09 February 2006

SENS: Strategies for Longevity or Immortality?

Who wants to live forever?

We learn from Anti-ageing blog that controversial gerontologist Aubrey de Grey appeared on BBC Radio4 Start the Week yesterday. Anti-ageing blog provides this link for a Real Media format download of the show.

This past December, Acceleratingfuture blog presented a fine expose on SENS and de Grey. From that article:

The SENS website lists the seven causes of pathogenic damage underlying aging:

1) cell depletion
2) chromosomal mutations (cancer)
3) mitochrondrial mutations
4) unwanted cells that won’t die
5) extracellular crosslinks
6) extracellular junk
7) intracellular junk

These seven sources of damage are treated as comprehensive because they were all discovered over 20 years ago, and our tools for detecting sources of pathology has improved so greatly over this time, that if there were others to be found, they would be obvious by now. De Grey proposes the following solutions which respectively correspond to the seven causes of aging:

1) Stem cells, growth factors, exercise
2) WILT (Whole-body Interdiction of Lengthening of Telomeres)
3) Allotopic expression of 13 proteins
4) Cell ablation, reprogramming
5) AGE-breaking molecules/enzymes
6) Phagocytosis; beta-breakers
7) Transgenic microbial hydrolases

De Grey proposes a 50/50 chance that within twenty to thirty years, our implementations of the above countermeasures will become sophisticated enough to lower the rate of aging to negligibility. After that point, the only threats to life which would remain are disease, war, accidents, and technological or natural disasters. Of course, success in this endeavor will require adequate funding. And the old guard biogerontologists and skeptics are coming around, bit by bit, as they realize the scientific feasibility of de Grey’s proposals.

It is worthwhile to read the entire article. Then, armed with such excellent background information, go straight to the SENS website. At the SENS site, you can look over a wide array of information about SENS and de Grey, from de Grey's biography, to an overview of the science, basic questions and objections, and scheduled meetings.

SENS has an official publication, called Rejuvenation Research. Here is a link to a complementary issue of Rejuvenation Research. According to the website:
This fully indexed MEDLINE journal covers:

* Cardiovascular Aging
* Cell Immortalization and Senescence
* Cloning/ESCs
* DNA Damage/Repair
* Gene Targeting, Gene Therapy, and Genomics
* Growth Factors
* Immunology
* Invertebrate Lifespan
* Neurodegeneration
* Tissue Engineering
* Public Policy, Social Context
* ...and much more

According to Frank at anti-ageing blog, de Grey was not received well by others appearing on the BBC Radio4 show, including Clare Short, prominent British politician.

It is not surprising that contemporary politicians in the developed world look suspiciously on the idea of extending human lifespan. After all, budgets are strained to the breaking point already, to provide for social security--and that is with people obligingly dying before the age of 100. What happens when they live to 200, 500, or 1000 years? What will that do to the structure of political and economic power in the world?

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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