Personalized genomics for a longer lifespan

Supremely cheesy video, but the science and technology behind it is exciting.


“Trying to prevent problems before they occur has never been part of any medical establishment”

That’s a pretty misleading statement. Or are my doctors just killing time when they ask if I smoke or exercise?

I respect CV for his accomplishments, but I think he’s gotten a bit of an ego. All the gene splicing in the world isn’t going to double someone’s lifespan. As you showed us with SENS, aging isn’t about DNA, it’s about damage. If you aren’t fixing the damage, you might as well fix your totaled car by giving it a nice paint job.


Nice post. It won’t be long before the cost of genome sequencing is reduced to that of routine diagnostic tests. Medical research will increasingly focus on using that information, and the results will likely be revolutionary. Hopefully, the same will be true of nutrition. Our genetic backgrounds and current states-of-health will be combined to design personalized soylents.

Aging can be about more than one thing. Pleiotropism is another, for example. The same traits that confer selective advantage in youth can make us susceptible to infirmity in old age. I don’t know what we can do about that.

Personally, I find the desire for long life puzzling. Aging and death have become easier to accept, and even welcome, with the passage of time.

You are wrong. Genes are the ultimate solution to aging, because to defeat aging we have to reengineer our bodies, not only fix the damage. We will never defeat aging if the damage keep happening. Here is an article of what scientist are discovering about it. Also, there is a company called Bioviva that is working on reversing aging by gene therapy (link below)

“can make organisms live 60 per cent longer.”

What am I wrong about

In everything you said. As the article explains, just some “splicing” can extend life 60% and there are companies already working on reversing aging (reversing aging). Your statement implies that editing genes won’t work, when we already have evidence that it works.

I didn’t say it wouldn’t work, my argument is that its not fixing aging. Aging is a continuous process. You can’t stop computer hardware from aging by writing fancy software, I don’t care if you’re Alan Turing.

Genetic engineering does nothing to solve lysozomal dysfunction, mitochondrial mutations, extracellular aggregate or dozens of other problems that nanofactories are being bombarded with. 60% is a D-. Solving aging means NOT DYING. You can engineer your genes and at best live to see a few more iPhone releases.


And you won’t see any 3D iPads if you don’t reengineer your body editing your DNA. The damage is a product of the path determined by our genes. You will solve problems momentarily, but nothing will change until you modify your DNA (and probably your mitochondrial DNA as well). Although this is debatable, your first message was completely wrong. You said that aging isn’t about DNA, but we already know that that’s not true. If you think about it, there are no external factors that cause the damage, it is all internal, and what determines that internal process is DNA (it determines what is produced, where, and, more importantly, when).

Probably planning for when they can buy a yacht. :wink:


Did Venter say he was going to double people’s lifespans? Even a small increase in average lifespan would be an amazing achievement. I’ll take what I can get! To put it in perspective, curing cancer would add just 3 years to average lifespan.

Every year of lifespan added by personalized genomics and gene therapy increases a person’s odds of living long enough to see fundamental breakthroughs around aging (like SENS). So if there is low-hanging fruit to be picked, I say pick it. Also, the sooner we have palpable results in extending human life, the better, since it will get people excited about life extension and aging research in general.


[quote=“macrojd, post:6, topic:23981”]
As the article explains, just some “splicing” can extend life 60%[/quote]

In yeast. It can extend lifespan by 60% in yeast. What applies to microbes might not apply to mammals. But if they can reproduce these results in mice, hallelujah!

If it turns out that aging is a byproduct of being alive, as some aging researchers like Aubrey de Grey have theorized, then the question is how we can keep the metabolic processes going that constitute being alive while getting rid of the byproduct. The damage pathways are indeed created by our genes, since everything about the human organism is created by our genes. But that doesn’t necessarily imply that it’s best or easiest to intervene in aging through gene therapy that rejiggers our metabolic processes so they don’t produce damage anymore.

