Monday 2nd June 2014
The British gerontologist Aubrey de Grey considers himself a “simple medical researcher,” but his research is about fiddling with cells to stop ageing in human beings, and potentially postponing death indefinitely.
He believes that tackling the individual illnesses that haunt old people’s lives is a fundamentally flawed strategy; the right course of action is to act at the cellular level to prevent ageing from setting off those illnesses in the first place. His Silicon Valley-based foundation-cum-laboratory, the SENS Research Foundation, is completely devoted to this feat.
In the past, de Grey’s views were often met with skepticism or hostility, when not openly guffawed at. That has not completely changed, but the idea that ageing should actually be regarded as a disease, and that it might even be treated as such, is increasingly gaining ground – Gian Volpicelli
It’s going to happen, it’s just a question of when. The work I do is simply speeding up the inevitable.
But it is very important to me, because for every day that I bring forward the defeat of ageing, I’m saving 100,000 lives—100,000 lives: thirty World Trade Centers. And I’m very happy about that. –Aubrey de Grey
Monday 8th September 2014
Peter Thiel: Life Extension
After launching his venture capital firm, Founders Fund, in 2005, Thiel was ready in 2006 to kick off the Thiel Foundation, through which he channels his heuristic charitable giving. It gives away about $13 million to $15 million a year.
An early beneficiary was Aubrey de Grey, the highly controversial biogeronotologist who founded the SENS Research Foundation, which stands for Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. De Grey is trying to develop regenerative therapies that can postpone aging—possibly indefinitely. In an email, De Grey confirms to me that he still believes, as he was once quoted saying, that the first human who will live to be 1,000 is probably already alive today.
Thiel’s support for anti-aging research is perhaps the most extreme manifestation of his being a “definite optimist”—a person who, as Thiel defines the term in Zero to One, believes “the future will be better than the present if he plans and works to make it better.” Thiel contrasts such a person to an indefinite optimist, someone who thinks “the future will be better, but … doesn’t know how exactly, so he won’t make any specific plans.” Thiel abhors the latter outlook, which he feels predominates in America – Roger Parloff
Monday 13th April 2015
The most important item on any Bitcoiner’s bucket list?
1) Live forever
In February, the SENS Foundation—a life-extension research institute led by anti-ageing crusader Aubrey de Grey—announced on its website that it would start accepting donations in bitcoins.
The decision was made after SENS started receiving a trickle of messages from bitcoiners willing to invest their cryptocurrency reserves in the institute’s quest for eternal youth.
The story of SENS’s eager Bitcoin donors piqued my interest: It was just the latest in a row of cases linking interest in cryptocurrency with interest in life-extension or other transhumanist projects. It looked like there was an unspoken, long-running connection between the two things.
The link is typified, for instance, by the Lifeboat Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to safely steering humankind to the Singularity by financing ventures such as asteroid shields and brain uploading.
In 2013, it published a statement declaring its commitment to cryptocurrency: “We are now working to have the majority of our funding come from 21st century money—money backed not by governments but by algorithms,” the post read. “The 21st century money Lifeboat is currently focused on is bitcoins.”
How come people who want to live forever are also likely to pay for it in bitcoins?
Both transhumanism and Bitcoin’s creed have a techno-enthusiastic character, and—in the best of hacking tradition—both are about overcoming some sort of constraints. If you are up for screwing biology and living forever, you’ll probably dig the idea of using untraceable digital money to subvert the financial system as we know it, too
From a sheerly practical point of view, some think that Bitcoin may help fill the coffers of life-extension research labs much faster. “Bitcoin has the potential to hugely redistribute the wealth of the entire global economy,” Trace Mayer said. “And the new holders of that Bitcoin wealth will probably be smart people very interested in life-extension. They’ll fund these kind of projects.” – Gian Volpicelli
Tuesday 29th March 2016
Surge in Private Funding as Perceptions of Aging Changes
Funding for ageing research is forever in short supply. SENS is always asking for donations, and there is always more research to be done than there is money to fund it.
“We do our best with the very limited funding we have, obviously, and some of our work is done in-house: we have our own laboratory in Mountain View, California, where we do two of our major projects, but most of our work is done in university laboratories, mostly in the US, but there’s also one group outside Cambridge [UK] at the Babraham Institute,” de Grey says.
“We’ve got certainly quite a long list of researchers that we feel have the potential to do extremely valuable work, and it’s a great source of frustration to us that we can’t fund them all.”
However, this is starting to improve, both for SENS and for other institutions engaging in this field of research.
In particular, the investment community has shown growing interest in ageing research. February’s breakthrough findings were funded by private investors, and SENS, too, is spinning out some of its research into companies.
“Over the past year we’ve actually spun out a few companies, a few startups that have been able to attract investment from people who prefer to invest rather than donate,” he says.
The growing involvement of private investors is, according to de Grey, evidence of the changing perceptions of ageing research.
“Not only is the science moving forward, but the appreciation of the science within the investor community is also moving forward,” he says. “And that is absolutely critical to what we can expect to see in the future.”
For de Grey, there are two drivers of this growing appreciation.
“Number one is that the general idea that ageing [in] mice in the foreseeable future be brought under a fair degree of medical control; that has become much more mainstream,” he says.
“The second thing is that within that kind of concept, the specific idea of reversing ageing by repairing the damage that accumulates throughout life, which is of course the focus of my work, that itself has also become much more mainstream, much more accepted as a realistic option.” – Lucy Ingham
Friday 29th July 2016
ANALYSIS OF NOTABLE BRIDGE 1 LONGEVITY OPTIONS
Stem Cell Therapy
Most of the most important breakthroughs in the past decade have been preliminary. They have been early-stage work but have not yet reached the clinic. So, one example is induced pluripotency, the ability to take cells and reverse their development, to take them back to a stage that we normally, naturally see only shortly after fertilization.
