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Scientists reverse aging in human cell lines and give theory of aging a new life (sciencedaily.com)
136 points by sergeant3 on May 27, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 139 comments

I know my words are probably going to sound quite harsh, and I realize that there will be people who will take offense, still this is my opinion on the matter, and this being the Internet you're obliged to read and then ignore it ;p

To me it seems that choosing whether or not to live is a very personal choice, arguably the most personal choice you can make. Not wanting to contribute to a goal another might have is fine, nobody should be forcing you to contribute to anti-aging research or experimentation. However I don't think you should have a say in whether or not another ends/extends his or her life. It follows that you aren't allowed to forbid research into this area either, you might think it immoral, dangerous or distasteful, but it's not your choice to make.

There are a lot of arguments against changing what people think of as the 'natural order'. Various people are concerned that it will lead to overpopulation, perhaps it will. Perhaps when it gets really bad wars and/or famine will break out. Nature doing its 'job'.

Perhaps it's selfish of me, but given the choice between inventing a 'cure' for aging (that I can then subsequently use) and dying when 'my time has come'. I'll pick the cure for sure. I do care about the consequences, just not enough to stop me from producing and using said cure.

And I think that goes for many people. Only they're afraid to make that point and/or follow through with what they are actually advocating. Why else would you prefer dying of old age, to not dying at all?

If you truly think it's better to die of aging, and thereby preventing <insert horrible future> why don't you just decide to end yourself, and leave others be?

I agree with everything you said, but the last sentence isn't as well thought out as the rest.

People who see dire consequences to reversing aging can't make a difference by suicide; it's only in the aggregate that there is disaster or averted disaster. It's like saying to someone who thinks carbon emissions will heat the planet and doom our species: "If you think that, sell your car and leave the rest of us alone".

Whether I should have a say depends on what the costs are, who pays them and who benefits.

Given that there are so many causes of death, and each one is so hard to avoid, we could spend unlimited resources trying in vain to stamp out death for good, at the opportunity cost of much better returns on other things we could do to make life better for humans other than just the wealthiest people who have so few problems that mortality is their highest priority. Right now and in any plausible future scenario there is simply not a choice "whether or not to live." Everyone dies eventually, merely making modern healthcare available is too hard for us to do worldwide and people (poor brown people "somewhere else") are still being crippled by polio, for example.

Rather than telling people you disagree with to commit suicide, it would help if you understood that what you are asking for is a fantasy and that it is problematic to accept literally any cost to other humans in its pursuit.

In that case the ethical problem is already there: most 1-st world countries subsidise own poor people (including single mothers) to have extra children that they cannot afford. France is even legally prosecuting casual paternity tests - raising someone else's child is just another form of wellfare. I guess I can spend whatever is left of my post tax money on making myself live longer.

Whenever this kind of thing makes it to human trials, I will be the first in line. Injections, blood treatment therapy, uploading my consciousness to the internet... Whatever. More time to learn all those JavaScript frameworks. ;)

I'll let you alpha test, I'll sign up for the beta.

If at all possible I'll wait version 2

Theres already 7 new frameworks to learn by the time 1.0 is released.

Are you signed up for cryonics?

I am not, actually, because the damage for me personally is above a threshold I'm willing to accept. I am experimenting with rapamycin, but I'm not so sure cyronics are going to actually work. I 100% respect that other people find the prospect acceptable, and I am totally supportive of people that want to push this technology further. The other facet of this gem is that I cannot afford it. :P

> The other facet of this gem is that I cannot afford it.

Life insurance policy that pays out upon death to Alcor.

That's interesting, I hadn't even thought of that. Maybe this is a thing among the cryo community. I'm just that ignorant of cryonics (and by proxy Alcor) to begin with, barring a brief period of novelty interest previously.

I only know about it because I'm exploring it as a serious end of life option in the event biomedical advances don't come quickly enough.

Would death payouts really yield the right incentives?

I'm not sure I understand. When you "die", your life insurance policy pays out, which is used to fund your cryogenic procedure.

"Cashflow is getting low... let's distribute batch #47."


the freezing process is not gentle.

Apparently they moved on past freezing now, in an attempt to combat just that.

The thought has recently occurred to me that we should all be working on the "aging problem", until it's solved, and then spending all our extra time on other pursuits.