In some cases, like mitochondrial mutations, the best tactic might be to stop the damage before it occurs, as you recommend. But in other cases, like extracellular junk, maybe then the best tactic is to clean up the damage after it is produced. As long as you take care of the damage before it accumulates to the point that it causes pathology, the body can’t tell the difference between preventing damage and removing damage. So the rest is a matter of what’s most practical on a case-by-case basis.


I agree, but we might change our mind about that someday. “The right to die” laws are starting to gain traction around the country because a lot of people have decided that more time is not always better, regardless the prospects of future medicine. Then again, immense suffering compromises decision making. It could be that our empathy for these hopeless people is also causing us to make a wrong and irreversible decision. I’m staying out of that debate for now because I’m way under-educated in several subjects to have an opinion on that. But I think its a fair consideration anyway.

I mean there are plenty of “healthy” old people. We want to be politically correct but at the end of the day, the fact that they’re old means they are not healthy. If we don’t keep anti-aging medicine as good as or better than anti-disease medicine, you’ll just have a population boom of people that require substantial medical care and don’t work or do anything for society. I’m in favor of expanding the **** out of social security, pensions and the like, but I won’t be when over half the population is elderly and society is grinding to a halt because we can’t invest our energy in construction or space.

I’m sorry, I didn’t communicate my stance very well. I don’t think CV and pals shouldn’t research this low hanging fruit, but some of their rhetoric can lead people to think genes are the holy grail of anti-aging. As a result, funds might be misallocated. I think they have a duty to include things they aren’t doing. And most of all, I think they need to acknowledge the unintended consequences of prolonging lives without actually improving them qualitatively.


Except it doesn’t, really…

“Healthy” is kind of a relative term usually used in comparison with your own age group. Unless you want to start calling everyone over 25 unhealthy…


When people die of old age, that is just another way of saying that they died of age-related diseases. Aging, or senescence, is our name for a collection of diseases whose incidence and severity increase over time since birth.

There is ultimately no distinction, then, between treatments that make people healthier and treatments that make people live longer. A person who dies of old age dies because they got too sick — one or more of the diseases they had progressed too far. Similarly, a terminally ill old person who chooses to end their life — a choice that I strongly believe compassion demands us to honour — makes that choice because the sickness in their body has gotten out of hand. When we target the disease, the sickness, we make people healthier, and the healthier they are, the less they die. Life extension is a byproduct of health.

There are some ways to stretch out a dying person’s life while they continue to suffer, like the various forms of life support used in hospitals, and I agree with you that we need to think seriously about whether these interventions do more harm than good. But that’s not what we’re talking about when we talk about treatments for aging or age-related disease. Something like gene therapy that extends a person’s lifespan by 5 years from 80 to 85 will do so by making that person as healthy at 80 as they would have otherwise been at 75, and as healthy at 85 as they would have otherwise been at 80. They will stay healthier longer, so they’ll live longer.

For the same reason, life extension therapies don’t pose an economic threat — it’s actually the opposite, since treating the symptoms of aging rather than the causes is so expensive. People will stay healthier longer, which means they’ll live longer, and it also means they can work longer. If we extend healthy lifespan by 10 years, we can raise the retirement age by 10 years.


Dude, I was talking about the damage that produces aging, not the damage that even food or poison can produce during our lifetime. Of course there is external damage, but that is always fixed when we are young. The damage that you want to fix is the one caused by the incapacity of our body to work properly anymore. That is internal damage cause by malfunction, and that malfunction is determined by the path our genes determine for our body. Again, those are things that are debatable, what is not debatable anymore is that DNA is highly involve in aging, and that was my whole point.

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In C. Elegans I think they went over 100%. My point was that the sylass94 was saying that aging is not about DNA, when we are already duplicating (or almost duplicating) lifespan in organisms by sometimes changing just one gene and there are already human tests going on with gene therapy to reverse aging. I’m totally convinced that DNA editing is all we need, the problem is that we are not going to get to that level of precision any time soon, so we need to repare the damage. But it is obvious that without editing DNA, aging and damage will still be there.

