March is gone and with it one of the most awaited events of 2018 in the rejuvenation biotechnology community, the Undoing Aging conference—the first, but not the last, of what will hopefully be a long series, given that SRF has already announced UA2019. Let’s review the news of the past month together.
Undoing Aging 2018
Held in Berlin on March 15-17, 2018, the UA2018 conference was the first of its kind. Co-organized by the SENS Research Foundation and the Forever Healthy Foundation, it featured eminent researchers from all over the world among its speakers; the conference was aimed at further popularizing the nascent rejuvenation biotechnology industry, fostering its development, increasing networking among scientists of the field, and involving the general public.
Throughout March, we released a series of interviews with the key people of the organizations who ran the event—Forever Healthy’s founder Michael Greve and SRF’s CSO Aubrey de Grey, among a few others. The latter is a three-part interview, which you can find here, here, and here. Several LEAF team members have attended the conference both to network and to provide our readers with the most up-to-date information later on, as multiple interviews with the leading researchers were agreed upon. Board director Steve Hill described his personal impressions of the conference here.
We know how hard it is to attract the attention of mass media to such events, as there are only a few journalists globally promoting the cause. This is why LEAF provided a travel grant to one of the best Russian reporters doing just that, Anna Dobryukha from Komsomolskaya Pravda (the biggest Russian newspaper with over 40 million readers). Since the conference, Anna has already released the first article from the event, an interview with Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, who recently donated $2.4 million in Ether cryptocurrency to the SENS Research Foundation. An English translation of this interview was made by Elena Milova and Josh Conway and is available on our website here.
Anna also interviewed Professor Steve Horvath from UCLA, and she has published this interview in Komsomolskaya Pravda. As before, we worked in collaboration with Anna during the show, and we have published an English version of the interview here.
Anna and the LEAF team conducted a number of interviews during the conference, so you can expect more to be published in the coming weeks as we bring you the latest rejuvenation biotech news.
The dream of longevity
Extended, healthy human lifespan has been the stuff of myths and fiction of all sorts throughout millennia; however, most stories of creatures impervious to aging are cautionary tales on the alleged dangers of tampering with nature. While the reasons for this are probably found in Aesop’s tale of the fox and the grapes, in this article, LEAF volunteer Kali Carrigan discusses how the pursuit of healthy longevity is turning from science fiction into science fact.
An interview with Buck researcher Dr. Julie Andersen
While the general public may be skeptical about, when not downright oblivious to, just how close we appear to be to bringing aging under medical control, researchers are much more optimistic. Dr. Julie Andersen, a professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and a scientific advisory board member at SENS Research Foundation, is among the optimists. In this interview by Tomorrow Edition, she talks a little bit about her own research and how she thinks we might be on the brink of solutions to age-related diseases “not in the next decades, but within years.”
A hundred and ten years of mortality
In the past century, give or take, several of the most dangerous killers on the long list of human diseases have been tamed by the progression of modern medicine and thereby crossed out—most notably, infectious diseases. An obvious side effect is that, as fewer and fewer people die before they hit old age, the number of patients afflicted by the diseases of aging has been steadily growing; furthermore, minor and largely ineffective treatments against some diseases of aging merely manage to postpone the inevitable, slowing down one’s demise at the hand of a certain age-related pathology only to have another ailment finish the job instead. This, as discussed here on Fight Aging!, is entirely to be expected for as long as the root causes of aging aren’t properly addressed. The study discussed in the article is a categorization of the different causes of human mortality over the course of the last 110 years, and it can be found here.
From SRF’s blog: Pathway to new therapies
In a recent blog entry, SRF science writer Michael Rae discusses the importance of reforming drug approval procedures in order to incentivize both investors and pharmaceutical companies to put the necessary money and work into rejuvenation research and development. In particular, he argues, it is necessary to incorporate the use of aging biomarkers as a preliminary means to assess the therapeutic efficacy of rejuvenation treatments and thus facilitate further investigation. The good news is that there is at least some progress in this direction.
Mapping cellular senescence biomarkers
Speaking of biomarkers, a recent open-access paper attempted to categorize senescent cell biomarkers in mice. Thus far, no specific biomarker has been linked exclusively to senescent cells, making targeting them with precision a challenge. However, as discussed in this article on Fight Aging!, we know for a fact that pruning extra senescent cells is generally beneficial, even though we might not know the details, such as how many senescent cells are too many, in which tissues, and at what age, for example. For this reason, studies such as the one linked here may be very useful to eventually figure out how to accurately target senescent cells.
SRF and Forever Healthy to cooperate further
Early in March, SRF announced the creation of the Forever Healthy Foundation Fellowship in Rejuvenation Biotechnology. The two foundations are inviting researchers all over the world to present their proposals for research projects that are relevant to the field of rejuvenation biotechnology in general, although SRF is currently most interested in projects that focus on clearing persistent intracellular aggregates, identifying and targeting noncanonical death-resistant cells, the regenerative mobilization of atherosclerotic foam cells, rejuvenating the aging extracellular matrix, and the molecular composition and possible origins of cardiac lipofuscin. Hired researchers will receive salaries and benefits and will be able to carry out their research at SRF’s premises, among other things. If you hold at least a Ph.D. and have an interesting proposal, you may want to check this out.
Coming next month
The Undoing Aging conference may be behind us, but another interesting conference will take place in Kazan, Russia, on April 23-25, 2018. The conference, titled “Interventions to extend healthspan and lifespan”, is organized by one of the most active proponents of aging research in Russia, Dr. Alexey Moskalev, who is Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Radiobiology and Gerontology in the Institute of Biology of Komi Science Center of the Ural division of RAS, co-author of the book Life Extension: Lessons from Drosophila, a researcher of potential geroprotectors, and a famous science populariser.
The conference will feature Dr. James Kirkland from the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Vadim Gladyshev from Harvard Medical School, Dr. Brian Kennedy from Singapore National University, Dr. Alex Zhavoronkov from Insilico Medicine, Dr. João Pedro de Magalhães from Liverpool University, Dr. Claudio Franceschi from the University of Bologna, Dr. Vera Gorbunova from Rochester University, Dr. Elena Pasyukova from the Russian Academy of Sciences, and many other experts in the aging research field. You can, of course, expect more exciting interviews from us!
At the conference, LEAF Board Director Elena Milova will be giving a talk about the best messaging to use to make the topic of aging research more accepted by the audience and to touch upon the interactions between academia, science popularizers, representatives of the mass media, and the general public.
Finally, we have a small teaser about something very special that we have been working on for you. We are delighted to tell you about our upcoming interview with Alexandra Elbakyan, the creator of the Sci-Hub project – a free library of scientific publications. The footage is done, and the team is now working on the voice-over in English to help more people in our global community join the discussion of open access in science and the removal of paywalls that are slowing progress.