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We might or might not defeat the diseases of aging anytime soon, but if you want to help the people who are trying to make it happen, consider donating to the SENS Foundation (money goes directly to research):

http://www.sens.org/

Sadly, because aging isn't considered a disease by the FDA and other regulatory bodies, there is actually very little research being done on it if you take into consideration the fact that it kills more people than anything else in the rich countries (100-150k/day, usually after a long period of suffering).

If you want to learn more about what they are doing and why they think their engineering approach has a chance of success, check out Aubrey's book (the paperback version contains a new chapter, afaik):

http://www.amazon.com/Ending-Aging-Rejuvenation-Breakthrough...

It contains a lot of biology, but should be understandable to the lay person.

And if all you want is a really quick intro, check out his TED talk (it's a bit old now (2005), but the general concepts have stayed mostly the same despite recent progress):

http://www.ted.com/talks/aubrey_de_grey_says_we_can_avoid_ag...

or the talk that he gave at Google (2007):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEyguiO4UW0




Before donating you should ask yourself whether Aubrey de Grey is a crackpot or not. I'm not sure myself. Can somebody shed some light on this?


He used to be a lot more controversial a few years ago (Technology Review even had a challenge, asking biogerontologists to debunk his claims, though none really did a convincing job). He's slowly but surely making his ideas more mainstream by tirelessly speaking, debating anyone who wants to, organising conferences and editing a respected peer reviewed journal (Rejuvenation Research, iirc).

If you think you have a good argument that would invalidate his theories, please first make sure that he hasn't answered it a thousand times first.

As usual, Wikipedia has mostly neutral info:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aubrey_de_Grey


What are the results of his research or related research? How much money does he think he'll need to meet his goal?


You might look at the mitochondrial work which recently focused on Corral-Debrinski's lab as the most likely prospect for getting the job done. A brief outline is at the end of this page:

http://www.sens.org/sens-research/research-themes/mitosens

and you can look at Corral-Debrinski's breakthrough here:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18771762

Basically it's now shown possible to move a mitochondrial gene into the nucleus and then have the proteins produced pushed back to the mitochondria for use. When done for the 13 important mitochondrial genes whose mutation damages us, then this will make it possible completely remove their contribution to aging.

There is good reason to think that this is a large contribution.

Context:

http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2006/10/how-age-damaged-m...

How much money: $1 billion over ten years to implement SENS fully in mice. Incremental amounts obtain incremental progress.


How much of that money has been donated already? i.e. how much more is needed?

It's interesting stuff. It makes me wonder whether I should be studying biology :)


I don't know how much SENS Foundation has raised since it diverged from the Methuselah Foundation. For the period prior to that, you can look at the Methuselah Foundation records:

http://www.mfoundation.org/?pn=mj_donations_funding

http://www.mfoundation.org/?pn=donors

These are just ("just") a few millions - though I'm sure the folk reading HN will appreciate how much work went into raising those funds for a visionary project. By any account, a grand success in putting forward a new idea and bringing on board people who think the same way. Like all grand successes, it's the first step on a much longer path.

(You may or may not know that one of the largest donors is Peter Thiel).

In essence, SENS is still looking for the big hit, the scale up to mid-7-figures. By donating modestly now you add your name to hundreds of others who have already stepped up to help make the ramp needed for that goal.


Another line of research that has been progressing since the early days of fundraising (because it was cheap to get started) is the search for bacterial enzymes that can break down the gunk that builds up in your cells with age, and as a consequence destroys the cellular garbage-collection mechanisms. You might have heard of lipofuscin and its effects on autophagy, for example:

http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2009/12/lysosomal-activit...

The links at the bottom of this page outline progress to date - some potential enzymes are found, which could feed into a larger scale project to develop them if funding arrives:

http://www.sens.org/sens-research/research-themes/lysosens

Meanwhile, small scale funding can keep people working on screening bacteria for more enzymes to break down more types of chemical gunk that cause your cellular systems to fail with advancing age.


"How much money does he think he'll need to meet his goal?"

That question doesn't make a lot of sense. This is not a Web 2.0 startup. It's a lot more fundamental than that, and a lot of the required tools and technologies have not been invented yet - that's what they are trying to do.


Of course, but he should be able to give a ballpark figure. Are we talking about millions, billions or trillions?


afaik, in the millions. Mostly, once enough progress has been made, the money should pour in because people will now know it's possible and demand it.


