Healthy Life Extension
How Long Can We Live?
Dear Future Centenarian,
According to Dr. Aubrey de Grey, a lack of biology is the only limit on longevity.
In his personal opinion, medicine is all about transcending the limits of biology. Where we have not yet transcended, such as in maximum observed human lifespan, is because the necessary biotechnology has not yet been developed. You can read the report at:
What does he mean by the œonly limit?
As we know, we only have about one chance in a thousand to live to 100 with today™s medicine. On that note, I took a short and entertaining online lifespan calculator test yesterday at http://media.nmfn.com/tnetwork/lifespan. Since it was developed by Northwestern Mutual, I had high hopes for its accuracy. But it pegged my expected lifespan at 101.
That was ludicrous. They obviously didn™t map my genome, and genetics take over around the age of 90. Sure, there™s much you can do to make it to 90, but you™ll need breakthroughs in biology to expect to make it to 101.
But the technology of tomorrow will paint a different picture. If you want to talk about longevity and mortality rates, you have to qualify your position by stating what sort of applied biotechnologies are available. Longevity is a function of the quality and type of medicine that™s available across a lifespan.
Most life-extending breakthroughs which have occurred in the past hundred years, have solved problems that killed people early in life. Infectious disease, for example, is controlled to a degree that would have been thought utopian in the squalor of Victorian England.
The things that kill older people are more challenging. Great progress has been made in reducing mortality from heart disease in the past few decades for example, but that™s just one late stage consequence of the complex array of biochemical processes that we call aging.
The point of this discussion? Tremendous progress in medicine, including the defeat or taming of many varied causes of death and disability, has not greatly lengthened the maximum human lifespan in practice.
The research community hasn't really started in earnest on the work on rejuvenation biotechnology. The story of medicine to date has been work on other line items, or largely futile attempts to patch over the failure modes that lie at the end of aging.
Since aging is only an accumulation of damage, there™s a gentle trend towards extended life as a result of general improvements across the board in medicine - perhaps one year of additional life with every three to five years of technological progress at the present time.
On average, people with access to modern technology and support suffer biological damage at the cellular level and molecular machinery more slowly across their lives. But this is slow going incidental life extension.
Given this history of medical progress, you™ll find many life science researchers and advocates who view the human lifespan as bounded.
They look to past progress and extrapolate to assume that future progress can only continue improving things within the existing human maximum life span. In other words, that more and more people will live in good health closer to that maximum, but that the maximum is set in stone.
There's are even names for this goal, œsquaring the mortality curve and œcompression of morbidity.
This is a noble undertaking as it reduces end-of-life suffering and medical expense. But instead of a goal in itself, it merely delays the inevitable.
So advocates for super longevity need to make sure their efforts don™t get sidetracked by short-term feel-good progress at the expense of a real long-term solution to our aging dilemma.
The future of medicine in the next few decades is not about gaining a decade of life with no hope of pushing out human life span beyond 120 years. It™s about building the alpha versions of medical technologies that can provide open-ended healthy lifespans.
But until many more people come to understand this point, there will continue to be the same lack of support for research that will lead to radical change in the relationship of medicine and aging.
LATEST HEADLINES FROM FIGHT AGING!
DRUGS TO SLOW AGING ARE A MATTER OF WHEN, NOT IF Friday, February 22, 2013
It is pleasing to see this sort of article emerging from a university publicity group - a part of the necessary trend within the scientific community towards making it acceptable and desirable to talk about extending human life through biotechnology.
The silence of the research community on this topic across past decades was very harmful to the prospects for progress and funding in the field of aging research and longevity science. That said, it is problematic that the vast majority of resources and researchers presently focus on modestly slowing aging rather than trying to repair and reverse the causes of aging.
AN EXAMPLE OF THE FUTURE OF STEM CELL THERAPIES Friday, February 22, 2013
One major branch of future progress in stem cell therapy will discard transplantation of cells in favor of manipulating the signals that tell local cells what to do - which is generally what the transplanted cells are actually doing anyway.
This will become more effective as researchers gain a better understanding of the intricacies of cell signaling relevant to growth and repair, but here is an early example of what can be done with this sort of approach:
INJECTABLE SCAFFOLD GEL TO SPUR HEART REGENERATION Thursday, February 21, 2013
Researchers are here working on an injectable gel scaffold material that appears to improve regeneration of heart damage:
BIOENGINEERING AN EAR Thursday, February 21, 2013
An application of 3-D printing and regenerative medicine:
"[Researchers] described how 3-D printing and injectable gels made of living cells can fashion ears that are practically identical to a human ear.
ONLY SOME MITOCHONDRIAL DNA DAMAGE CONTRIBUTES TO AGING Wednesday, February 20, 2013
This research might be taken to illustrate the point that only some specific mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) contribute to aging - those occurring in one of thirteen specific genes, per the SENS outline.
So mice with accelerated mutation rates in all mitochondrial DNA exhibit accelerated aging, while mice with specific mitochondrial mutations that do not include those that contribute to aging do not exhibit accelerated aging.
DISCUSSING INFLAMMATION AND AGE-RELATED DISEASE Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Notes from a recent conference at the Impact Aging journal: "The workshop opened with [an] overview of the literature supporting the emergence a mild pro-inflammatory state that is closely linked to the major degenerative diseases of the elderly.
The focus of the workshop was to better understand the origins and consequences of this low level chronic inflammation in order to design appropriate interventional studies aimed at improving healthspan.
AN EXAMPLE OF SCAFFOLDS TO ENCOURAGE BONE REGROWTH Tuesday, February 19, 2013
The use of nanoscale-featured scaffold materials is common in regenerative medicine research.
Here is an example that can be used to improve and guide the regrowth of bone: "Artificial bone, created using stem cells and a new lightweight plastic, could soon be used to heal shattered limbs.
AGING IS EMPHATICALLY NOT AN INESCAPABLE DESTINY Tuesday, February 19, 2013
An interview with Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Research Foundation in Tendencias21, a Spanish publication.
The occasion is the publication of a Spanish language edition of Ending Aging: "[Tendencias21]: Do you think that aging and death are not an inescapable destiny of human being?
ADIPONECTIN IN CENTENARIANS Monday, February 18, 2013
Adiponectin shows up here and there in considerations of the relationship between metabolism and natural variations in longevity.
Researchers here demonstrate an association for adiponectin in human centenarians:
DNA DAMAGE AND REPRODUCTIVE AGING Monday, February 18, 2013
Researchers here dig into the mechanisms by which female capacity for reproduction diminishes with age.
This produces an interesting data point to add to the debate over the degree to which nuclear DNA damage might be a contributing cause of aging: