Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chatting about Aging

Damien: The inundation of results from anti-aging related research, for good or ill, keeps thundering in. Rather than repost details of the latest findings, it's probably helpful if I post this link to a recent discussion by two experts. Here's part of the introduction:

" I’m Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, a reporter for Science. I’m delighted that we’re joined today by two longtime experts in this fascinating field, Jay Olshansky, a professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist based in Cambridge, U.K., and chief science officer of SENS Foundation, a California-based charity that is trying to combat the aging process."

Dr. Aubrey de Grey is the brilliant and controversial scientist who is one of the major figures encouraging science in the direction of "longevity escape velocity," the point at which healthy life extension of, say, one year of extra living is achieved in less than a year. That would mean that while nobody would instantly become immortal, still, your chances of hale survival would increase every year, rather than diminishing. We dedicated our novel Post Mortal Syndrome to Aubrey, even though our story is a thriller, a sort of dramatized parable rather than a direct expression of his own approach to longevity.

Professor Olshansky is a demographer who finds some of Aubrey's optimistic expectations and analysis unlikely and even reckless. But it's a mark of the way the once-ridiculed topic is being reconsidered these days that he is happy to share an interview platform with Aubrey, and to advance his own more modest model of health extension under the rubric The Longevity Dividend.

Here are some extracts from the chat, where both men give brief answers to questions from the listening audience.

Olshansky: Although my friend Aubrey and I disagree on many things, most of what we disagree on is entirely irrelevant. It's what we agree on that is far more important, and that is, the time has arrived to take an entirely new look at aging. We now spend an enormous sum of money attacking the diseases that arise at later ages, but comparatively little on the underlying risk factor for most of what goes wrong with us as we grow older -- aging. I hope this conversation helps us all move in this direction, but you can certainly expect much more for my colleagues and I in the near term on an extension of The Longevity Dividend. 

Comment From Aaron  
What are the biggest stumbling block human anti aging science faces, and what actual progress, if any, is being made to over come them?

Aaron: without doubt the biggest stumbling-block is the "pro-aging trance" - society's determination not to think objectively about aging as a plausible and legitimate target of medicine, and as the precursor of the many and varied diseases of old age. If society were willing to appreciate that medical intervention against aging is no more nor less than preventative geriatrics, there would be vastly more funding for such research, and I estimate that progress would be at least three times faster. The scientific plan exists to defeat aging, and there is no shortage of world-leading scientists eager to do the work, so all that is needed is the resources to let them get on with it. What progress is being made? - well, a big thing is that people like me and Jay are being invited to do events like this. I'm serious - ultimately it's all about gerontologists getting out there and educating the public, and not being scared to put their heads above the parapet.


  1. Nice post Damien! spike

  2. Hopefully The SENS Foundation will be successful, and hopefully aging and disease will be abolished sooner, rather than later. (: