Dear Future Centenarian,
There’s nothing good about death. But for the most part, We do not rebel against it. In fact, it’s nearly universally accepted... Natural. Inevitable. In other words… we go quietly into the night.
But decades ago, I asked myself “Why?”
There’s nothing magical about our bodies and how they age. They’re simply biological machines. Extremely complex, yes. But nothing we can’t de-mystify. In fact we’re on the path to do just that.
So when someone dies, it affects me harder than most. I got hit especially hard last Wednesday.
That was the first time in a couple of years that someone close to me died. Pancreatic cancer ended Dr. Stephen Coles’ life at the young age of 73 around 8:50 AM. I was notified about 45 minutes later.
Steve and I have been close friends and colleagues for 13-14 years.
Here’s a short tribute from Dr. Karlis Ullis:
“Steve Coles and I go back over 15 years. He was a mentor and colleague. I recall well the words of the late Chris Heward of the Kronos Longevity Institute (now closed), ‘Steve is a fanatic when it comes to antiaging.’
“It was a consuming passion for him. Steve had a most infectious way in stimulating my interest and others.
“Steve spent most every day on any and all issues/items as they pertained to aging. He likely has one of the largest personal libraries on aging that I know. He has given all of us so much of himself. He was an endless ‘Warrior’ in the world of science of aging. His spirit will live on.”
A few hours later, I was alerted that another friend, Dr. Nathaniel Branden, passed away in a nursing home at 84. He had been suffering from late stage Parkinson’s for years. That was doubly troubling since he had one of the more fertile minds on the planet.
As noted by Joe Polish:
“My good friend, a brilliant psychologist, Dr. Nathaniel Branden passed away today.
“He was known as "The Father of Self Esteem."
“He was a genius.
“I could say so much about him, however I was lucky to have the chance to interview him a few years ago.
“In honor and remembrance of my dear friend, I'm sharing that interview full of Dr. Branden's brilliance at: http://www.GeniusNetwork.com/NathanielBrandenInterview
I hope you get as much out of the interview as I did.
“I just wanted to express how wonderful Nathaniel was, and my thoughts are with his wife, family, and friends.
“He will be missed.”
Yes, Nathaniel will certainly be missed… by millions of his fans. Steve too. But Steve may be back with us one of these years.
Ho opted for cryonic suspension at Alcor Life Extension Foundation www.alcor.org. The medical team was standing by when he was pronounced, and I understand he got an excellent suspension.
It’s appropriate and coincidental that the first news item below is about Alcor.
My life is emptier this week, but my resolve to do something about aging, the world’s biggest challenge, is only reinforced.
Latest Headlines from Fight Aging!
Cryonics, the Art of Not Dying - Monday, December 1, 2014
A great piece on the cryonics industry, with a focus on Alcor. Cryonics providers offer indefinite low-temperature storage for those who will die prior to the advent of effective rejuvenation therapies.
This is the only shot at a longer life in the future available to those people, a demographic that may turn out to include all of us if things go poorly in medical research and advocacy over the next few decades.
A cryopreserved individual has all the time in the world to wait for future restoration technologies to arise, as provided that the fine structure of the brain is maintained in the preservation process then the mind continues to exist, on hold.
A Future of Cellular Programming - Monday, December 1, 2014
This is a revolutionary era in biology and biotechnology, one of the many consequences of it also being a revolutionary era in computation.
Sustained and rapid progress is under way in hundreds of important fields of medicine in laboratories around the world, and this state of affairs is the reason why we have the opportunity to reach for the construction of rejuvenation treatments and the defeat of degenerative aging.
A Novel Approach to Chronic Kidney Disease - Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Failing kidney function is a serious issue for many older people, and at this time comparatively little can be done about it.
Targeting Microglia as a Potential Alzheimer's Treatment - Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Inflammation is an important component of Alzheimer's disease pathology. Therefore some researchers focus on possible ways to damp down this inflammation by developing more sophisticated ways to control the activities of varied types of neuroglia, the immune cells of the brain.
Suppressing the Origins of Fibrosis - Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Fibrosis is a type of scarring in which excessive connective tissue is created in response to damage. It plays an important role in the pathology of a range of age-related conditions, but does this process have its origins in a sufficiently narrow set of mechanisms that it could be selectively suppressed or disabled entirely in the near future?
Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Recall Their Origins - Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Ordinary somatic cells can be reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) capable of generating any cell type in the body, provided that a methodology is established to reliably guide the cells down that path of differentiation.
This reprogramming is sufficiently straightforward that near any lab can carry it out, which has led to rapid progress in this part of the field in recent years: a lot of effort has focused on developing the means to create specific cell types from pluripotent cells.
Why so much interest in the research community? Because a key part of the infrastructure needed for the coming decades of cell therapies, regenerative medicine, and tissue engineering is a low-cost, reliable source of any cell type desired, rapidly created to order from an easily obtained patient tissue sample such as skin or blood.
Induced pluripotency is currently the leading contender technology for wholesale production of patient-matched cells by virtue of ease of use, but it is not without its complexities. Here, for example, researchers show that the reprogramming of human cells isn't producing as much of a clean slate as might be expected based on work in mice.
FOXO3A Variations and Measures of Aging - Thursday, December 4, 2014
FOXO3A is one of the very few genes where single nucleotide polymorphism variants are fairly reliably shown to correlate with statistical variations in human aging across populations.
Generally genetic correlations with aging do not replicate between study groups, which implies that the effects of genetic variations on aging are individually very small and overall highly varied and complicated. As these researchers show, even in the case of FOXO3A variants it is hard to establish associations reliably.
The Plasticity of Aging and Longevity Continues - Thursday, December 4, 2014
When looking at most of the past extension of human life since the 1700s the major causes were better sanitation and control of infectious disease, with the largest effects on life expectancy at birth arising from lowered childhood mortality, even though there was also a steady increase in adult life expectancy.
When looking back at the late 20th and early 21st century period from a safe distance of a century or so, the similar high level summary of the drivers of life extension will probably focus on greatly increased control over cardiovascular disease and the resulting steep decline in late life mortality due to this cause. There are many other improvements in medicine that have occurred in the past fifty years, but this is the one that stands out if you look at the data.
This period of medical strategy and development is coming to an end, however, and the summary of the next age in medicine with regard to its effects on human longevity will be that this was the time in which researchers started to directly address the processes of aging and, separately, brought cancer largely under medical control.
Progress in the future of life expectancy at this point in time is overwhelmingly a matter of success in intervening in the aging process, building biotechnologies to repair the cellular and molecular damage that causes aging and thus prevent or turn back age-related frailty and disease.
If aging is purely a matter of damage we should expect all improvements in long term health to also extend life to some degree. If there is less damage then the machinery lasts longer - it really is that simple a concept, even though the machinery of our biology is very complex.
Studies of changing life expectancy such as the one quoted below continue to find that aging appears to be plastic, and that present trends in reduced old age mortality are continuing in those regions with better access to medical technology. The only limits on life are imposed by a present inability to fix the problems that kill us, and that can be changed by funding the right research.
The Present Mainstream of Longevity Science: Genetics, Drug Development, and Metabolic Manipulation - Friday, December 5, 2014
This article talks generally about the current directions in aging research and recent developments while managing to entirely avoid mention of SENS-style rejuvenation research.
Reading this you'd think that the only possible approach to aging involves altering our metabolism to work in a different way so as to slow down aging, and that periodic repair of damage without altering metabolism to reverse aging doesn't even exist as an idea.
The focus is on Calico Labs and Human Longevity, Inc., but a range of other topics are covered. With one or two exceptions this is essentially a list of technologies and approaches that I don't expect to produce either meaningful treatments to extend life or ways to reverse the consequences of aging in the old. It is new paint on the existing investigation of the fine details of exactly how young tissue becomes old tissue.
Obtaining that knowledge is the scientific impulse, and should indeed be accomplished, but the applications of it in the near term won't result in ways to meaningfully move the needle on human longevity.
Look at the much-hyped sirtuin research over the past fifteen years for a preview of the next decade of research into the genetics and metabolic changes of longevity: the generation of a mountain of data that probably helps to inform some areas of medical development, but no life extending treatments, and no reasonable expectation of producing anything except a very expensive way to slightly slow down the aging process even in the best possible success case.
Another Measure of the Years of Life Lost to Excess Weight - Friday, December 5, 2014
When considering the impact on life expectancy and long-term health the data tells us that obesity and smoking are in the same ballpark. Here is a recent research publication that puts some numbers to the very real costs of being overweight. The results are similar to those produced in past studies.