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Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime Hardcover – September 4, 2007
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“(Dr.) de Grey is hardly just another fountain-of-youth huckster. His it-might-work ideas are based on existing, published, peer-reviewed research. He thinks more like an engineer than a scientist. If even one of his proposals works, it could mean years of extended healthy living.”
—Paul Boutin, The Wall Street Journal
From the Back Cover
"His clarion call to action is the message neither of a madman nor a bad man, but of a brilliant, beneficent man of goodwill, who wants only for civilization to fulfill the highest hopes he has for its future."
--Dr. Sherwin Nuland, clinical professor of surgery at Yale University School of Medicine and author of How We Die and The Art of Aging
"Seems to me this man could be put in jail with reasonable cause."
--Dr. Martin Raff, emeritus professor of biology at University College London and coauthor of Molecular Biology of the Cell
A leading researcher sketches the real "fountain of youth"
- The most realistic way to combat aging is to rejuvenate the body at the molecular and cellular level, removing accumulated damage and restoring us to a biologically younger state.
- Comprehensive rejuvenation therapies can feasibly postpone age-related frailty and disease indefinitely, greatly extending our lives while eliminating, rather than lengthening, the period of late-life frailty and debilitation.
- A comprehensive panel of rejuvenation therapies could probably be validated in laboratory mice within a decade. We would then have a good chance of developing it for human use only a decade or two thereafter.
- Removing the causes of aging-related deaths will also eliminate all the suffering that aging inflicts on most people in the last years of their lives.
- Aging kills 100,000 people a day: old people, yes, but old people are people too. Social concerns about the effects of defeating aging are legitimate but don't outweigh the merits of saving so many lives and alleviating so much suffering.
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1. All age-related health conditions (cancer, alzheimer's, heart disease)
are actually only caused by the component cells deteriorating
2. There are 7 ways that our cells deteriorate
A. how this happens
B. how we need to deal with each of the 7 ways
3. We can research how to maintain our cells, like we maintain a car,
4. Refutes the arguments against ending aging (eg population, etc)
The plan is referred to as SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence). After reading the book, I think it is a plausible plan for an approach to reverse the effects of aging. I’ll summarize the idea and highlight some things from the book that weren’t covered in de Gray’s TED talk or podcast interview.
The central assumption of the book is that aging is the accumulation of seven types of damage:
Mitochondrial DNA mutations
Nuclear DNA mutations
Intercellular junk (e.g. lipofuscin)
Extracellular junk (e.g. beta amyloids)
Glycation (stiffens tissues leading to stroke, heart disease, etc.)
Cells not dying when they are supposed to (e.g. cancer)
Cells dying when they are not supposed to
Each of these types of damage is covered in detail in the book, along with one or more possible solutions. For example, number (7) can be treated by using stem cells to replace the lost cells, this has already been demonstrated to work, but there are political hurdles to stem cell research. A comprehensive plan to completely reverse the effects of aging may change this.
Another example is (1), he explained how mitochondria, which generate energy in the cells, have their own DNA, and they produce lots of reactive byproducts that damage the mitochondria’s own DNA. This can be fixed by saving a copy of the mitochondria DNA in the cell nucleus, where it is about 100 times less likely to mutate. Some forms of algae already do this, so it is not without precedent.
An interesting one is (5), or glycation, which is the process that leads to the gradual stiffening of tissues. Glucose in the blood sometimes sticks to proteins and causes them to tangle up, this is what happens with caramelization, but at a much slower rate. There are already biotechnology companies that are working on drugs that target glycation endproducts, it is possible to undo the glycation damage, further research is needed before all forms of glycation are fixed, but it is simply a matter of money and time.
All of the types of damage but (6) seemed relatively straightfoward to solve. It is (6) that is the most troublesome. Assuming all the other types of damage are satisfactorily solved, cancer is still a big problem. In order to keep a human healthy indefinitely, you’d need to prevent cancer growth. There are many types of cancer, and within cancers there are many types of cells, but they all have something in common. They have an active telemorase enzyme, which is what replenishes the telomeres (segments of junk DNA at either end, which shorten with every cell division). Since cancerous cells’ DNA keeps getting it’s telomere’s restored, they can reproduce indefinitely, this is the main threat of cancer, it can grow forever, until it disturbs its surroundings (your healthy tissue).
Aubrey de Grey has a solution for this, but it is the most extreme of the book: Remove all telemorase genes from all cells of the human body. This means that the remaining human body only last about 10 years. Since nuclear DNA mutations are inevitable, and sometimes lead to cancers, having all your cells be unable to replenish their telomeres means that all cancers would eventually hit a wall (after about 50 cell divisions). Then, to solve the problem of your cells running out of telomeres, new stem cells could be engineered with a copy of your DNA (minus the gene for telemorase), and you could top off your stem cell supply every 5-10 years.
The problem with making all your cells immortal is that cancer will eventually win. By making all your cells mortal, even cancerous ones, you can continue to get SENS therapy until you no longer want to stay alive. If aging is indeed the sum of those 7 types of damage, then this panel of therapies will enable humans to live indefinite youthful lifespans.
So it appears possible to keep humans alive as long as they want to live, and prevent the decay and the eventual death of the body. This is fantastic, as the majority of healthcare spending is due to this decay. If SENS (or something like it) can be developed afforably, it would save nations trillions of dollars in healthcare and social security spending, as well as give people the choice to live for centuries.
There is a follow up question that the book didn’t address, but it was outside the scope of the book, so I’ll address it here: [...]
The world is filled with people who have grandiose thoughts but a complete unwillingness to do the leg work to check on the research that would make their thoughts scientific method test of, "Does it fit the data." And it is filled with people who cherry pick only the data that fits their theory. The world also has ample share of people who treat data as if there is no bigger picture, that the only valid ideas are those that are right there at ground level.
Ending Aging doesn't take either of those 3 well-worn paths. Ending Aging takes in all the data, points out the limitations of it's own theories, builds a framework of thinking in which one can plan out a research strategy that isn't about aging gracefully, isn't about more life in our years, but is really about taking a comprehensive approach to putting aging in the same dustbin of history that we've already placed tetanus, polio, small pox and dozens of other past scourges of humanity.
Ending aging is both bold and realistic, both broad brush strokes and deep dive. Ending aging isn't light reading. It's not a plan to follow some past paleo, natural guru whiz-bang notion. It is instead a credible, well thought out plan to attack aging at it's most vulnerable point, the addressable end products of the aging process.
"Ant-Aging: has been aproached scientifically before. "Ending Aging" is the first book to apply engineering perspectives and disciplines to the process of aging. Engineering isn't done by mastering every trait, but by bounding problems within a tolerance level where predictability is possible. It is this new concept that makes ending aging a breakthrough watershed book in the field.
personally I will suggest to skip the first part ( that it's just a big intro about ethics etc... but I think we are beyond that) and go directly from the second part where it's the practical part.
I more than recommend this book!