Aubrey de Grey: Don’t Make Peace with Aging; Anti-Aging Isn’t Science Fiction

Aging Process

Renowned researcher Aubrey de Grey, PhD, has a few things to say about the aging process.

“It is no longer acceptable to make your peace with aging.”

“The fact is that aging is really a very ghastly thing, and we’ve known that for a long time. Twenty years ago, it certainly did make sense to make one’s peace with aging because we didn’t have a plan to do anything about it in the foreseeable future. But now, if you take that attitude, then what you are doing is slowing down the research. You are slowing down the enthusiasm, the urgency of society that needs to exist in order that the remaining scientific and biomedical research that needs to be done to get these therapies in place can be done as quickly as possible, and that the maximum number of lives can be saved.”


Aging: Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence

Dr. de Grey is the Chief Science Officer of SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Research Foundation, a California-based biomedical research charity that, according to its website, is transforming the way the world researches and treats age-related disease. He’s also vice president of new technology discovery at Age-X Therapeutics.

Aging: Science Versus Technology

To understand aging well enough to be able to do something about it, it needs to be characterized. We need to determine what is different about the microscopic molecular and cellular structure of an older person relative to a younger person. Although difficult to do, these changes can be repaired to return the structures to the way they were at an earlier age.1 “You don’t need to understand how it got that way,” Dr. de Grey noted.

The need to know why phenomena occur is the province of scientists. “Scientists are all about testing hypotheses and understanding nature for the sake of understanding it,” Dr. de Grey explained. “But I’m not thinking about it from a scientific perspective, I’m thinking about it from a technological perspective.”

Medicine is a branch of technology. Medicine doesn’t necessarily try to understand nature but to manipulate it. To accomplish this, a certain amount of understanding is required, but there is a point at which we understand enough to carry out our goals. “And that’s where I’m saying we’re already at in regard to aging,” Dr. de Grey said.

Aging: Cells and Molecules

To address aging-related changes, one needs to examine cells. People can have too many, as in the case of cancer, or not enough. Cells also need to be studied at a molecular level. Even though cells may be present in the right number, there may be things going wrong within a cell, such as the accumulation of waste products or mutations. These problems can additionally occur outside of the cells in the matrix that holds the cells together in a structure that allows us to operate.

Mutations can occur in the DNA that resides in the cell’s nucleus or in its mitochondria, which are the cells’ energy-producing organelles. They’re the place where oxygen is combined with nutrients to extract their energy. This process creates a significant number of free radicals that damage mitochondrial DNA, with the result that it accumulates mutations at a more rapid rate compared with nuclear DNA.

To address this aging-related problem, Dr. de Grey and his colleagues have revived an idea that was suggested over 30 years ago, which is to insert backup copies of mitochondrial DNA into nuclear DNA where it’s less subject to free radical attack. An experiment in this area was recently published following more than a decade of research.2

Rejuvenation Versus Aging Retardation

Twenty years ago, Dr. de Grey suggested that rejuvenating the body might be easier than slowing down the rate at which the body accumulates damage. At that time, the idea wasn’t well received, but now the feeling among many scientists is that this approach is tenable, and the growing influx of capital into this area highlights the enthusiasm of the investment community to partner with researchers in tackling these challenges.

“Now is the time to stop making your peace with aging,” Dr. de Grey urged. “Now is the time to let yourself get your hopes up, to get emotionally invested in this and not to think about this as science fiction anymore.”

Like what de Grey has to say? Listen to the Live Foreverish podcast with Life Extension’s Dr. Michael Smith and his guest Aubrey de Grey, as they discuss Aging, by visiting LiveFOREVERish.com.

If you like what you hear, please take a moment to give Live Foreverish a 5-star rating on iTunes!

For more information about Aubrey de Grey’s research, visit www.sens.org

References

  1. Vijg J et al. Gerontology. 2014;60(4):373-80.
  2. Boominathan A et al. Nucleic Acids Res. 2016 Nov 2;44(19):9342-9357.

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