Tangential pet peeve: but this kind of thinking, while noble in principle ("let's not waste resources / brain power on what doesn't matter"), tends to lead to stagnation, not innovation.

Paradigm-shifting discoveries tend to come from unexpected, unexplored territory. By taking away funding from "useless" pursuits (like pure maths, arts, theoretical researchers) and focussing solely on the bottom line (i.e: what matters, what is profitable), we make advances in a given field less likely, not more.

Reminds me of the Louie bit where David Lynch instructs Louie to "Be funny: 3... 2... 1... Go". -- That's not how things work. Achieving that level of mastery of his craft is 90% non-funny related activities (life experiences, personality, self-reflection etc.), and 10% actually focusing on "being funny" in itself.

What if the key to longevity comes from a cancer researcher, what the techniques needed come from an applied mathematician researching complex systems? What if the technology required to even model the problem in order to ask the right question is developed by computer scientists modelling data in a completely different field of research? There's just no way to know.

Tangential pet peeve: but this kind of thinking, while noble in principle ("let's not waste resources / brain power on what doesn't matter"), tends to lead to stagnation, not innovation.

I don't think, in this case, it's a "let's not waste resources" argument being made. The GP post wasn't saying "Hey, cancer! AIDS! Lazy non-cancer/non-AIDS scientists!" but rather, "Fixing aging will give us the time and resources we need to do everything else."

In other words, investing in a cure for aging will pay huge dividends in other areas of research. It's like earning $0/yr going to college for four years so you can get $100+k/yr for the next 60, instead of $50k/yr.

My thoughts exactly, except more fleshed out and well worded!

We still do not have enough computing power to model human body A to Z, so the next logical solution would be working on graphene based or biological computers. Quantum is still too far.

There's evidence in the scientific literature that we already know how to slow aging.

Hundreds of leads are summarized in the histogram at http://morse.kiwi.nz/kingsley/lib/exe/fetch.php?cache=&media...

The May 22 paper by Hashizume et al suggests glycine[1].

I took the liberty of data mining my big spread sheet of life span experiments[2] for it.

It turns out that it was reported in 2011 that adding glycine to the diet of lab animals let them live 28% longer[3].

A ton of other cool experiments have already been done[2].


[1] Epigenetic regulation of the nuclear-coded GCAT and SHMT2 genes confers human age-associated mitochondrial respiration defects, Nature, May 22, 2015, Hashizume et al. http://www.nature.com/srep/2015/150522/srep10434/full/srep10...

[2] The World's Biggest Spread Sheet of Life Span Experiments http://morse.kiwi.nz/kingsley/doku.php?id=science:kingsleys_... http://morse.kiwi.nz/kingsley/lib/exe/fetch.php?media=:scien...

[3] The FASEB Journal. 2011;25:528.2, Dietary glycine supplementation mimics lifespan extension by dietary methionine restriction in Fisher 344 rats, Brind et al. http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/25/1_Meet...

So where do I get high quality glycine? Seriously. :-)

People may stop dying but they won't stop reproducing. Let's make sure we master space exploration and terraforming before we start overpopulating the earth.

Space exploration and terraforming will need a lot of manpower. We should overpopulate first to shorten the schedule!

Actually, it will need a lot of well-coordinated brainpower. We don't really need to send a 1000-man chain gang to suffocate on mars. This is likely to come from the sort of societies that have low infant mortality rates and high levels of education.

Birthrates are declining across the world. While everyone won't stop having children, lots of countries are already below replacement rate, and other countries will follow as they industrialize.

Why would you assume this? Space exploration and terraforming are absolutely never going to solve the population problem. Population problems need to be solved with (possibly government enforced) fucking restraint. You don't get to have kids if you're going to live forever. Or the option to reproduce could be handed out on a lottery basis to replace losses from people who decide to stop living forever or die from accidents / not yet cured disease.

That's the only solution. Space travel isn't it.

> You don't get to have kids if you're going to live forever.

Well, we can make it so that every human can have at most one child. If the rule is enforced perfectly, each generation will have at most half as many offspring, and the series sum of 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + ... is 1, leading to at most a doubling of the population, even if everyone lives forever.

Another interesting idea for population control is giving every person the right to 3/4 of a child. A couple then has the right to 1.5 children, so they can have one child and sell the right to the remaining half, or they can buy the half they need to get two from another couple. Or even sell/buy 1.5. (This idea is from Kim Stanley Robinson's "Green Mars")

It may work as long as each child has more than one parent. And the last child born is not allowed to have children, because he/she cant find partner without children.

Hah, that's interesting. But that last person is going to feel ripped off.

They can "accidentally" be born sterile. Shh, nobody tell.

Self preservation is possibly the most powerful instinctual urge humans experience. It doesn't seem very likely that child-bearing people will stick to their mortality pledge when faced with death.

I'd expect this approach would just slightly delay the population issue meanwhile creating a massive black market for pledge-breakers.

Sex is a powerful motivator. Which effects can be fairly easily mitigated by condoms and other birth control options. Maternal and paternal instinct are powerful motivators, but they seem to affect people who are already parents. First they would need to become parents. Is there some abstract force that compels people to become parents? Or is that kind of thing taken care of by simpler urges, like sexual feelings?

People might be mistaking more abstract, existential urges with more plain ones. Do you really want to, in some kind of sense, propagate yourself through time after your death? Or do you just want to fuck, and perhaps also take care of little people (they're so cute...)?

Evolution and survival happens to most species with less developed and abstract brains. I don't see why our own needs for survival would be tied to some idea of "carrying on ourselves after we die".

The technology required to cure aging is more difficult than the technology required to build food factories. The earth can support many more billions of people on far less land than we use today if there are investments into architecture and war/corruption is mitigated.

What is the point of that? Just have lots of people? That doesn't help anything. The whole idea of anti-aging is for individuals to live longer. Have their hard won expertise and skills continue to be of use longer, have them enjoy life more rather than a constant progression that ends in death.

That would be fine if we had a billion people on Earth, but whatever number ends up being stable, it's an orthogonal issue.

That's incredibly defeatist approach.

Space travel it is.

Given the latest global birth and death rates of 19.5 and 7.89 persons per 1000 respectively, we'd have to launch people into space at the rate of over 200,000 individuals per day just to keep the current population constant.

There's lots of good reasons for humanity to go into space; population control is not one of them.

I hope it's not a lottery basis... I hope there would be some intelligence to the choices.

It would be nice to reverse Idiocracy tendancies (Stupid people procreating more than intelligent leading to a general decline)

A lottery would have no selective pressure, so no Idiocracy tendancy. That was part of the reason I suggested that. But the only thing I think the system needs is to have some very basic requirements, and then choose mostly randomly among applicants that want to have children.

Anything more, like only allowing the smartest or the most wealthy is going to get dystopian pretty fast, I would think

That movie is based on a flawed premise: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect

The movie is based on the idea that intellegence has a large inherited (~.7) component. Whatever is causing the Flynn effect is acting on the smaller non-genetic component. Interestingly the Flynn effect is only acting on the bottom half of the bell curve suggesting it is the result of the removal of environmental factors that destroy intelligence - things like lead or poor nutrition.

I think it would drastically change the way people see the world. If you slow down aging in your early 20s, you'll probably push off having a kid until way farther down the line because you now have time to do all the things you'd want to do while you're young, and still have energy for kids later on.

As long as population keeps growing exponentially, we'll have many more young people than old people. So extending the lives of old people doesn't make that much difference. To prevent overpopulation, lower the birth rate.

Yes, it's a crime that such an obviously desirable thing has been pushed out of common discussion, so many of us focus on absurdities like advertising.

The one other thing that might tail into that is working on the "sleeping problem."

If sleeping were eliminated we would all have to work more.

The idea would be that ideally—assuming sleep isn't actually necessary for anything (and it seems not to be, in most species, but our brains might make us a special case)—we would have 50% more man-hours to put on the aging problem. (And solving the sleep problem would likely require solving the tiredness problem, which would then solve quite a large part of the motivation problem, so we could put much of those hours to use.)

If sleep is actually unnecessary, how do you account for it having evolved in almost all species? It seems highly implausible, given that a predator that didn't need sleep would seem to have a great advantage over prey that do.

Clearly sleep has to do a lot with earth rotation & day/night pattern.