He sounds like a crackpot when his theories are misrepresented. He's not saying "here's how I'll make you live to 1000". He's saying "If we solve this list of things, medical science will be able to give you on maybe another 30 healthy years of lifespan - and by doing this I can convince the world that ageing is so important, we will use those 30 years figuring out how to give you the next 30, and so on".

Edit: for what it's worth, the 1000 year figure is something that was calculated by estimating the chances of a person with the health characteristics of a young adult dying of any reason other than age - about 1 in 1000 per year, or an average of 1000 years life. That's just an average though - after early die-off of careless people, you might reasonably expect a 200-year-old to easily outlive 1000. And of course during that time technology won't have stood still - 1000 years ago, it was the dark ages.


As it is, your expected lifespan is based largely on a finite clock, so any fatal risk factors are of limited value--if your odds of dying in a car crash are 1/1000/yr that barely affects your life expectancy, and if your odds of birth control failing are 1/100 you can go your entire fertile lifespan (30-40 years) without expecting to conceive.

If you get rid of aging (and other time-clock issues like menopause, though it would be stupid to get rid of menopause if people are going to be essentially immortal), life expectancy will be dictated almost entirely on these remote risks. Being more risk-averse might change your expected lifespan from 100 to 1000 to 10,000. And the less risk-averse people will die sooner, while the less risk-averse people (who are still unaging) will have free reign to change social norms in the long run.

This doesn't only apply to fatal risks. If you can work for 100 years at a day job and save up enough salary to live off the interest perpetually (and quite well), people are going to think it's crazy to do a startup. There's no sense of urgency when you don't age.

I think a world of immortal people would be very boring. And I haven't even gotten into the "slow-to-change" part (if someone living in the Middle Ages was still alive today, they'd probably be some kind of violent religious fanatic or something).


Perfect use of the COCP lands your odd of getting pregnant at 0.3% in a year. However typical use lands you at about 8% (condom is 10-18% of typical use) risk, meaning you're doing good if you get a decade without getting pregnant (on average).

An indefinite lifespan will change the world ridiculously, however you're completely ignoring human nature. Those who take risks tend to be the ones who reproduce the most, and assuming fertility remains sustainable throughout life, those risk-averse will be quickly out bred. However, even considering the considered longevity of frozen sperm and embryos (women can still carry a child post-menopausal through egg donation - incidentally same odds as a younger woman).

You're considering risk aversion as the winner, when in reality it will be those who procreate frequently. If a couple produces 2 kids roughly every 20 years, that's 100 children they will produce meaning the risk averse will have to last 100,000 years just to match the genes of those who reproduce if their offspring never reproduce. Assuming a predisposition to reproducing at 20 (I've known all too many people with 4-generations of teenage mothers in their family, so it's certainly not an absurd prospect) and each two children produce two children in 20 years, you'd hit 1 peta-offspring by the 1000 year mark.

Your risk-averse would be marginally existent, similar to a dust mite next to an elephant. Their effect on society would be negligible to none existent. Compound interest has got nothing on exponential birthrates vs death rates.


I think you're making a lot of big assumptions. First, the combination of indefinite lifespan, indefinite fertility, and high reproduction rates (which is necessary for your scenario) would cause rapid overpopulation. You have to give up at least one of those.

Second, there's no necessary reason fecundity should be related to risk aversity.


He's looking for cures to issues that are real problems. If you fix any of the problems, even partially, they show great promise for helping older people to be decrepit, even if they don't actually extend lifespan. His hope is curing these types of damage will cause humans to functionally stop aging, but curing these types of damage are useful in and of themselves:

Cell loss, tissue atrophy

Nuclear [epi]mutations

Mutant mitochondria

Death-resistant cells

Tissue stiffening

Extracellular aggregates (Cleaning crap out of our bodies that shouldn't be there and isn't in cells)

Intracellular aggregates (Cleaning crap out of cells that shouldn't be there and is in cells)


In fact, the SENS foundation is ignoring some of those - because medical research is already attacking them as problems in their own right.


Yep, SENS isn't duplicating already existing research. If you support them, you are supporting research that might not take place otherwise.


In some areas we are making rapid progress on some rather less but solutions are know to all 7 causes of aging as outlined below.

1. Cell death and atrophy: Treatable with exercise, stem cells, and chemicals which stimulate cell division.

2. Cancerous cells: Theoretically treatable with a type of gene therapy being developed, called Whole Body Interdiction of Lengthening of Telomeres (WILT).

