Nothing is given to man on earth – struggle is built into the nature of life, and conflict is possible – the hero is the man who lets no obstacle prevent him from pursuing the values he has chosen.
Editor’s Note: In this introductory article to the “Fight Aging!” blog, the author lays out four of the most basic steps one can take. Any person who claims the title of “Transhumanist” would be foolish not to take these basic actions and principles to heart. A Transhumanist should consider these part of the “struggle” they all face, and that they implicitly choose to either confront or evade.
~ Zach Richardson, Director of Publication, United States Transhumanist Party, December 2021
Aging is an Enemy, So Fight It!
Aging saps our strength and ability to enjoy life, cripples us, and eventually kills us. Tens of millions die from medical conditions caused by aging each and every year, and a staggering amount of money is spent on trying – and failing – to cope with this ongoing disaster. Yet the risk of suffering age-related conditions in later life can be reduced for most people through diet and exercise. Furthermore, serious scientific efforts are presently underway to understand and intervene in the aging process – not just to prevent frailty and disease, but also repair and reverse the root causes of aging.
In future decades researchers will assemble new biotechnologies that can defeat aging, restore the old to health and vigor, and prevent the young from ever suffering the ravages of age. Some of these future therapies are already understood and envisioned in some detail, but remain in comparatively early stages of research. Others are just now starting to make the leap into clinical development. We would like these breakthroughs to happen while we are still alive and in good enough health to benefit from them: we miss out on so much as things stand today, pressed by the lack of time and our increasing frailty with age. Imagine instead a world in which everyone has the option of another tomorrow, and the health and vigor to enjoy it, each and every day. But how can we achieve this goal?
The Limited Means of Today, the Biotechnologies of Tomorrow
Present-day medical technologies are far advanced over those available to our ancestors, and as a result we suffer far less than they did. Yet modern medicine can achieve little in comparison to what scientists know is possible for the future. Despite amazing advances in understanding and treating age-related conditions (such as cancer, heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and many others), and despite the cries of the anti-aging marketplace, it is still the case that, for basically healthy people, no presently available therapy or tool is proven in humans to provide more than a fraction of the long-term benefits to health and life expectancy provided by regular exercise or a calorie-restricted diet.
While it is true that no existing medical technology is proven to improve on these lifestyle choices here and now, today, in humans, this state of affairs will not remain true for many more years. If you look to the laboratories, you will see that some researchers can greatly extend the healthy lives of many species, while others put forward clear plans to either slow aging through the manipulation of human metabolism or reverse aging by repairing the cell and tissue damage that causes age-related degeneration. Technology demonstrations for some of these approaches have been carried out in mice in recent years, producing benefits to health and extended healthy life spans. Treatments based on clearance of senescent cells have been demonstrated to reverse the progression of many currently untreatable age-related conditions in mice, for example. The first formal human clinical trials of therapies anticipated to either modestly slow aging or produce limited degrees of rejuvenation started up in 2017, and some of these trials have produced positive results.
A future in which aging becomes a treatable condition awaits us, as time ticks away and, for now, we continue to age just like our ancestors did. This is an era of rapid progress in biotechnology and medicine. As the years pass, the remaining span of healthy life that you and I will likely live to enjoy is ever more determined by the ability of clinical medicine to revert and repair the causes of aging, and ever less determined by lifestyle choices. Thus when we reach for longer, healthier lives, it is vital that we lend our support to the research and clinical development of therapies capable of treating the causes of aging. We must ensure that the public is educated, the fundamental longevity science is funded, the clinical applications of that research fully developed, and the resulting rejuvenation biotechnologies made available – and all this as soon as possible. The clock is ticking, after all, and this is the only approach that will allow us live for significantly longer than our ancestors.
Four Steps Toward Longevity
The following four steps outline a starting point for living longer, a sketch of a framework for thinking about healthy life extension:
- Step 1: Stop Damaging Your Health
- Step 2: Adopt a Better Diet and Lifestyle
- Step 3: Support Progress in Rejuvenation Research
- Step 4: Investigate Early Access to the First Rejuvenation Therapies
At its most basic level, aging is nothing more than an accumulation of damage; breakages in the molecular machinery of your cells, a build-up of metabolic waste products that your body cannot break down, the flailing of biological systems that are increasingly unable to cope. Ask yourself this: are you damaging yourself more rapidly than you might otherwise be, perhaps more than you realize? Do you smoke? Do recreational drugs occupy a central position in your life? Do you eat nothing but junk food or are overweight? Do you exercise little or not at all? Do you have a poor relationship with your physician, or haven’t seen a doctor in years? If so, you have a clear starting point. These things can hurt you far more than any presently available strategy for healthy living can help. There is little point in insulating the windows if the door is jammed open.
Find a physician you can trust and talk to about improving your health. You might be surprised at how easy, low-cost, and downright pleasant it is to lead a healthier and thereby longer life.
The body is a complex, resilient machine. Unlike our cars, however, we can’t replace it when it breaks down. Given that, it’s scandalous that most people know more about the long-term care of a car than they do about the long-term care of the human body. Fortunately, it’s neither difficult nor expensive to use diet and lifestyle to raise the odds of living a longer and healthier life.
Firstly: adopt some form of calorie-restricted diet, whether straight calorie restriction or some form of intermittent fasting. Calorie restriction and some implementations of intermittent fasting, such as alternate-day fasting, are currently the most robustly, repeatedly proven way of extending healthy life in mammals. While the present scientific consensus is that these practices will not extend life in humans to anywhere near the same degree as in mice, calorie restriction and intermittent fasting have been shown in human studies to provide a range of other beneficial effects on health, such as a greatly lowered risk of suffering all common age-related medical conditions – and these approaches to diet are highly praised by practitioners. You can learn more about calorie restriction at the CR Society website, and here at Fight Aging! you’ll find introduction to calorie restriction that provides helpful guidelines to getting started.
Secondly: exercise as recommended by your physician. The benefits of maintaining a modest regular level of exercise for most people are well-known and well-proven by many scientific studies. As is also true of calorie restriction, these benefits include a greatly reduced risk of suffering almost all of the common age-related diseases.
Thirdly: take a modest amount of supplements appropriate to your age and health. There is a wealth of supplement information available, but much of it is worthless, propagated by irresponsible sellers. This is perhaps the hardest topic to research, and in the end you will have to make a number of decisions yourself based on incomplete or contradictory scientific evidence. The bottom line here, however, is that no presently available supplement or combination of supplements has been shown to provide even a fraction of the benefits of either calorie restriction or exercise, for all that they are widely supposed to be beneficial.
Speaking out in favor of medical research aimed at extending the healthy human life span is just as important as taking care of your health today – even the best of present-day practices will make only a comparatively small difference to your expected future life span. Most age-related conditions are still incurable, and no matter how well you live your life, you will become frail with old age and eventually die from the damage that is accumulating within your body. The aging process causes great suffering for hundreds of millions worldwide each and every day, and absent scientific breakthroughs you will be one of them. Yet that said, we are living in an era of rapid, seething progress in medicine, the life sciences, and biotechnology, far more so than at any time in the past – and we can envisage how aging should be repaired and reversed. Aging will one day be cured, just like any other medical condition, and our job is to ensure that this day arrives soon enough to matter.
A revolution in biotechnology is presently underway, a longevity-focused industry of biotech companies is forming, and the medicine of the near future holds great promise – see, for example, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) coordinated by the SENS Research Foundation and other scientific groups. This promise is not a guarantee, however. It can only be realized if research and clinical development are fully funded and widely supported. The still-young field of rejuvenation research remains for the most part poorly funded, and while there is a great deal more discussion of the prospect of treating aging as a medical condition than was the case even as recently as a decade ago, most of the public still neither understands nor appreciates the possibilities offered by this research. Further, many politicians, funding institutions, and bioethicists continue to speak out in opposition to the development of medicine to enhance healthy longevity.
