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Thread: Hang in There: The 25-Year Wait for Immortality

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    Hang in There: The 25-Year Wait for Immortality

    "I think itís reasonable to suppose that one could oscillate between being biologically 20 and biologically 25 indefinitely."
    -- Aubrey de Grey

    Time may indeed be on your side. If you can just last another quarter century.

    By then, people will start lives that could last 1,000 years or more. Our human genomes will be modified to include the genetic material of microorganisms that live in the soil, enabling us to break down the junk proteins that our cells amass over time and which they canít digest on their own. People will have the option of looking and feeling the way they did at 20 for the rest of their lives, or opt for an older look if they get bored. Of course, everyone will be required to go in for age rejuvenation therapy once every decade or so, but that will be a small price to pay for near-immortality.

    This may sound like science fiction, but Aubrey de Grey thinks this could be our reality in as little as 25 years. Other scientists caution that it is far from clear whether and for how long science can stall the inevitable.

    De Grey, a Cambridge University researcher, heads the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) project, in which he has defined seven causes of aging, all of which he thinks can be dealt with. (Senescence is scientific jargon for aging.)

    De Grey also runs the Methuselah Mouse prize for breakthroughs in extended aging in mice. The purse of the M Prize, as it is called, recently grew beyond $1 million.

    LiveScience recently spoke with de Gray about his idea of living longer, and perhaps forever.



    LiveScience: What is your definition of aging?


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    Aubrey de Grey: The definition that I like is not very good if you want to cover all species, but itís pretty good if you want to do something about it. I define aging as the set of accumulated side effects from metabolism that eventually kills us.

    Is your goal to just extend the human lifespan substantially or to enable us to live forever?

    I donít see any inherent limit to how long it would be desirable to live. If life is fun at the moment, because one is healthy and youthful, both mentally and physically, then one is not likely to want to die in the next year or two. And if a year or two down the road, life is still fun because one is still youthful and so on, then the same will apply, and I canít see a time when that would cease to be true.

    When did you first come up with idea for your SENS project?

    Well, Iíve always considered aging to be undesirable, but I didnít begin to consider that I could make a contribution until about ten years ago. I suppose the major breakthrough was when I came up with the scheme that I now describe as SENS, and that happened about four years ago.

    7 Deadly SENS
    Nuclear Mutations/Epimutations
    These are changes to the DNA, the molecule that contains our genetic information, or to proteins which bind to the DNA. Certain mutations can lead to cancer.

    Mitochondrial Mutations
    Mitochondria are components in our cells that are important for energy production. They contain their own genetic material, and mutations to their DNA can affect a cellís ability to function properly.

    Intracellular Junk
    Our cells are constantly breaking down proteins that are no longer useful or which can be harmful. Those proteins which canít be digested simply accumulate as junk inside our cells.

    Extracellular Junk
    Harmful junk protein can also accumulate outside of our cells. The amyloid plaque seen in the brains of Alzheimerís patients is one example.

    Cell Loss
    Some of the cells in our bodies cannot be replaced, or can only be replaced very slowly.

    Cell Senescence
    This is a phenomenon where the cells are no longer able to divide. They may also do other things that theyíre not supposed to, like secreting proteins that could be harmful.

    Extracellular Crosslinks:
    Cells are held together by special linking proteins. When too many cross-links form between cells in a tissue, the tissue can lose its elasticity and cause problems.




    What happened was that I was gradually learning a lot of biology because my wife is a biologist. I was originally trained as a computer scientist, and I regarded aging as obviously undesirable but not my problem, that someone else would be working on it.

    But the more biology I learned, the more I also learned about biologist and about the attitudes toward working on the biology of aging that biologists tended to have, and basically, I wasnít very impressed. I found that rather few biologists were interested in the problem at all, and I thought, "Well, that isnít very good,", so I thought Iíd see what I could do.

    Your background is in computer science. How does that qualify you to spearhead a project on aging?

    My background is enormously beneficial. There are really very important differences between the type of creativity involved in being a basic scientist and being an engineer. It means that Iím able to think in very different ways and come up with approaches to things that are different from the way a basic scientist might think.

    Could you give me an example of when your background has proven useful?

    Well, I suppose that the whole SENS project is one big example. What Iíve done there is Iíve identified a set of things to fix, a set of aspects of aging that we have some respectable chance to repair, and Iíve realized that if we can do all of these things reasonably well, then weíre done.

    Basically, weíll have made the age related problems that we suffer from these days no longer an inevitable consequence of being alive. What Iíve done is basically factored out all the complicated details of how metabolism causes these things in the first place. It will be many decades before we understand the way cells and organs work well enough to be able to describe in detail the mechanism of how these problems actually occur.

    But my way of thinking is that we donít need to know the details of how they happen. So long as we know what these things are that do happen, we can figure out ways to fix them. This is counter to the ways that scientists think, because scientists are interested in knowledge for its own sake, whereas Iím interested in knowledge as a means to an end.

    Could you give me a timeline for how you envision your project succeeding?

    The first part of the project is to get really impressive results in mice. The reason thatís important is because mice are sufficiently furry and people can identify with them. If we get really impressive results in mice, then people will believe that itís possible to do it in humans, whereas if you double the lifespan of a fruit fly, people arenít going to be terribly interested.

    Now, what I want to do in mice is not only develop interventions which extend their healthy lifespan by a substantial amount, but moreover, to do so when the mouse is already in middle age. This is very important, because if you do things to the mouseís genes before the mouse is even conceived, then people who are alive canít really identify with that.

    I reckon it will be about 10 years before we can achieve the degree of life extension with late onset interventions that will be necessary to prove to societyís satisfaction that this is feasible. It could be longer, but I think that so long as the funding is there, then it should be about 10 years.

    Step two will involve translating that technology to humans. And because thatís further in the future, itís much more speculative about how long thatís going to take. But I think we have a fifty-fifty chance of doing it within about 15 years from the point where we get results with the mice. So 25 years from now.

    What do you think about the idea that with so much life at stake, people would be less willing to take risks?


    The journal of the SENS institute.




    I used to be more pessimistic about this than I am now. Five or six years ago I wrote a book in which I predicted that driving would be outlawed because it would be too dangerous to other people, but now I think that whatís actually going to happen is that weíll just throw money at the problem. Rather than simply avoiding activities that are risky, weíll make them less risky through technology. For example, itís perfectly possible already to build cars that are much safer than those which most people currently drive, and itís also possible to build cars that are safer for pedestriansówith auto sensors and auto braking to stop from hitting a kid running out in the road and things like that.

    Itís just a matter of priorities. When there isnít that many years of life to lose, the priority isnít there to spend the money. Itís all a matter of weighing out the probabilities.

    Once the technology is available, nearly everyone is going to want it. Of course, thereís going to be a minority of people who think itís better to live more naturally in some way or other. We have parallels like that in society today, like the Amish for example.

    Some would say that death is a part of life. What would be your response to those people?

    Death will still be a part of life when we havenít got aging anymore. If you mean that some people would say that aging is a part of lifeówell, thatís certainly true, but a couple hundred years ago tuberculosis was a part of life, and we didnít have much hesitation in making that no longer a part of life when we found out how.

    What do you say to critics who think that this money could be better spent towards curing diseases like cancer?

    This is a very important point. Because weíre going be in a situation where we can extend lifespans indefinitely, this argument doesnít work. If it were a case of simply having a prospect of extending our healthy lives by 20 or 30 years, then one could legitimately argue that this would be money more ethically spent on extending the lifespan of people who have a below average lifespan. But when weíre talking about extending lifespans indefinitely, I donít think that really works. The other thing to bear in mind, is that itís not an either or thing. The reasons why people in Africa for example, have a low life expectancy is not just because of medical care, but also because of political problems.

    What kind of life will the immortal or nearly-immortal lead? Will they have to be on a special diet, or have constant organ transplants?

    Like any technology, when it first starts off, it will be a bit shaky, a bit risky, it will be very laborious and expensive and so on, but there will be enormous market pressures that will result in progressive refinement and improvement to the technology so that it not only becomes more effective, it becomes more convenient and so on. This will be an example of that.

    In a very general sort of sense, one could probably think in terms of having to go in for a refresh every 10 years or so. Exactly what would be involved in that will change over the years. It might start off as lets say a month in the hospital, and 10 years down the road, that will turn into a day in the hospital.

    A good parallel is vaccines. For example, when we take a holiday in Africa or Southeast Asia or whatever, we get a shot to make sure that we donít get malaria. And thatís all we have to do, and when we get there we can eat Mc Donaldís as much as one likes.


    Aubrey de Grey




    So you think itíll one day be as easy as getting a vaccine?

    Yes, thatís right. A lot of these things, even in the early stages will amount to vaccines and drugs. Though of course, there will also be a lot of gene therapy and stem cell therapy and much more high tech stuff.

    Why did you establish both an institute and a prize?

    I think itís very important to have this two-prong approach. The idea here is that we donít really know whatís going to work, but we have a fair idea of approaches that have a good probability of working.

    If you look at past technological achievements, some of them succeeded by just throwing serious effort and serious resources at the problem, and people were pretty sure of what they had to do to make the thing work. The Manhattan Project is a fine example of that. Everyone basically knew how to build the atomic bomb, it was just a question of working out the kinks.

    Then weíve got things where there were loads of different possibilities about how the thing might be done, and it was important to motivate people and give incentives. For example, when Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic, that won a prize. And when someone invented a chronometer that worked properly at sea, that won a prize. Things like that. That was where you wanted to give incentives for people to follow their hunches, because it wasnít very clear which approach was going to work.

    I think that when weíre talking about life extension, weíre sort of halfway between these two situations. We have a bunch of ideas which one can make a good case that itís going to work, but we also want to hedge our bets, and let people follow their hunches as well.

    Of your seven SENS targets, which do you consider to be the most important?

    Itís not possible to say. I donít think we will be able to achieve more than a relatively modest amount of life extension, if any, until we can get at least five or so of these things working, and we might need to do all seven before we get more than a decade of life extension.

    Why do you personally want to live forever?

    Itís not really a matter of living forever, itís just a matter of not wanting to die. One doesnít live forever all in one go, one lives forever one year at a time. Itís just a case of "Well, life seems to be fun, and I donít see any prospect of it ceasing to be fun unless I get frail and miserable and start declining." So if I can avoid declining, Iíll stay with it really.

    What would you do if you could live substantially longer?

    They say variety is the spice of life, so I donít think I would do the same things every day. Iíd like to be able to spend more time reading, and listen to music, and all that sort of thing, things that I never get to do at all at the moment.

    You think this project is going to succeed in your lifetime?

    I think itís got a respectable chance. Iím definitely not relying on it. My main motivation comes from the thought of how many lives will be saved.

    Your strategy would involve not only preventing aging, but reversing it as well. Does that mean people will get to choose what age they want to remain?

    Absolutely. So the idea is that we wouldnít be eliminating aging from the body. Itíll be a case of going in periodically and having the accumulated damage repaired. So exactly what biological age you actually have at any point is really just a question of how often you go in for rejuvenations and how thorough they are.

    So the more treatments you undergo, the younger you can be?

    Thatís right. I think itís reasonable to suppose that one could oscillate between being biologically 20 and biologically 25 indefinitely.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    More at http://www.livescience.com/humanbiol...interview.html

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    Re: Hang in There: The 25-Year Wait for Immortality

    Which poises a question if you could chose to live forever or at least much longer than an average human life span of 77 years would you?

    As for me I would. To me life is fun and I don't want that fun to end as long as I can help it.