3. Mutant mitochondria: Mutated DNA in the mitochondria causes a number of diseases. These can be prevented by moving the mitochondrial DNA into the cell nucleus, where the rest of the DNA resides.

4. Death Resistant Cells or Cell senescence (unwanted cells): Fat cells and other unwanted cruft can be removed surgically, or by stimulating the immune system to attack unwanted cells.

5. Tissue stiffening or Extracellular crosslinks (loss of elasticity): Certain proteins, such as those in cells making up the arteries, become too rigid over time because they bond to each other. These bonds can be broken with certain chemicals (some in clinical trials even today).

6 Extracellular aggregates or junk: “Plaque” which collects between cells can be eliminated by stimulating the immune system, and/or by using peptides called “beta-breakers.”

7. Intracellular aggregates or junk: Molecular garbage can be prevented from overwhelming certain cells by introducing enzymes which are known to be effective against such molecules.

In my opinion aging is no different to any other disease and like all diseases aging is ultimately treatable given the requisite technology. We cannot afford to sit back and simply accept that because everyone in history has lived and died we must follow the same path. It is a mistake to view aging as a fact of life set in stone when science has progressed to the level where we have the ability to begin the search for a cure. We might not be there yet but we are within striking distance of adding 20 or 30 years to our life expectancy and as Aubrey himself points out increases in life expectancy will be incremental and there is not going to be a sudden magic pill which you take and live forever. The essence of the engineering approach advocated by Aubrey is to manage aging, what he proposes is not a cure but a case of repairing the damage that occurs as we age at various intervals and not to stop the process but to allow the aging process to continue and repair the damage as it arises in the same way you maintain a house or car. This engineering approach is a case of taking advantage of improvements in technology as they occur and not to attempt to cure aging in its entirety and it is in this area that people fail to grasp what Aubrey de Grey is seeking to achieve. I recommend the two books below as great reading and all will be revealed!

Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime (Aubrey de Grey and Michael Rae) ISBN-10: 0312367066 ISBN-13: 978-0312367060

Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever (Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman MD) ISBN-10: 1605299561

I would also check out the following regarding Aubrey de Grey http://www.citywire.co.uk/personal/-/retirement/news-and-fea...

and also the following about Ray Kurzweil if this lot does not wet your appetite for joining the war on aging nothing will!

http://www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DtQitQH8Fu_8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntY01qoIdus


That's complicated. My criticism of Aubrey de Grey is one I have of transhumanism in general, which is that it's mostly CS people taking Moore's law and applying it to biological problems without having any experience in biology. Aubrey de Grey's degrees are not in the life sciences, and to my knowledge he's never been directly engaged in a biological research project. Those of us who have done aging research understand how ridiculously difficult it can be to do things that sound simple on paper, and De Grey isn't even making proposals that are simple on paper.

On the other hand, he seems to be a smart, well-intentioned guy who has spent a lot of time developing a theoretical knowledge of how biological systems work. De Grey's not going to spend your money on coke and whores, and he's not going to spend it developing the ultimate power crystal. He's just underestimated the difficulty of solving the problem.

So if you think aging is a disease and not a natural process, it's probably underfunded and you should consider giving him money. Just understand that you're probably going to die of an aging-related complication regardless of how much money you or anyone else gives him.


Aging certainly is a natural process. So is Aids. I always assumed that a disease can be both and most of time is both. I don’t even know whether it makes sense to define disease with the help of a term like “natural”.

I would define a disease as something which harms people (i.e. curtailing their cognitive or physical abilities) or kills them. Then I exclude a bunch of stuff which has traditionally not been called disease (like accidents, murder, suicide, etc.). Using that definition aging is most definitely a disease.


Well, unless you exclude it, and it's pretty biased not to. I think you need a better definition.

1913 Webster has: 1. Lack of ease 2. An alteration in the state of the body or of some of its organs, interrupting or disturbing the performance of the vital functions, and causing or threatening pain and weakness

Now that does fit aging.


Yeah, my definition is not that great, should have thought more about that.


