a trade agreement with Laos in the next six months? These are parts of highly complex systems, but they can be broken down into tractable subproblems.

Using numbers instead of words like “possibly”, “probably”, “unlikely”, etc., seems unnatural. It gives us wiggle room and plausible deniability. They also cannot be put on any sort of record to keep score of how well we’re doing. Still, to some it may seem silly, pedantic, or presumptuous. If Joint Chiefs of Staff had given the exact figure they had in mind (3 to 1) instead of the “fair chance” given to Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs debacle may have never transpired. Because they represent ranges of values instead of single numbers, words can be retroactively stretched or shrunk to make blunders seem a little less avoidable. This is good for advisors looking to cover their hides by hedging their bets, but not so great for everyone else.

If American intelligence agencies had presented the formidable but vincible figure of 70% instead of a “slam dunk” to Congress, a disastrous invasion and costly occupation would have been prevented. At this point it is hard not to see the invasion as anything as a mistake, but even amidst these emotions we must be wary of hindsight. Still, a 70% chance of being right means there is a 30% chance of being wrong. It is hardly a “slam dunk.” No one would feel completely if an oncologist told them they are 70% sure the growth is not malignant. There are enormous consequences to sloppy communications. However, those with vested interests are more than content with this approach if it agrees with them, even if it ends up harming them.

When Nate Silver put the odds of the 2008 election in Obama’s favor, he was panned by Republicans as a pawn of the liberal media. He was quickly reviled by Democrats when he foresaw a Republican takeover of the Senate. It is hard to be a wizard when the king, his court, and all the merry peasants sweeping the stables would not know a confirmation bias from their right foot. To make matters worse, confidence is widely equated with capability. This seems to be doubly true of groups of people, particularly when they are choosing a leader. A mutual-fund manager who tells his clients they will see great returns on a company is viewed as stronger than a Poindexter prattling on about Bayesian inference and risk management.

The GJP’s approach has not spread far — yet. At this time most pundits, consultants, and self-proclaimed sages do not explicitly quantify their success rates, but this does not stop corporations, NGOs, and institutions at all levels of government from paying handsomely for the wisdom of untested soothsayers. Perhaps they have a few diplomas, but most cannot provide compelling evidence for expertise in haruspicy (sans the sheep’s liver). Given the criticality of accurate analyses to saving time and money, it would seem as though a demand for methods to improve and assess the quality of foresight would arise. Yet for the most part individuals and institutions continue to happily grope in the dark, unaware of the necessity for feedback when they misstep — afraid of having their predictions scrutinized or having to take the pains to scrutinize their predictions.

David Ferrucci is wary of the “guru model” to settling disputes. No doubt you’ve witnessed or participated in this kind of whimpering fracas: one person presents a Krugman op-ed to debunk a Niall Ferguson polemic, which is then countered with a Tommy Friedman book, which was recently excoriated  by the newest leader of the latest intellectual cult to come out of the Ivy League. In the end both sides leave frustrated. Krugman’s blunders regarding the economic prospects of the Internet, deflation, the “imminent” collapse of the euro (said repeatedly between 2010 and 2012) are legendary. Similarly, Ferguson, who strongly petitioned the Federal Reserve to reconsider quantitative easing, lest the United States suffer Weimar-like inflation, has not yet been vindicated. He and his colleagues responded in the same way as other embarrassed prophets: be patient, it has not happened, but it will! In his defense, more than one clever person has criticized the way governments calculate their inflation rates…

Paul Ehrlich, a darling of environmentalist movement, has screeched about the detonation of a “population bomb” for decades. Civilization was set to collapse between 15 and 30 years from 1970. During the interim 100 to 200 million would annually starve to death, by the year 2000 no crude oil would be left, the prices of raw materials would skyrocket, and the planet would be in the midst of a perpetual famine. Tetlock does not mention Ehrlich, but he is, particularly given his persisting influence on Greens, as or more deserving of a place in this hall of fame as anyone else. Larry Kudlow continued to assure the American people that the Bush tax breaks were producing massive economic growth. This continued well into 2008, when he repeatedly told journalists that America was not in a recession and the Bush boom was “alive and well.” For his stupendous commitment to his contention in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he was nearly awarded a seat in the Trump cabinet.

This is not to say a mistake should become the journalistic equivalent of a scarlet letter. Kudlow’s slavish adherence to his axioms is not unique. Ehrlich’s blindness to technological advances is not uncommon, even in an era dominated by technology. By failing to set a timeline or give detailed causal accounts, many believe they have predicted every crash since they learned how to say the word. This is likely because they begin each day with the same mantra: “the market will crash.”  Yet through an automatically executed routine of psychological somersaults, they do not see they were right only once and wrong dozens, hundreds, or thousands of times. This kind of person is much more deserving of scorn than a poker player who boasts about his victories, because he is (likely) also aware of how often he loses. At least he’s not fooling himself. The severity of Ehrlich’s misfires is a reminder of what happens when someone looks too far ahead while assuming all things will remain the same. Ceteris paribus exists only in laboratories and textbooks.

Axioms are fates accepted by different people as truth, but the belief in Fate (in the form of retroactive narrative construction) is a nearly ubiquitous stumbling block to clear thinking. We may be far removed from Sophocles, but the unconscious human drive to create sensible narratives is not peculiar to fifth-century B.C. Athens. A questionnaire given to students at Northwestern showed that most believed things had turned out for the best even if they had gotten into their first pick. From an outsider’s perspective this is probably not true. In our cocoons we like to think we are in the right place either through the hand of fate or through our own choices. Atheists are not immune to this Panglossian habit. Our brains are wired for stories, but the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves seldom come out without distortions. We can gain a better outside view, which allows us to see situations from perspectives other than our own, but only through regular practice with feedback. This is one of the reasons groups are valuable.

Francis Galton asked 787 villagers to guess the weight of an ox hanging in the market square. The average of their guesses (1,197 lbs) turned out to be remarkably close to its actual weight (1,198 lbs). Scott Page has said “diversity trumps ability.” This is a tad bold, since legions of very different imbeciles will never produce anything of value, but there is undoubtedly a benefit to having a group with more than one point of view. This was tested by the GJP. Teams performed better than lone wolves by a significant margin (23% to be exact). Partially as a result of encouraging one another and building a culture of excellence, and partially from the power of collective intelligence.

“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

-Helmuth von Moltke

“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”

-Mike Tyson

When Archie Cochrane was told he had cancer by his surgeon, he prepared for death. Type 1 thinking grabbed hold of him and did not doubt the diagnosis. A pathologist later told him the surgeon was wrong. The best of us, under pressure, fall back on habitual modes of thinking. This is another reason why groups are useful (assuming all their members do not also panic). Organizations like the GJP and the Millennium Project are showing how well collective intelligence systems can perform. Helmuth von Moltke and Mike Tyson aside, a better motto, substantiated by a growing body of evidence, comes from Dwight  Eisenhower: “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Adam Alonzi is a writer, biotechnologist, documentary maker, futurist, inventor, programmer, and author of the novels A Plank in Reason and Praying for Death: A Zombie Apocalypse. He is an analyst for the Millennium Project, the Head Media Director for BioViva Sciences, and Editor-in-Chief of Radical Science News. Listen to his podcasts here. Read his blog here.