Crowdfunding a cure for aging


#1

I’ve been avidly following the SENS Research Foundation, one of the world’s leading non-profit research centres working toward a cure for aging, since its founding in 2009. Venture capitalist Peter Thiel has been one of their main sources of funding, enabling them to run on a budget of about $4 million/year, but I’ve pitched in over $500/year for the past few years. I also sent them flowers. Lately the SENS Foundation dipped their toes into crowdfunding, which is pretty cool. It’s a good way to convey to their donors what, concretely, their money is being spent on. I figure this is right up the alley of all you biology nerds here.

(I have no idea why the production values of this video are so low for Aubrey de Grey’s segments— did he have to film it in a hotel room or something?)

[quote]Each cell in the body is dependent on the efficient generation of cellular energy by mitochondria to stay alive. Critical to this process are genes encoded within the mitochondrial genome. Over time however, mutations in these genes occur as a result of constant exposure to reactive oxygen species produced by oxidative phosphorylation, the mitochondrial energy generation process. Unlike genes within the nucleus, mitochondria lack an efficient system to repair damaged DNA. This leads to accumulated mutations, resulting in mitochondrial defects and an increase in oxidative stress throughout the body. Closely correlated with this is the observation that organisms which age more slowly also consistently display lower rates of mitochondrial free radical damage. Thus, reversing and/or preventing damage to mitochondrial DNA may be a key factor in slowing the aging process.

At the SENS Research Foundation, we are in the early stages of creating an innovative system to repair these mitochondrial mutations. If this project is successful we will have demonstrated, for the first time, a mechanism that can provide your cells with a modified backup copy of the entire mitochondrial genome. This genome would then reside within the protective confines of the cell’s nucleus, thereby mitigating damage to the mitochondrial genome. In fact, during the long course of evolution, this gradual transfer of genetic information into the nucleus has already occurred with the majority of mitochondrial genome, leaving behind a mere 13 protein coding genes within the mitochondria. Demonstrating the effectiveness of this technology would be a major milestone in the prevention and reversal of aging in the human body.[/quote]

Read more about the project on lifespan.io.


#2

Looks interesting. Thanks for the info.
I am all for living longer.


#3

I saw that movie!


#4

#5

He hated food before it was cool

Man I’m gonna miss that guy…


#6

Immortality will be cool for a few million years but… saving the Universe is where the real fun begins.


#7

Eating my enemies to absorb their lifeforce has worked pretty well for me in the past few centuries.


#8

Wow, great to see this posted here. I don’t often run across people following this research.

The first thing to get past is misconceptions about what “immortality” actually means from a scientific perspective. If interested, check out negligible senescence and biological immortality on Wikipedia.

There is a TedTalks by Aubrey De Grey of SENS. And some others on the topic of aging and immortality.

There is also a documentary called The Immortalists (currently on Canadian Netflix, not sure about US). It isn’t a great documentary. Eg, I find it focuses too much on the eccentricities of the scientists as characters. I don’t find them particularly eccentric – maybe a bit overly optimistic on the potential rate of progress – but I felt the documentary was trying to paint them that way. However, it may be a reasonable primer for the non-science minded, that hopefully encourages individuals to explore the idea, entertain the concept, and engage in some lively discussion on the topic. At least, it did for me.


#9

I thought The Immortalists was fantastic. One of the best documentaries I have ever seen. It did focus on the scientists as people more than it did on the science, but that is typical for this kind of documentary. It’s not a PBS educational documentary.

For those who just want to hear the science, this TEDx Talk by Aubrey de Grey is on point:


#10

Update: the <a href=http://www.lifespan.io/campaigns/sens-mitochondrial-repair-project/">project is now 103% funded! Woohoo!


#11

There is a great book by Alan Harrington called The Immortalist that is dated but still a model book-length essay on the same subject. It is available on Amazon. The thesis is that if we disarmed the world and put that money into longevity research, we could greatly increase the lifespan of many people living now, and that would be just for starters. Then he adds, “The time has come to kill Death.”

(Yes, I also know about the work of Gide with the same name.)


#12

Just $100 million/year devoted to aging research split between organizations like the SENS Research Foundation, the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, and the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine would do the trick for now. The scarcity of funding for aging research is a scandal. Even 0.01% of the U.S. military budget would make a transformational difference.

P.S. If you’re feeling generous, the SENS Research Foundation just received a challenge grant from some donors who have pledged to match up to $125,000 in donations.


#13

Funded with most of a month to go, cool.

Well sure, if we had to go back to using sticks and stones to do our killin’ lots of folks would live longer. Lazy kids can’t even be bothered to fling a rock anymore, just want to sit around with their remotes flying drones at the enemy. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


#14

This was uploaded today, thought it was pretty neat. According to this fella, only about 3% of pharmaceuticals are cures while the other 97% are continuous treatments.


#15

He doesn’t even try to explain why pharmaceuticals are progressing so slowly. Is it just because of legal obsticles?


#16

I was kinda waiting for him to get to that part too. Never even heard of the guy til today but if I end up reading more on him and come across that answer I’ll post it.

If you just put the query “why are there so few cures for disease” into google, a lot of the results are unusual and unsurprisingly conspiratorial.


#17

It seems to me he was saying they aren’t progressing because they have hit their limit and are simply incapable of providing the needed cures; that’s his point regarding genetics. He’s comparing pharmaceuticals to genetics in then same way he did vacuum tubes to microchips, the old tech was maxed out and gave way to the new.