If we do not stand up in support of rejuvenation biotechnology – the key to our future health and extended longevity – then research and investment will decline. Without vocal public support and understanding, scientists are reluctant to go out on a limb and fight for the funding needed to create new ways to intervene in the aging process. Without philanthropy for the academic sciences, much of this fundamental research will not be funded. By failing to prevent legislation that slows or criminalizes vital medical research, such as happened for stem-cell research for many years, we only hurt ourselves. Do you want to live a much longer, much healthier life? Do you want your friends, parents, and children to live long and in vigor? Do you want to see the development of biotechnology that can reverse the course of aging and frailty? Then you have to support this research, and be vocal about it! There are many ways to make your voice heard on important issues relating to the future of human health and longevity. A good starting point to learn more on this topic is to become a regular reader of Fight Aging!, explore the site, and sign up for the newsletter.
New medical technologies do not arrive all at once, fully formed from day one. Early forms of therapy become available in limited ways, or existing drugs are found to have an effect on the mechanism of interest large enough to merit use in animal studies or human trials. So it is for the first rejuvenation treatments to have a large enough impact on aging in animal studies to care about, and that are also producing benefits in their first human trials. As of 2019, the most obvious of these are senolytic therapies that selectively destroy the senescent cells that accumulate to cause considerable harm in old tissues. The existing generic drugs and supplements newly discovered to be senolytic, and shown to work well in numerous animal studies, are being tested in humans.
The informed decision that each of us must make for ourselves is whether to wait for more data from human trials, to wait for the most likely better senolytic therapies presently under development, or to strike out to obtain and try existing senolytic therapies. If the latter, there in turn lies further personal research, learning, and informed decisions. Where to find a physician to prescribe the relevant drugs, for example, or whether to forge ahead as a self-experimenter, with all of the responsibility and accountability that this implies. However it is accomplished, it is almost always possible for informed and proactive individuals to obtain earlier access to new therapies than waiting for the world to move on to the point at which general physicians begin recommending these treatments to patients. Whether or not to choose to do so is a personal decision on risk and benefit, and this same calculus applies to any new medical technology as it arrives, not just senolytic rejuvenation therapies.
So there you go: four quick steps that provide a solid starting point for learning more about living longer and the near future of rejuvenation biotechnology. Fifteen years ago, when the longevity science community was smaller and less organized, and the first rejuvenation therapies had yet to even be seriously tested in laboratory animals, it required years of discussion and research to make the leap to understand the existence and importance of step 3 – the necessity of supporting research into human longevity, and the fact that there is legitimate research aimed at human rejuvenation to be supported in the first place. Back in the day, information on longevity science was harder to find, drowned out by irresponsible voices in the anti-aging marketplace, and only rarely discussed in public by scientists in the field.
The core of the Fight Aging! mindset is to recognize that step 3 exists, and that your future largely depends on the pace of progress in medical research aimed at producing human rejuvenation. Don’t get seduced by the noise surrounding step 2, produced by the vast industry associated with lifestyle choices, diet, supplements, and exercise, because it is largely smoke and mirrors. You can’t eat and exercise your way into a healthy life that is decades longer than it would otherwise be, and you can’t eat and exercise your way to a certainty of reaching 100 years of age. Three quarters of the healthiest among us die before reaching 90 even supported by today’s medicine, and most of what is sold to the lost and the gullible under the “anti-aging” banner is useless junk. Only new medical technologies produced by the research community can provide the option of living in good health for far longer than your great-grandparents did, and that can only happen if these technologies are funded and developed rapidly enough.
Fight Aging! is here as a resource. Make good use of it, but always remember that the bottom line is this: a tremendous opportunity exists in the research and development of rejuvenation biotechnology, far beyond anything that can be obtained through diet, exercise, and supplements. Don’t squander that opportunity by ignoring it.