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    Lightbulb Future generations of people to live for 120 years and more

    The main hazard of life is that it inevitably leads to death. But is it not possible to slow down the ageing process? If we cannot live forever, then can we at least stay young for a bit longer? Scientists are working on one of scienceís most fundamental questions in many laboratories around the world, including in Russia. And today they are much nearer to finding an answer than the medieval alchemists who unsuccessfully searched for the elixir of youth. Cagliostro and the count of St. Germain would already have put these discoveries into practice, but scientists are being cautious. In any case, the idea of immortality has once again garnered support. One of the ways to achieve it is to search for the genes responsible for ageing the body. The other way involves unraveling the riddle of mitochondria which act as the cellís ďpower stationĒ.

    The participants of a conference which took place in the middle of March in Oxford came to the conclusion that developments in science will soon enable the life expectancy in developed countries to be increased to 120 years. Richard Miller from the University of Michigan said that experiments on lab mice and rats, whose genetic make-up is close to that of humans, will enable one to extend life by 40% simply through reducing the energy value of food. This is a habit which remains from oneís youth, even when the body does not need this kind of diet any more. The gene Sirt1, responsible for activating the necessary processes, has already been found. A primate which was given a low-calorie diet died at the age of 41, which is the equivalent of 123 human years.


    9 genetic mutations have been detected allowing mice to live 50% longer, and in worms and fruit flies dozens of these genes have been found. Aubrey de Grey from Cambridge makes an even more optimistic claim: the first person who will live to be 1000 years old has already been born. If a means to extend life by 30-40 years is found, it will allow us to live until the next scientific breakthrough and delay death for slightly longer. However, the director of the Institute of Physical and Chemical Biology at MSU Vladimir Skulachev has a very low opinion of De Greyís work.

    Skulachev himself is a respected leader in the study of ďimmortalityĒ, which is proven by a recent publication of his in the prestigious journal Nature. Experiments with a substance synthesized in Russia are being carried out on mice in several Russian scientific centres. Experimental production of this substance has not been ruled out. In the Oncocentre experiments on mice with a human form of skin cancer have already begun. Skulachevís scientific research is being generously financed by the aluminium magnate Oleg Deripaska, and it is the first time that the scientists are receiving the amount of money they deserve. The essence of Skulachevís work is to search for a means to counter the effect of toxic forms of oxygen which penetrate the cell membrane, where in a second they damage the genes and lead to ageing. Cells do have defense mechanisms against this, but sometimes they refuse to defend themselves. This is a mechanism of voluntary death, apoptosis, which is employed when the cell needs to be excluded from the duplication process. Apoptosis of a whole organism is the outstanding characteristic of Skulachevís theory. The scientist thinks that it is possible to disable the programme for the ageing and death of an organism, and therefore shut off the mechanism which shortens our life. Skulachev is sure that old age is an illness which needs to be cured in the same way as a heart attack or cancer.

    Foreign geneticists have also had success. David Sinclair from Harvard introduced resveratrol, a chemical substance found in red wine, into the diet of fruit flies and worms, and the length of their life increased by 14-70%. ďThe world of science didnít even know that methods such as these existed,Ē says Sinclair. ďThe current wave of research promises to extend life so much that at the age of 90 you will feel like 60. Science into ageing ďhas split the atomĒ. And the question now is not whether it is possible, but when it will take place.Ē


    The hypothesis has been expressed that ageing is linked to when the body ceases to grow. And the theory was expounded that it is necessary to remove toxins which have built up in the intestines through regular enemas. The results of the testing of this theory, which was developed by the Nobel Prize winner Ilya Mechnikov, turned out to be inconsistent, but the scientist died at the height of his powers. Another Nobel Prize winner, Launus Poling, who lived to extreme old age, believed in the miraculous possibilities of vitamin C, a dose of which should consist of 10 grams per day. There have been popular theories on the beneficial effect of a weak radioactive force, and also of an alternating magnetic field which animated rats, but the effect this had on the duration of their life was not measured.

    But the most frequently tested elixir of youth is low-calorie food, the effect of which is achieved through the gene Sirt1. One has to supplement oneís diet with regular exercise. The only limitation is that, with age, you have to reduce the load of exercise.