In my opinion conquering aging is pretty much the same a beating any other disease albeit aging is a complex issue involving many different processes. What is comes down to is the realization that there is no magic bullet and that it is a case of chipping away at the root causes and making progress incrementally until we have them all brought to a position where they are manageable. Aging is no different to any other process and we are starting to understand the root causes and the changes which arise as the body ages. I agree that Aubrey makes it sound simpler than it actually is by breaking the causes down to seven factors as set out below but that does not mean that it is not a realistic proposition to render aging a treatable although chronic condition within 25 to 30 years! The key is funding and for more on that check out http://www.methuselahfoundation.org/

As Aubrey points out we have already discovered the seven biochemical processes which are the root cause of aging. The first was discovered in the mid 1950s, the last almost 30 years ago in 1981. The importance of the amount of time that has elapsed since the discovery of the last of the seven is that it took less time to discover the entire list than has passed since and nothing else has been found. Now factor in the massive increase in our knowledge of biology that has taken place over that time and it seems virtually certain that these seven causes are all there are - cure those and you cure aging! The following is the list with potential solutions some of which are either confirmed or where progress is already at an advanced stage.

1. Cell death and atrophy: Treatable with exercise, stem cells, and chemicals which stimulate cell division.

2. Cancerous cells: Theoretically treatable with a type of gene therapy being developed, called Whole Body Interdiction of Lengthening of Telomeres (WILT).

3. Mutant mitochondria: Mutated DNA in the mitochondria causes a number of diseases. These can be prevented by moving the mitochondrial DNA into the cell nucleus, where the rest of the DNA resides.

4. Cell senescence (unwanted cells): Fat cells and other unwanted cruft can be removed surgically, or by stimulating the immune system to attack unwanted cells.

5. Extracellular crosslinks (loss of elasticity): Certain proteins, such as those in cells making up the arteries, become too rigid over time because they bond to each other. These bonds can be broken with certain chemicals (some in clinical trials even today).

6 Extracellular junk: “Plaque” which collects between cells can be eliminated by stimulating the immune system, and/or by using peptides called “beta-breakers.”

7. Intracellular junk: Molecular garbage can be prevented from overwhelming certain cells by introducing enzymes which are known to be effective against such molecules.

In my opinion aging is no different to any other disease and like all diseases aging is ultimately treatable given the requisite technology. We cannot afford to sit back and simply accept that because everyone in history has lived and died we must follow the same patch. It is a mistake to view aging as a fact of life set in stone when science has progressed to the level where we have the ability to begin the search for a cure. We might not be there yet but we are within striking distance of adding 20 or 30 years to our life expectancy and as Aubrey himself points out increases in life expectancy will be incremental and there is not going to be a sudden magic pill which you take and live forever. The essence of the engineering approach advocated by Aubrey is to manage aging, what he proposes is not a cure but a case of repairing the damage that occurs as we age at various intervals and not to stop the process but to allow the aging process to continue and repair the damage as it arises in the same way you maintain a house or car. This engineering approach is a case of taking advantage of improvements in technology as they occur and not to attempt to cure aging in its entirety and it is in this area that people fail to grasp what Aubrey de Grey is seeking to achieve. I recommend the two books below as great reading and all will be revealed!

Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime (Aubrey de Grey and Michael Rae) ISBN-10: 0312367066 ISBN-13: 978-0312367060

Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever (Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman MD) ISBN-10: 1605299561

I would also check out the following regarding Aubrey de Grey http://www.citywire.co.uk/personal/-/retirement/news-and-fea...

and also the following about Ray Kurzweil if this lot does not wet your appetite for joining the war on aging nothing will!

http://www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DtQitQH8Fu_8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntY01qoIdus


I don't think there's any debate on the fact that, given enough time, research will eventually figure out how to stop and reverse the changes brought by aging.

The debate is - whether this can be done soon, as opposed to 10000 years from now.

I certainly wish that AdG was right. But is he? I'm not sure. Maybe he is (yay!), maybe not.


You should also carefully consider the ethical implications of extending human life indefinitely.


You should first consider ethical implications of being able to cure aging-caused diseases, and choosing not to do so.


I've met him and he seems like a crackpot. Extremely nice, gentle and loveable; but a crackpot.


I've met mikedmiked and he seems like a crackpot. Extremely nice, gentle and loveable; but a crackpot.


Thank you. I added them to my list at givv.org


[deleted]


Aubrey is a hack and about as far from being a scientist as I am from passing a Google technical interview.

Cambridge University awarded him a PhD for his work, and they don't exactly give those away on the back of cereal boxes. Do you have any hard evidence that he's not doing valid work?


Could you please be specific in your criticism? Why would the engineering approach that he advocate not work? Why specifically is he a hack in your opinion?

Otherwise, it's just ad hominem.




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