Physiologically, IIRC, sleep cleans brain up from certain metabolites, which happens in REM state. If we eventually manage to induce REM artificially, I assume you wouldn't want to experience REM in awake mode, during your job.

Thanks - mostly I was curious about what leads the parent poster to believe that sleep is unnecessary.

Artificial REM would be a trillion dollar drug.

After reading wiki further (which has quite an extensive description), it looks it is somewhat possible:

Injections of acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, which effectively increases available acetylcholine, have been found to induce paradoxical (REM) sleep in humans and other animals already in slow-wave sleep. Carbachol, which mimics the effect of acetylcholine on neurons, has a similar influence. In waking humans, the same injections produce paradoxical sleep only if the monamine neurotransmitters have already been depleted.

Based on the last sentence (and provided the Carbachol mechanism of action is the same), it looks like you can't enter REM sleep if you aren't 'tired' enough.

Too bad you didn't get past the vague thought because there must be things we can do to accelerate health research, in general. Should we donate money? Should we all become scientist? Should we all start wearing wearables and try to make some sense out of the data? Should we submit our DNA and data to a research center?

At any rate, aging is going to take a long time to solve. Throwing time and money directly at it might not be the most effective solution. Maybe we invent an AI to do research and it eventually solves the problem, for example.

Step 1: solve the problem of AI Step 2: use your AI to solve every other problem.

Step 3. The AI decides that the atoms that make up your body are being very innefficently used and decides to rearrange them into a computationally more efficient structure with a sorry-this-is-the-price-of-progress excuse.

For example, to make way for a hypergalactic bypass.

That's 30 years away with the accepted guesses. Can we do it in 15 years? Too bad Elon is afraid of AI. He's the type of person who would take on a crazy project like that.

Imagine that we figured out a remedy to aging 1000 years ago. Then 90% of the people today would be, say, 500+ years old.

What an interesting world that would be, a world where we would still be burning witches. You wouldn't be typing this on a computer musing about ending aging; computers would not exist and neither would you.

Was it Louis CK who said he doesn't understand why this crappy generation should be the one that deserves immortality? And it's a good thing it wasn't invented last generation or we'd have a universe full of misogynists and racists living forever.

Can't find it now but it sure resonated with me. Invent immortality, kiss social change goodbye.

I think you are being far too pessimistic.

In the US we went from sexual orientation being something that was socially acceptable to ridicule or attack with violence, to widespread social acceptance and same sex marriage being law in most of the county in just 15 years - less than one than one generation.

This change wasn't brought about by killing off every over the age 30. I think as long there is some kind of reconciliation method in place for people to say "I was wrong and now I've changed" without being attacked (like Sen Matt Kirk was), then social change can be facilitated much quicker than waiting for an entire generation to die.

I'm more pessimistic. I'd say homophobes just accept that the political wind changed and learned to shut up about it. There are still prolific undercurrents of sexism, racism and homophobia in the US, and here in the UK.

It depends if social rigidity is caused by the ageing process or not. It might be that once the effects of the ageing process are removed that people become much more socially flexible.

Don't you think that's kind of a reach? I feel like you could just as easily guess that the smartest people of 1000 years ago, given an extra couple hundred years of lifetime, would have come up with computers way before we did.

Edit: Not that I consider either answer particularly likely; I have no idea what would happen.

Most people's ideas and worldview get basically frozen in time when they reach 25. Maybe not everyone, but a large enough majority that a death-free society would be effectively stagnant, socially and technologically.

"Most people's ideas and worldview get basically frozen in time when they reach 25."

Not by choice, in most cases. N.B. There's also a lot of research on restoring neural plasticity.

> technologically

Seems many invent at an old age. Also seems that some few are responsible for great many breakthroughs, only stopping at their death beds...

That's quite an assumption. I'm guessing you are young.

What about maybe solving the global warming problem? The where does all this energy come from to feed & provide for all the people on the planet, eensy teensy weensy little problem that it may be.

That assumes our other problems can wait. Climate change is one that won't. It'd be pretty sad to solve aging but irreversibly lose most of the planet's food production.

There's still the matter of war and poverty to be solved.

What are you doing at work or on your computer not off solving the war and poverty problem? Get on that!

We can't since the OP would like us to first solve the "ageing problem" before anything else. But I suppose war wouldn't easily nullify your potential of advanced age if you close your eyes hard enough? Perhaps those living on $2/day will be comforted by the fact that they can continue to do so for another 150 years.

Maybe we need to work on how humans tend to prioritize longevity over things like whether your neighbor can eat. I don't think that the "aging problem" is even in the top 100 of "problems humanity needs to solve." Reproduction has been working great for keeping population up, and "defeating death" has always been seen as somewhat quixotic of a quest.

For an individual, why should he/she care about keeping the population up? If that's the only point to our existence, we sure waste a lot of time with arts and sciences. We should be training everyone to just grow food and mate as soon as possible.

> For an individual, why should he/she care about keeping the population up?

They shouldn't.

> If that's the only point to our existence, we sure waste a lot of time with arts and sciences

There is no point to our existence. Extending your existence will not change the quality.

> Reproduction has been working great for keeping population up

Well, if keeping population up is your goal, then fine, sure. Obviously some people have different priorities.

Phrased like that, it's basically "myself before the children". A lot of people have an emotional response to that.

Most people want to have children, and many even see the cyclic regeneration of the entire population as a net benefit to humanity. If anti-aging is to become a popular movement, it needs to have better answers to the questions of how to solve overpopulation and what a world with nearly no children should be like to be livable.

I would rather die by my own choice, once I no longer feel I contribute to the world(s) that I and my progeny inhabit. Even then, there are things I might want to do -- learn languages, master calligraphy, etc. In a hypothetical diaspora of space exploration, the option to be immortal sounds like a HUGE benefit.

> many even see the cyclic regeneration of the entire population as a net benefit to humanity

Is life a team sport, where we're all just trying to get as many points as possible for "team human"?

The flaw in your argument is that at some point, you're going to have to pick a maximum allowable age. How old is "too old"? At what age should we set mandatory executions? And, on a side note, have you seen Logan's Run?

The question of overpopulation is a non-problem. You can't have children, period. It has to be regulated. There will have to be replacement for accidental death and people who choose to end their life early (or people that leave to space, which I think will never be a big number, but who knows). To replace those, either a random lottery or a lottery for "qualified parents" (who want to), whatever that is. I say lottery because anything other than basic requirements would get really controversial really fast.

I'm not sure what you mean "what a world with nearly no children should be like to be livable"? I don't see how it would be any more or less livable. That doesn't even seem to make any sense.

I'm not sure what you mean "what a world with nearly no children should be like to be livable"? I don't see how it would be any more or less livable. That doesn't even seem to make any sense.

Do you have children? I do. Given the choice of extending my own life indefinitely but having my daughter vanish from the world, or dying today but knowing her life will go on, I would undoubtedly choose the latter.

It's sentimental, but that doesn't make it any less true. To many people, children bring a fundamental joy to the world, and it's hard to understand why it should be replaced with neverending calligraphy practice in spaceships.

> it's hard to understand why it should be replaced with neverending calligraphy practice in spaceships.

Those people are free to kill themselves. That's not just a flippant response- nobody is talking about forced immortality.

> The question of overpopulation is a non-problem. You can't have children, period. It has to be regulated.


Frankly, what a depressing world.

Have you considered that in a world without children, many people would likely suffer from serious depression and other mental disorders? There is a profound reason most humans choose to have children even though they're a lot of work and often a pain in the neck.

> There is a profound reason most humans choose to have children even though they're a lot of work and often a pain in the neck.

Pretty much everyone I've ever asked who have had kids wasn't consciously trying for their first child. I've personally always felt that a lot of parents later rationalise a decision they didn't really make.

According to the paper "Intended and Unintended Births in the United States: 1982–2010" where they interviewed 12 000 women, for women aged 15-24 either married or living together with their partner, a little more than half of all pregnancies were intended. I think it's safe to assume that most of those were first pregnancies.

Umm, it kills all of us currently. I would say that puts it pretty high on the list.

Not to mention, more than one problem can be worked on at a time.

> I would say that puts it pretty high on the list.

I would say it puts it pretty LOW. It's not like death is a hard thing to accept. We've always been dying. Life would suck without it.

You are likely correct, it may not be in the top 100 for humanity. It would be great for me personally though ...