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I agree with most all of that but again, I think there is a very real distinction between aging and disease. True, a lot of old people have diseases. But suppose you restore someone’s sight or ability to walk. That doesn’t make them live longer. Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t do that, we totally should, but what Craig is doing is not making lifespans longer. If you have cancer, your lifespan is reduced. By defeating cancer, you will only be restoring your original lifespan. Nothing extra is really being added. Or take neuro-degenerative pathology. You can do very little in the way of preventing Alzheimer’s (and only for a while) by editing genes. All you’re really doing is lowering risk.

Now I’m sure I’m talking out my *** here because there’s no way a man like Venter doesn’t have these considerations for the future of his business. I think he’s a practical man, given his accomplishments already, and doesn’t want to waste anyone’s resources - including his own - on things that are, in his mind, “not ready yet”. And he’s probably right. I just think having longevity in his company name could be potentially misleading. Genetic engineering is amazing on its own but its the tip of the aging iceberg. We need better blood, better kidneys, better spines etc. This will take way more than just clever chemistry. Implants, replacements, physically rearranging organs… maybe cloud connectivity? :slight_smile:

Well I’m an eccentric so I would, but you have a point. But if you take a competitive weight lifter at age 30 and a bodybuilder at age 80 and pit them against each other, you already know who’s going to win. I think any degradation of ability should be considered unhealthy, even if no clear presence of disease can be identified.

Partly. Not wholly. Not even mostly. DNA plays a role in aging, of course, but not so much that you’re going to be able to live indefinitely by just flipping switches. I say aging isn’t about DNA in the same way you’d say the Bible isn’t about fish and bread.

But more than that, repairing (removing, really) damage is a lot safer than DNA splicing because

  1. Genes do not have standalone mechanisms and
  2. Removing damage doesn’t introduce any new variables

With genes, its like when your arm hurts if you’re having a heart attack. We don’t actually know what will happen long term, even if we know that the genes we’re turning off (or on) are definitely responsible for aging. They’re multi-functional and simulations in computational biology are barely reliable enough (okay just for now, I’ll admit) to go on.

But turning genes on isn’t going to reverse aging. You’re just hitting pause. There is no organism that we know of that has a gene that can stop cancerous mutations indefinitely. That recent story about the elephant “cancer killing” genes was way hyped. The researchers found a select number of genes that reduce risk, they didn’t actually fight cancer. But the media read the first half of the first sentence of the bloody abstract and ran with it.

I agree, but I disagree that DNA editing is “all we need”, and I think you’re underplaying just how much harder software engineering humans is going to prove to be. See Deisseroth et al, really any of his work, and you’ll realize the magnitude of the situation. We’re talking exabytes and exabytes of data JUST for all the brains in the US to be digitally parsed. And the biggest problem of all is getting past ethics committees and legislation! Even if DNA was the single factor in aging, there are hordes of people in congress and the courts that are bordering on full blown religious fundamentalism. It’ll be another generation at least, about as long as DNA editing will allow us to live in the first place.

And before we continue this, I want to apologize for what was probably rude demeanor earlier and thank you for not reciprocating it. I respect that you’re adding to the discussion.


I don’t expect this to be very well received, even on a future-loving forum, but I think developing heterogeneous EUFI systems would be more feasible (relative to software engineering), easier to get through congress and the courts, WAY safer by its very definition and praised by everyone from feminists to employers. Even this is a long shot, but if we’re being practical that’s what I’d put my money towards.

Edit: For the code junkies out there, I’m not talking about boot-up architecture, I’m using the shorthand for extrauterine fetal incubation (EUFI). Hopefully that makes that less confusing…

After months in this discourse, this is my favorite retort.


Yeah, I understand. My opinion is that DNA editing (including editing, regulation, removal, and also addition of foreign genes) will be the only way to defeat aging. But, as I mentioned in another message, that’s not something we are going to achieve very soon, so we need to clean damage. But you can’t expect to defeat aging by fixing the damage because things are damaged again unless you set the mechanism to avoid that, and the only way to do that is by reengineering our very core, that is DNA. Is a debate with no end, but what is already clear (it was always clear but we have confirmations now) is that we have to modify our DNA if we want to get a different outcome.