That is enormously important, because it allows us to create cells that are of any kind we like, more or less. And that we can reintroduce into that same person. That’s hugely important for sidestepping the problem of immune rejection that exists if you try to put cells from one person into another person. – Aubrey de Grey
In just the last 10 years there has been more progress than many researchers thought they’d see in their lifetimes. Where we go in the next 20 years is going to be very interesting to say the least.
One of the major causes of damage during aging is loss of cells. A promising approach to solving this is to use stem cells to restore and replace these cells and tissues.
Stem cell therapy is a still at an early stage of development so it’s far too early for most people to get involved in the therapies that are currently available.
Further breakthroughs in stem cell therapy should be watched closely in the years ahead as we progress towards Bridge 2.
REVIEW OF NOTABLE BRIDGE 1 LONGEVITY OPTIONS
Unfortunately benefits from existing supplements are likely to be minimal, although some are intriguing enough to be worth proceeding with depending on a person’s current profile.
Gene and cell therapy are the big hopes. These exist today in nascent form but need to mature if we are to enjoy life extension of multiple decades rather than the few years that can be currently gained.
Some of the most ambitious and intriguing work for achieving this is being done by the SENS Research Foundation who have been awarded multi-million dollar donations from Peter Thiel and entrepreneur Michael Greve.
SENS also crowdfunds specific projects and accepts bitcoin. Keep up to date with the latest news and developments at sens.org
Monday 8th August 2016
SENS Research Foundation Announces $50 Million Project 21 Campaign
Campaign Focus: Ending Aging
SENS Research Foundation has announced its Project 21 campaign to secure $50 million in private support from individual donors, foundations, and corporations.
The goal of Project 21 is for SENS Research Foundation to partner with a new generation of visionary philanthropists, build the Rejuvenation Biotechnology industry, and bridge the most challenging gulf between research and treatment by enabling human clinical trials by 2021.
Aubrey de Grey, founder and chief science officer of SENS Research Foundation, said, “Ending aging will require large-scale investment to flow into a globally-recognized industry for rejuvenation biotechnology. Since we began in 2009, SENS Research Foundation has been putting all the pieces in place — core research groups, key players, shared knowledge, underlying tools — for the creation of this industry.
“The key programs funded by Project 21 can create an environment where the first damage repair interventions addressing specific age-related diseases will be brought to human clinical trials within five years.”
For more information on the SENS Research Foundation visit www.sens.org.
For information on Project|21 visit www.SENSProject21.org.
Monday 8th August 2016
Michael Greve Pledges $10 Million to SENS Rejuvenation Research and Development
Michael Greve is an internet entrepeneur turned venture capitalist with a long-standing interest in aging and longevity, and today he has pledged $10 million in support of SENS rejuvenation research: $5 million for the science, and a further $5 million to fund startups for clinical development.
This money will help speed the development of therapies that can repair the forms of cell and tissue damage that cause aging, and thus prevent age-related disease, rejuvenate the old, and significantly extend healthy life spans.
I’m very pleased to see that Michael Greve has now joined the ranks of those who have committed a significant amount of funding to SENS research, alongside Aubrey de Grey, Peter Thiel, and Jason Hope.
As more people in the venture community demonstrate their public, material support for this path forward, I think that we’re going to see greater interest from that quarter. This is something that the SENS Research Foundation has been building towards since its inception, as it is no accident that the organization is headquartered in the Bay Area. – Reason
Friday 30th September 2016
Aubrey de Grey Announces Progress in MitoSENS
- MitoSENS (Mitochondrial Repair Project): Engineering backup copies of mitochondrial genes to place in the nucleus of the cell, aiming to prevent age-related damage and restore lost mitochondrial function.
Aubrey de Grey has announced the acceptance of the first scientific publication for the MitoSENS team at the SENS Research Foundation.
SENS are presently in the lead among the few groups working on the project of copying mitochondrial genes into the cell nucleus to protect them from the damage of aging.
Ultimately, copying all thirteen genes should completely remove the contribution of mitochondrial damage to degenerative aging, as mitochondria will no longer become dysfunctional as their local DNA is damaged. – Reason
About a decade ago, the very first project, the very first research program that we were able to initiate – with the help of, especially, the initial donation of Peter Thiel – was to make mitochondrial mutations harmless by essentially putting backup copies of the mitochondrial DNA into the nuclear genome, modified in such way of course that the encoded proteins would be colocated back into the mitochondria to do their job.
This is an idea that was first put forward more than 30 years ago, but it is an idea that despite quite a bit of initial effort, nobody was able to make work.
When I first came across this concept, in fact I’d thought of it myself, it’s a pretty obvious idea really, I came to the conclusion that a lot of the despair and despondency and pessimism about this approach was premature, and that it was worth having another go, and so that was the very first project we decided to fund.
Suffice to say that it has not been quite as easy as I was hoping to make progress in that space, but progress has now been made, step by step, over the past several years, with the help especially of the absolutely amazing team we have at the research center.
For the very first time in the entire history of this project, we have got far enough to have a paper accepted in a very nice journal, Nucleic Acids Research, which reports on our progress in this area. The headline result in this paper is that we are the first team ever to get two of the proteins encoded by genes in the mitochondrial DNA simultaneously functioning in the same cell line. This is extremely heartening news. – Aubrey de Grey