As April ends and, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, summer approaches, let’s have a look at the progress of worldwide efforts to extend the summer of life.
Kazan 2018: Interventions to Extend Healthspan and Lifespan
The highlight of April was unquestionably the Interventions to Extend Healthspan and Lifespan Conference, which was held in Kazan, Russia on April 23-26. Featuring over 40 distinguished speakers from the field of aging research, this conference, which was the fifth in the series, included talks on epigenetics, genomics, metabolomics, aging biomarkers, bioinformatics, effective advocacy, and more. LEAF board director Elena Milova attended the event and had the chance to interview several of the experts present, such as Dr. Andrei Gudkov and Professor David Gems. We will publish more interviews of these speakers in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
In the beginning of April, Elena and a famous Russian sociologist, Anton Smolkin, organized a sociological study in Russia to see whether, and how much, people who regularly read about rejuvenation research accept the idea of healthy life extension more than the general public. The results of the study will be published later this year, but what we can say for certain is that the share of supporters is 2-3 times greater among the readers, and these people are much more interested in significantly extending healthy life (from several human lifespans to an indefinitely long life in good health). Unlike the results of a previous study in the general public, women were found to prefer a more conservative scenario of life extension compared to men in this new study, which is an intriguing result and is probably going to be the topic of the next study.
These results were reported by Elena at the conference in Kazan during her talk on the subject of how to effectively communicate with the general public to inform them about the exciting prospects offered by rejuvenation biotechnologies.
SRF and the Undoing Aging conference
As you certainly recall, last month, the first Undoing Aging conference took place in Berlin, Germany. If you wish you had attended but couldn’t, fear not; the organizers of the conference are uploading videos of the conference talks on UA’s website. Speaking of the conference, this month, we have published some of the interviews that LEAF had the pleasure to get from the researchers who joined the event, namely those of Dr. Brian Kennedy and Dr. Jonathan Clark. We’ve also got an interview with LEAF’s own President, Keith Comito, discussing various aspects of professional rejuvenation advocacy. We’d like to thank journalist Anna Dobryukha of Komsomolskaya Pravda for her most valuable collaboration on all these interviews; in case you missed out on it, take a look at her interview with the Ether cryptocurrency billionaire Vitalik Buterin, which we translated for our blog.
Senolytics are all the rage these days, and with good reason, since they stand a good chance of becoming the very first rejuvenation biotechnology to reach the clinic. Senescent cells, which senolytics are meant to selectively destroy, have been implicated in all sorts of age-related conditions, and that includes Parkinson’s disease. In this article, Michael Rae from SENS Research Foundation discusses senescent astrocytes (a type of brain cell), their involvement in Parkinson’s disease, and how research on a banned pesticide set scientists on the right track.
On an unrelated note, did you know that our SAB member Dr. Aubrey de Grey likes dabbling in mathematics in his spare time? He doesn’t always do that, but when he does, sometimes he makes significant progress on problems stuck at the same point for seventy years.
Fight Aging’s digest
Mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell, appear to be involved in many of the pathways that we may have to work on in order to slow down and reverse the course of aging. The main issue with them is that, over time, they accumulate unwanted, random mutations to their own DNA and wind up taking over their own cells, turning them into free-radical production facilities. However, the scientific community hasn’t yet reached consensus on what mtDNA mutations matter and how they come to be.
In other news, interesting progress has been made towards a vaccine against LDL cholesterol, which is also known as “bad cholesterol”. This molecule plays a central role in heart disease, and its accumulation in blood vessels may lead to fatal strokes. Thanks to progression in vaccination technology, scientists are now able to turn the immune system against this threat as well—at least in mice. On the subject of heart disease, in this post, FA! presents a study about high- and low-risk plaques in atherosclerosis.
Long Long Life
The life extension community is expanding, and it is doing so quickly. The idea of healthy life extension is becoming more popular every day, and it’s changing from a fringe topic to a popular one that is frequently dealt with and debated on different parts of the Internet. You can see this when you notice how many new websites on the subject are launched, and one example is Long Long Life, which was founded by three French scientists: Dr. Guilhem Velvé Casquillas, Mathieu Velvé Casquillas, and Dr. Christophe Pannetier. While LLF was launched in 2017, we would like you to take a look at some of its recent articles, including one about telomeres as a tool to determine the physiological age of cells and one about lysosomes in brain aging.
CGP Grey strikes again
You probably remember that last year, at the same time that Kurzgesagt released its first video made in collaboration with Lifespan.io, the popular YouTuber CGP Grey published a video titled “Why die?” explaining the rationale behind the fight against aging. In late April, Grey confirmed his support to the cause by publishing an animated version of Prof. Nick Bostrom’s “The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant“, a very on-point metaphor for the curse of aging and how humanity, after rationalizing and silently accepting it for millennia, is finally on course to put an end to it. We are glad to see that more and more content popularizers embrace our cause, and we look forward to Grey’s future contributions to it.
LEAF last month
In April, LEAF interviewed Dr. Josh Mitteldorf, an astrophysicist who, somewhat in the same vein as Dr. Aubrey de Grey, switched careers to dedicate himself to aging research. In the article, Dr. Mitteldorf talks to LEAF volunteer Tam Hunt about his views on programmed aging and progress in the field.
Wanting to preserve one’s youthful looks is often associated with vanity and is generally seen as a shallow pursuit. However, as we discussed in two separate articles, not only is there nothing inherently wrong with preferring to look young rather than old, but the typical elderly looks are the most superficial aspect of a serious health concern.
UNITY Biotechnology, one of the pioneering companies in the field of senescent cell clearance, has filed for additional funding to help bring treatments from the lab to the clinic; you can read all about it in this article by Steve Hill.
In other news, more interesting discoveries have been made in the field of Alzheimer’s disease research; as reported again by Steve Hill, scientists have managed to reverse amyloid deposition—the likely cause of AD—by intervening on a single gene in mice. It’s too early to celebrate, but it’s interesting progress nonetheless.
Finally, in the April Journal Club, Dr. Oliver Medvedik and Steve Hill discussed a new study that showed how a single gene mutation could dramatically increase your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers also showed that by converting the gene back to its original form, the risk of developing the disease was massively reduced. We also also discussed it in an article on our website.
Coming next month
On May 8th, the San Francisco Chronicle will host a panel on the medical potential to end aging and its relevant ethical implications. The event, taking place at the Herbst Theatre from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM local time, will feature SRF’s CSO Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Stanford Medical School Adjunct Professor of Neurobiology Dr. William Hurlbut, and San Francisco Chronicle Editor in Chief Audrey Cooper.
LEAF Director Elena Milova is invited to give a talk at the Global Challenges Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan on May 17-19. The Summit includes several sections dedicated to longevity and further human evolution.