116 of 128 people found the following review helpful
Some Good Ideas, With Problems, and Poor Writing...
, October 13, 2009
This review is from: Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime (Paperback)
So many good reviews. And being positive about this subject is great. But the book does not warrant such high reviews.
Before I get into my opinion of this, let me summarize what this book is about:
De Grey and Rae tackle the problem of aging. They view aging, primarily, as a product of junk that accumulates in the body. The junk happens because of many things: diet, our environment, mutations in our DNA, etc. But primarily because of free radical damage: oxidation. The junk deforms our tissues, both inter and intra-cellularly. It's the hostile environment of oxidation that causes the twisting of proteins in our cells, and makes them deformed and non-funcitonal.
Through the process of oxidation, like a log burning up, we basically become less and less functional as time goes on because of free radical damage. Like the log burning, we don't really have a choice if we want to keep living. Just like the log takes in oxygen to fuel its fire, so too do we take in oxygen to fuel our mitochondria that provides energy to our cells. It's that energy that keeps the cell alive, and keeps us alive. But in the process we are burning up, and dying, just like the log. Mitochondria is the culprit: the energy furnaces which exist in every cell.
In order to thwart aging, we need to clear our bodies of this junk, and reduce mutations in our mitochondria that cause them to malfunction, as well as stop hydrogen peroxide - a free radical - from being systemically released to the rest of the body. Hydrogen peroxide is a byproduct spit out by mitochondria. That is the main cause of systemic oxidation.
The solution to stopping mitochondria from oxidizing the rest of the body is to transplant it into the nucleus of the cell, shielding it. Basically, fusing the separate mitochondria with the nucleus of the cell: playing an evolutionary god.
As for other diseases like Cancer and AIDS, we need to attack those problems through gene therapy. Delete, transform, etc. particular genes that will alter our response to these things (i.e. delete the gene responsible for producing telomerase in cancer, essentially shutting down tumour proliferation, in theory...).
That's about the jist of the book, but you won't find such a terse summary in there. The book is simply a mess of writing, and the above summary probably makes them look better than they are.
On that note, why 3 stars? The writing is very poor. There are paragraphs I have chopped out and reduced down to 1 sentence. It is very long-in-the-tooth at times. Like another reviewer said, the first portion is just a call for funding, and the last portion of the book is all speculation. And that speculation was very long-winded and lacked sophistication.
Now, onto the ideas in the book. Something positive first... I give credit to De Grey and Rae for taking on a seemingly fresh approach to the biggest medical scourge of life: aging. Aging kills us. They are right. If we can find ways to colonize space, living longer will not be a problem, and it will change our behaviour, particularly toward procreating.
But for everyone giving this such high reviews, you do need to further study physiology, biology, and biochemistry. What's clear is that De Grey certainly has an excellent grasp of these subjects. I was impressed with his overall view of the subject. In order to discuss this topic in such a macro/micro-scopic way that they have, they have expert knowledge of the relevant science.
But some of the ideas are fantastic compared to some of the other treatments being explored. For example, and I know I am not alone on this: his whole approach to curing cancer. Deleting all genes that code for telomerase? And how that basically kills people if you do. In order to thwart shrivelling up and dying, he proposes transplanting telomerase incompetent stem cells into the body, and topping us up with stem cells when we get low. This is both fantastic and unweildly in its application.
One promising treatment for cancer is a designer drug that starves, just tumour cells, of capillary formation. Blood supplies are then cut off, and just the tumour dies, leaving the rest of the healthy tissue alone. In fact, there is a drug, one of the only drugs available, that keeps people alive a little longer where cancer has metastasized in their bones. Basically a death sentence. But the drug works, and extends life sometimes up to 6 months and beyond.
No, that's not a cure, but what De Grey and Rae are proposing is something that will likely cause a lot more damage to the organism than anything else.
But aside from cancer, he skirts over problems with research associated with the ideas he advances. He uses words like "dramatic", etc. to describe things in research he interprets as positive. When, in fact, some of it is not that compelling if you do the research. But he plays it up.
What can we expect though? This is, at times, some hard science, and at other times, complete soft science full of fantastic ideas and arrogance.
Thanks De Grey and Rae for making people aware of the problems with aging, and trying to do something about it. But don't think that what you have proposed in this book is the ticket. It's not. It will be the continued, progressive evolution of multi-disiplinary science on a global scale, with shared ideas that will cure aging, because it is that complex.
But gene therapy, designer drugs, and nano-technology, all of which he mentions, are what is in store for us. These will give us powerful tools to fight disease, and to fight aging.
And what another reviewer said: one of the most important things about aging is diet. Eat healthy, and let your body, a magical thing, do the work for you by delivering all of that good stuff to your tissues.
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