>>It would be great for me personally though ...


Solving whether your neighbor can eat is not a technological problem. There's already plenty of food. I'm not sure why you'd waste everyone's time using that example.

If you don't want to work on that problem I understand. Which of the other top 100 problems are you currently working on? There are 7 billion people on the planet. There are more than enough people to work on all of the problems.

We do not have plenty of food. There are news stories today about predicted famines in South Sudan and Sierra Leone. What we have is mostly adequate food supplies, and that only until inevitable fossil fuel shortages cut into fertilizer and pesticide production. The green revolution has an expiration date.

We have plenty of food. Do you have any supporting facts? Here's mine:


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Yes, and how do you get access to that food? It's more of a distribution problem than anything, especially given how little money there is feeding those with no resources.

Yes, it's a distribution problem. I'm glad we wasted so much time before dawn we agreed.

Quixotic? People used to die at 45 in 1900.

And people have been living to 100 since forever.

Many do not view aging as a problem. In fact, if we didn't age, we would be trying to solve the "aging is not a thing" problem and figuring out how to humanely eliminate ourselves after living for so long.

People already do that, it's called Suicide, and is generally frowned upon.

I said humanely...like the euthanasia that is becoming legal in some places in the states, with much controversy o course. Ordering people to commit suicide would generally be frowned upon.

But...if we were to live forever, that time would be so different than anybody could think of today, and the ethics, relative to ours, would be pretty incomprehensible today. So...doesn't matter right now I suppose.

I've been excitedly keeping up on telomere therapy - based on the observation that telomeres (tiny hairs on our DNA) get shorter as we age, and this internal clock causes our cells to shut off and auto-die.

This research has been in a different area of aging - preventing mitochondria damage. This is also an important part of keeping cells operating correctly.

Maybe you already know this and in that case a FYI to anyone else.

According to [1] telomere-lengthening treatments may (the author points out that this conclusion may be incorrect since the data measurement may need some changes) only give you an extra 5 years.

So research in other directions is definitely interesting.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9456792

I'd heard speculation of 10 years, and further speculation that it would be a repeatable treatment. Essentially it would be a vaccine that we'd take like a tetanus shot.

Not sure where you have got that description of telomeres, a better analogy would be protective caps on the ends of your chromosomes.

I got it from one news blog or another. What makes you describe them as protective caps? Do they physically encapsulate the chromosome?

They terminate the chromosome, and it seems that at each division they get shorter (I'm not sure at present how much is understood as to the 'how' or 'why' of that effect). When they get too short, cellular division fails.

>> I've been excitedly keeping up on telomere therapy...

Then you should be taking Astragalus. It lengthens them. I'm not convinced the telomeres are key. They're actually still quite long in people 90+ years old.

Open access paper: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep10434

Read the paper, not the publicity materials in this case - they are more than usually misleading.

In the past researchers have shown that reprogramming adult cells to create induced pluripotent stem cells sweeps away some specific forms of damage observed in old cells. In particular it seems to clean up damaged mitochondria, which is of considerable interest given the role of mitochondrial DNA damage in aging. It is possible that this has some connection to the aggressive cleanup that takes place in early stage embryos, stripping out damage inherited from parental cells. There may be the basis for a future therapy somewhere in here, but is also possible that finding out how to apply this sort of process in isolation to adult cells safely is going to be very hard, and the end result impractical in comparison to other technologies: if induced pluripotency as it currently stands somehow happened to many of your cells, you would certainly die.

I've linked to the open access paper above rather than the publicity materials because I think that the latter are misleading as to what was accomplished and the significance of the research. The researchers theorize that the ability to restore mitochondrial function, and then break it again when you take the induced pluripotent stem cells and redifferentiate them back into ordinary cells, means that mitochondrial DNA damage is not a primary source of harm, but rather something under the influence of the state of nuclear DNA and thus some other cell process. For example, perhaps epigenetic changes in nuclear DNA are mediating the pace of replication-induced DNA damage in mitochondria.