    Moreover, peaceful sleep helps to extend youth. Jakov Tsiperovich lives in Germany , and after waking from a lethargic sleep stopped ageing and at 52 years old looks like 20. In 1958 a decrepit 15-year old lap dog was put to sleep for 3 months with sleeping draught. When it woke up, its muscle tone had increased, fur began to grow, and its sexual instinct returned. The dog lived for 6 more years, before it was killed by a chimpanzee.


    In Soviet times Professor Bogomolets promised to beat old age, and was allocated enormous funds for his work. The professor died, not having even reached 70. Stalin was disgusted: ďScoundrel, he cheated me!Ē. Other famous figures who worked in this field include the ancient Greek Galen (2nd century BC), eastern philosopher and doctor Avitsenna (11th century) and the Englishman Roger Bacon, who is considered one of the founders of modern science. Bacon believed that the recipe for immortality was known in ancient times, when prophets headed by Methuselah lived for several hundred years. But then the recipe was lost, and it was the duty of scientists to recover it.


    The successes attained by transplantology are so great that it will not be long before the first transplant of a head or even a single brain. This would mean that the head or brain of an elderly person would be attached to the healthy body of a young individual who, for example, died in a car accident. 60 years later the operation could be repeated, and so that would give you a 200-year old millionaire. Millionaire, because such an operation will undoubtedly be extremely expensive.


    A very dangerous, even terrifying problem comes to mind. Will a millionaire not want to ďorderĒ himself a new young body? Unfortunately, many will want toÖ


    Author: Sergei Leskov for Nauka Izvestiya
    http://english.pravda.ru/science/tech/77964-0/

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    'We will be able to live to 1,000'

    By Dr Aubrey de Grey
    University of Cambridge


    Life expectancy is increasing in the developed world. But Cambridge University geneticist Aubrey de Grey believes it will soon extend dramatically to 1,000. Here, he explains why.


    Ageing is a physical phenomenon happening to our bodies, so at some point in the future, as medicine becomes more and more powerful, we will inevitably be able to address ageing just as effectively as we address many diseases today.

    I claim that we are close to that point because of the SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) project to prevent and cure ageing.
    It is not just an idea: it's a very detailed plan to repair all the types of molecular and cellular damage that happen to us over time.

    And each method to do this is either already working in a preliminary form
    (in clinical trials) or is based on technologies that already exist and just need to be combined.


    This means that all parts of the project should be fully working in mice within just 10 years and we might take only another 10 years to get them all working in humans.

    When we get these therapies, we will no longer all get frail and decrepit and dependent as we get older, and eventually succumb to the innumerable ghastly progressive diseases of old age.

    We will still die, of course - from crossing the road carelessly, being bitten by snakes, catching a new flu variant etcetera - but not in the drawn-out way in which most of us die at present.

    So, will this happen in time for some people alive today? Probably. Since these therapies repair accumulated damage, they are applicable to people in middle age or older who have a fair amount of that damage.

    I think the first person to live to 1,000 might be 60 already. It is very complicated, because ageing is. There are seven major types of molecular and cellular damage that eventually become bad for us - including cells being lost without replacement and mutations in our chromosomes.

    Each of these things is potentially fixable by technology that either already exists or is in active development.


    'Youthful not frail'

    The length of life will be much more variable than now, when most people die at a narrow range of ages (65 to 90 or so), because people won't be getting frailer as time passes.

    The average age will be in the region of a few thousand years. These numbers are guesses, of course, but they're guided by the rate at which the young die these days.

    If you are a reasonably risk-aware teenager today in an affluent, non-violent neighbourhood, you have a risk of dying in the next year of well under one in 1,000, which means that if you stayed that way forever you would have a 50/50 chance of living to over 1,000.

    And remember, none of that time would be lived in frailty and debility and dependence - you would be youthful, both physically and mentally, right up to the day you mis-time the speed of that oncoming lorry.


    Should we cure ageing?

    Curing ageing will change society in innumerable ways. Some people are so scared of this that they think we should accept ageing as it is.

