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The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime
Three decades ago, for the soundtrack of “Highlander,” “Queen” decided to ask the world an apt question. Namely, “Who Wants to Live Forever?”
According to the English gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, the answer to the question is fairly obvious: absolutely everybody. However, the more interesting part of his book on the subject, “Ending Aging,” is that children alive today may be able to.
And Aubrey de Grey is not an SF writer. He’s a doctor. With a PhD.
So, lend us your ears!
Who Should Read “Ending Aging”? And Why?
Gerontology is a fairly new science: the first courses in it date from about forty years ago. However, it’s also a science you don’t need to be especially interested in to be… well, interested in. Because it deals with something that will inevitably happen to you: aging.
The spoiler is in the title of this book: not necessarily so. If you want to know how is that possible, read this book. Also, read it if you don’t want to die. And we’re not joking.
About Aubrey de Grey
Aubrey David Nicholas Jasper de Grey is an English biomedical gerontologist, and the Chief Science Officer of the SENS Research Foundation. He is also the editor of the journal “Rejuvenation Research”, as well as a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, and an international adjunct professor of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.
He has authored two books: “The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging” and “Ending Aging.” In addition, he has provided “A Roadmap to End Aging” for over 3 million TED enthusiasts.
“Ending Aging PDF Summary”
Although we don’t fully understand why it’s happening, aging seems as inevitable as death and taxes. For some reason, in humans, with each following mitosis – that is, the division of a cell into two new ones (which is how you grow) – the telomere (which controls the process and stops chromosomes from sticking to each other or knotting) shortens.
40 to 60 times later (something called the Hayflick Limit) – it’s too short to control anything; so, the division of the cells stop. And that’s how the mechanism of cellular aging – or senescence – works. And, basically, there’s nothing most organisms can do about it!
Yes – that’s the twist you’ve been waiting for!
First of all, you must know that some animals have negligible senescence. In other words, there’s a chance that if you ever see a rougheye rockfish or an Aldabra giant tortoise that the same specimens may have been seen by, say, Benjamin Franklin!
And there’s something even stranger. Its Latin name is turitopsis dohrii, but it’s better known as the immortal jellyfish. Its life cycle is, literally, a cycle – since, instead of getting old, the larva-turned-medusa turns to larva once again!
Talking about hitting the reset button, ha?
Well, if a jellyfish can do it, asks Aubrey de Grey, then why shouldn’t humans be able to as well?
That’s why he has developed a seven-step anti-aging program, called the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, or SENS for short. The “goal-directed rather than curiosity-driven” approach has a threefold basis.
Firstly, that we know more about aging than any human generation before. Secondly, that we have developed regenerative medicine to a point where we can use it to repair some of the negative effects of the aging process. And, thirdly, that not experimenting further in the field is unfair to the people living today.
Because we may already be able to at least double their lifespan – not to mention increase the quality of their lives.
The strategies themselves are seven in all – OncoSENS, MitoSENS, LysoSENS, AmyloSENS, RepleniSENS, ApoptoSENS, and GlycoSENS – and each of them propagates researching a different aspect of regenerative medicine to repair a different aging damage.
For example, MitoSENS deals with mitochondrial mutation. The mitochondria live in the cell’s cytoplasm and produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the source of our body’s chemical energy. So, they are basically the cell’s powerplants.
However, just like real powerplants, they cause serious side effects, such as free radicals, which in turn, cause mitochondrial mutations. And these contribute to aging possibly more than anything else.
The SENS solution: allotopic expression (AE). That is, copying the DNA for mitochondria from the cytoplasm in the nucleus, which should protect its genes better. For some time successfully carried out only in yeast, it seems that the SENS project went a step further just recently. (Yes, we’re talking about humans).
Does this mean that we’re close to immortality?
Of course, not – though it means that we’re on the right track! However, aging can be caused by many different factors as well. Cells, for example, produce waste. They recycle it nice and tidy, for the most part, but they can’t do nothing about lipofuscin, one of the “wear-and-tear” or aging pigments.
Lipofuscin is a byproduct of the oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids and should be disposed of by the lysosomes. However, they are no match. And lipofuscin piles up in our bodies until we die.