All in all it is interesting work, and programmed aging supporters, who theorize that aging is largely caused by epigenetic changes, will no doubt find it encouraging, though I think that at this stage there are other possible interpretations of what is taking place here. For example, in how reprogramming restores function and how that function is lost again: one could proposed clearance and damage mechanisms rather than direct regulation mechanisms. The researchers are in most circumstances looking at mitochondrial function (via oxygen consumption rates) rather than at mitochondrial DNA damage, which greatly muddies the water. The two do not have a straightforward relationship, and there are any number of simple drug treatments that can tinker with the results of measures of mitochondrial function without touching the issue of damage. I'd like to see the same work done again with mitochondrial DNA damage assessments at each stage and each intervention, and also animal studies rather than just cell line studies in the case of the interventions in ordinary aged cells - which seems to be where this research group is heading in any case.

Aubrey de Grey commented to me that:

It has long been very obvious that mito dysfunction in the elderly is hardly at all caused by mutations (since they are too rare) and rather, by elimination, almost entirely by “deliberate” (i.e. regulated) nuclear gene expression changes, occurring as an adaptation to other things that are going wrong. That’s not to say that mito mutations are harmless though, not at all - but that their harm is via other means, such as my “reductive hotspot hypothesis” from 1998. There is one interesting result in the paper, namely that glycine supplementation partly rejuvenates mito function - but I don’t think the authors believe that the result is robust, because they have relegated it to one sentence at the end of the results and one supplementary figure.

Great post, modded up.

I have a question, since you seem to be rather conversant with aging research. I am a physicist, and I'm interested in how mitochondrial function is measured and the efficiency is defined. I know that it is measured via oxygen consumption rates, but all the papers that I have read do not define precisely how this is measured and defined. Would you kind enough to point me to some resources on this? I am capable at reading the medical/biology literature, but searching it can be a different matter.

In all such matters PubMed is your friend:


Thanks for taking the time to respond in a detailed way.

Imho there's way too much uninformed "meta" debate going on in the comments, without anyone reading the article.

> if induced pluripotency as it currently stands somehow happened to many of your cells, you would certainly die

Hm, there's some meat on the bones of that concept from a science fiction direction. People living very long lives, but only if they go away for three months every five years for agonizing stem cell therapy.

Like the Odinsleep, but with screaming.

Just published an article this week on this exact topic - feel free to peruse for additional information on aging theory


Allowing people to live indefinitely/much longer than currently won't make the world a better place. Children humble and ground adults. Younger brains are more malleable and young people carry newer gene evolutions. Our species would halt exactly where we are, ignorance would never vanish, our species would stop adapting.

80 year old racists would be 200 year old racists.

Or people would live long enough to grow wiser... realize the errors of their ways.

People might start caring about their communities if they knew they had to deal with it 200 years from now.

Imagine politicians being accountable for their decisions, or relaxing the pressure that women are under to reproduce before they are 30. Mastering aging would allow the human race to significantly rise about our natural apeish behaviour that has to be unlearned through education during adolescents.

Hmm, but isn't the cliche that people with more future ahead of them live more recklessly, take more things for granted, "waste" more time, etc – that "what really counts in life" becomes especially apparent when some threat instills a sense of urgency?

People might stop caring about their communities because of a prolonged phase of youthful self-centeredness and a lack of any urgency?

Children make adults self-entitled. Younger brains are stupider, and prone to cruelty before they learn compassion. The tyranny of youth prevents us from ever maturing as a species, having to relearn the same lessons over and over again. If we could stop wasting our time with the inefficiency of use, perhaps we could finally start adapting and conquer our own flaws.

Our natural evolution was mostly halted in the past century. Humans take too long to develop and probably don't have enough lifetime to put that education to good use (imagine einstein living 50 more years). There are technologies being developed to make old minds think like young.

So, supposing for the sake of argument that scientists had discovered a way to allow humans to live healthily and happily until the age 200, how would your position change? Surely you wouldn't want to murder everyone at the arbitrary age of 80, because those eighty-year-olds are so darn 'ignorant' and incapable of change?

From there I ask: how great or small is the moral difference between preventing such technologies from coming to fruition, and killing people off once those technologies have been developed?

Antibiotics are a Good Thing. So is having doctors wash their hands. If we can use science to buy some more time for humans to live, all the better. I know it's hard to believe, but maybe not having people literally lose their minds and decay to the point of death between ages 70-100 would be kind of nice.

People here don't care about the future, they just want to live forever. They think they are the end-all-be-all of life, that after them nobody younger needs be born.