    I think that is diabolical - it says we should deny people the right to life.
    The right to choose to live or to die is the most fundamental right there is; conversely, the duty to give others that opportunity to the best of our ability is the most fundamental duty there is.

    There is no difference between saving lives and extending lives, because in both cases we are giving people the chance of more life. To say that we shouldn't cure ageing is ageism, saying that old people are unworthy of medical care.


    Playing God?

    People also say we will get terribly bored but I say we will have the resources to improve everyone's ability to get the most out of life.
    People with a good education and the time to use it never get bored today and can't imagine ever running out of new things they'd like to do.
    And finally some people are worried that it would mean playing God and going against nature. But it's unnatural for us to accept the world as we find it.

    Ever since we invented fire and the wheel, we've been demonstrating both our ability and our inherent desire to fix things that we don't like about ourselves and our environment.

    We would be going against that most fundamental aspect of what it is to be human if we decided that something so horrible as everyone getting frail and decrepit and dependent was something we should live with forever.
    If changing our world is playing God, it is just one more way in which God made us in His image.


    Aubrey de Grey leads the SENS project at Cambridge University and also runs the Methuselah Mouse prize for extending age in mice.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4003063.stm

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    Sv: 'We will be able to live to 1,000'

    Repulsive. There is no "right" to choose between life and death - from where would this "right" be derived? Certainly not from nature, even less so from any valid spiritual tradition. What people need to learn is to accept death without fear; then the whole concept of "prolonging life", as well as virtually any other one political project of today would be shown to be as pointless as it truly is. Easier said than done, of course, but certainly a more noble effort than "curing ageing".

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    Re: Hang in There: The 25-Year Wait for Immortality

    If I could choose to live much longer than 77 years in a body that is biologically 20-25 yrs.old I most certainly would.

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    AW: Hang in There: The 25-Year Wait for Immortality

    For me it would be a matter not of not wanting to die, but rather not wanting to age. For a woman her desirablity vanishes with age. For sure I enjoy being youthful. Not to mention how much useful knowledge one could amass over a few thousand years with no deaths in between, and no decline of the intellect or physical body. And if the technology was, safe, good, not too expensive and none too invasive I would probably do it. Then I would say:

    ''Welcome to the Satya yuga.''

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    AW: 'We will be able to live to 1,000'

    People will still die, they just will no longer die of old age. Where's the problem?

  9. #29
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    Three Decades From Now

    It takes 20 years, give or take, for a new technology to move through multiple cycles of development, commercialization, and competition necessary to evolve from experimental prototype to widespread maturity. A look back at the past few decades of medical progress suggests that 30 years is more likely in that field - there's one effect of regulation for you, a slowing of the technologies that manage to make it over the regulatory hurdle in the first place.



    What does this pace of progress in medicine mean for middle-aged and younger people today? It means that the 2030s will see widespread, cost-effective use of the medical technologies you presently read about in the science press. A small selection:


    These are just a few that spring to mind after watching the technology demonstrations in laboratories across the past few years. I've left out much that is promising but not confirmed - and notice that many technologies required for the repair of age-related damage are not yet at the stage where we can be confident that they'll be solved, mature, and widespread 30 years from now. The technology demonstrations haven't yet occurred, or there are too few research groups presently working on the science.


    We have years - not too many, but some - to do something about that problem. I'm sure we all know what sort of capabilities in medicine we'd like to see awaiting us 30 years from now. No-one wants to be sick and crippled by age-related degeneration. But based on a survey of work taking place today, there is much left to do before we can look ahead with great confidence.


    Remember that even if specific goals in medicine are possible, and even if this is an era of general progress in biotechnology, people still must work to deliberately bring those goals to fruition. The world is filled with examples of the possible and the plausible that have failed to come to pass because no-one has worked to make them real. We'll all be sorry if plausible rejuvenation technologies remain no more than a vision in the decades ahead due to lack of deliberate effort.




    Source: Fight Aging!

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    To think that only a century or two ago we thought the only way to prevent aging was to find some magic well of water.

    Now we are in the grasp of doing it in out life-time without magic wells of water.

    It's amazing where we've come.

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