However, lipofuscin is also fluorescent and the fact that you can’t see glowing zombies in the graveyards mean that it’s properly broken down by something else.
And that something else are bacteria and microbes.
LysoSENS proposes taking enzymes out of them and adding them to the lysosome. So that it can properly deal with all the intracellular junk inside us.
Key Lessons from “Ending Aging”
1. Senescence, Negligible Senescence and Immortality
2. Prevention and Medication Won’t Work – We Need to Press the Reset Button
3. Let’s try de Grey’s Seven-Step SENS Program on Mice First
Senescence, Negligible Senescence and Immortality
Senescence is how scientists call the process of cellular aging, which is the reason why we get old and die. You can understand how it works if you’ve ever copied a copy from a copy of an original. Understandably, your replica is much less readable and aesthetically pleasing when compared to the original.
Now think of doing this 40 to 60 times. You’ll end up with an extremely muddled piece of paper.
Well, that’s what happens with your cells. Fortunately, when the information inside them may become unreadable, there’s one part of them – the telomere – which says “it’s closing time.” Unfortunately, this also means that you are unable to rejuvenate anymore.
However, turtles and some fish seem to have cells which reproduce without such losses of information for hundreds of years. And one specific type of jellyfish is basically immortal – because its old cells produce young cells, which, once again, produce old cells. Ad infinitum!
A real-life – and never-ending – Benjamin Button!
Prevention and Medication Won’t Work – We Need to Press the Reset Button
Aubrey de Grey says that we should learn a lesson from this jellyfish. Namely, that preventing aging won’t work – just as medications won’t work either.
What will – and what our research should focus on – is resetting the cell structure. It’s not only the only possible option to end aging; it’s also the more appealing one.
Because this way, we’re not finding a cure against death; but, instead, the fountain of eternal youth!
Let’s try de Grey’s Seven-Step SENS Program on Mice First
Now, Aubrey de Grey has identified seven ways we age. And, accordingly, has developed seven different strategies how to fight them.
OncoSENS focuses on lengthening telomeres to stop changes in the nuclear DNA; MitoSENS on backing up the mitochondrial DNA in the cell’s nucleus to protect it better; LysoSENS on injecting enzymes from bacteria in our lysosomes so we can break down intracellular junk more completely.
AmyloSENS deals with the extracellular junk – either through vaccination or enhanced phagocytosis. RepleniSENS proposes a wide array of strategies to stop the loss of cells which can’t be replaced. ApoptoSENS, on the other hand, proposes vaccination and senolytic agents to kill the cells which stop dividing so as to make room for the healthy ones which can.
Finally, GlycoSENS aims to break the multiplicity of bonds and cross-links which make the tissue less elastic as we grow old.
Too controversial or unscientific?
Aubrey de Grey says – “ok, then, give me the money and 20 mice. I’ll only move on to people if I can make 10 of them live twice as long as the oldest mouse… And only if they are willing.”
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“Ending Aging” QuotesThe ultimate purpose of this book is to show you that you could add many more years to people’s lives than you may currently think. So many, in fact, that now is the time to decide whether you want to. Click To Tweet Around 150,000 people die each day worldwide – that’s nearly two per second – and of those, about two-thirds die of aging. That’s right: 100,000 people. That’s about thirty World Trade Centers, sixty Katrinas, every single day. Click To Tweet We can probably eliminate aging as a cause of death this century – and possibly within just a few decades, soon enough to benefit most people currently alive. Click To Tweet Most people do not think about aging in the same way that they think about cancer, or diabetes, or heart disease. They are strongly in favor of the absolute elimination of such diseases as soon as possible, but the idea of eliminating… Click To Tweet In the sense that matters most, aging is just like smoking: It’s really bad for you. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
The premise may sound unscientific, but don’t be fooled: “Ending Aging” is as scientific as books of this kind can get. Namely, you will not be able to enjoy it if you don’t know at least some biology (and even more advanced on occasions). However, the main idea is certainly appealing.
And as Paul Boutin from “The Wall Street Journal” says, “if even one of his proposals works, it could mean years of extended healthy living.”
So, let’s pray that it does.