>"People here don't care about the future, they just want to live forever."

Living forever is caring about the future. Just not caring about the future in the way you deem "right", or "true".

Also, wanting to live forever has nothing at all do with the birth, nor does it mean that birth can't occur anymore. How about you leave your doomsday straw-man out of this, please.

Well, if we really discover a way to live indefinitely, we will surely have to care about the future way more than we do know, since we will have to live in it.

Countries like Japan have more deaths than births. The more advanced a society is, the closer the ratio of births/deaths is, so I'm not that worried.

This has nothing to do with escaping death, aging is only one of the causes of death, making life longer will just expose you to more risk of accident, suicide, or illnesses, this is not what makes you immortal. There are other more philosophical problems with the notion of an ever-expanding life length -- your brain will probably not remember everything, so after a while it will only remember a part of what you have been, so is it really you? and if it is no longer "you", what is the point, you are not extending "your" life, you are extending the life of the person you will become after you have forgotten who you are. Same applies if you "upload your consciousness to the Internet"

Reversing aging will improve your quality of life, but will also force your death to be brutal, since the only cause of death is now accidental or some illness. So you'll die not wanting to peacefully go away as people aging in good condition do, but you will die wanting to live, hurting badly. I'll stick with buddhism.

In contrast, I believe that reversing aging would likely also improve a person's quality of death. Death by aging can be a horrifically prolonged and painful process. In the case of Alzheimer's, you slowly watch your mind and identity slip away. In the case of cancer, you may submit to vomit-inducing therapies to prolong your life; whether or not you do, you may end up dying slowly and painfully while bed-ridden and utterly exhausted. Spending years in a nursing home while someone else wipes your bottom isn't exactly a glamorous, graceful way to go. On the other hand, the "brutal" deaths you complain about involve what -- something between a fraction of a second and a few hours of physical pain? When my time comes, sign me up.

As an ancillary point, there is no such thing as "aging in good condition". Aging is the process by which your body gradually fails to function until it can't function at all. It can be better or worse, but not good.

Reversing aging has nothing to do with cancer, on the contrary, by living longer you expose yourself more to die from a painful illness than from a age death

Of course what I say is not feasible at the moment, but as a thought exercise, I'd rather re-cycle through life rather than potentially extend life more or less indefinitely, because, as I see it, as you grow older, you start tiring of things. You tire of others' silliness or injustice or immaturity or seriousness or selfishness or suffering and one could more easily become disillusioned. Re-cycling through, at least you go through the learning and pains again, so all those ills aren't that distant or unsavory, they're more personal.

So difference is live one life to 500, or

Live 5x100. Come back at 10 or 1 or whatever. I know this idea is totally fantastic, but, as a thought experiment, I'd prefer this.

How would you know you prefer it? If you reverse to 10 and you know it, well, you really lived one life to 500. If you don't know you reversed to 10, you have nothing to compare your short life to.

> so after a while it will only remember a part of what you have been, so is it really you?

I think you've just described everybody as they currently exist. there's a lot of memory from childhood that my brain has stripped of detail and archived; probably more that I don't even know I've forgotten.

This does not fill me with existential quandary. I look at my hands, and I'm still here. shrug ;)

Sure, but this is a part of life on which we have no choice, this is different from actively pursuing something which would not make sense as though it had some sense. I'm not saying living 500 years would be a problem (I'm pretty sure we will have the medical possibility to do this very soon), I'm saying trying to extend it without any limit makes little sense as it is not really different from dying

I strongly suspect the individual would perceive it to be very different from dying, yes---both on the experiential level ("I look at my hands and I'm still here") and on the memory level.

Memories don't randomly vanish; there's pretty good evidence that the brain does retain useful content. So if you're arguing that "500-years-in-the-future you would be such a different person that we might as well say now-you is dead in 500 years," I think the burden of proof is on that claim because we don't make it for modern elderly people. It passes neither the common-sense sniff test nor the extrapolation test ("What's special about 500 years out as opposed to 70 years out that breaks continuity?").

It was not about 500 which I think we can live to, it was about searching a boundless expansion of life -- until a certain time where the physical limit of information stored in the brain is too large

Any chance the project was called Lazarus? :D

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