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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The End of Aging

Posted by on Wed, May 20, 2009 at 3:16 PM

Not too long ago, Futures In Biotech interviewed a fascinating scientist, Dr. Cynthia Kenyon. The work she is famous for concerns the ancient problem of aging.

In 1993, Kenyon and colleagues’ discovery that a single-gene mutation could double the lifespan of C. elegans sparked an intensive study of the molecular biology of aging. These findings have now led to the discovery that an evolutionarily conserved hormone signaling system controls aging in other organisms as well, including mammals.
Essentially, this gene mutation results in the body shifting its focus from growth to maintenance and repair. The shift not so much makes you live longer than makes you younger for longer. And if you are younger longer, you reduce the risk of encountering the diseases that beset old age. Ultimately, Dr. Cynthia Kenyon work will lead to a revaluation of aging. It will no longer be seen as a fixed fact, as something that can not be avoided, but as plastic. Old age will become a disease—a curable disease. The humans of the future nearby will laugh at our ideas about (acceptance of) aging. The humans of the future will admire the ancient Greeks. Their ideas will re-flower in this future world that has on its horizon the day when the old (the decedents of Cephalus) will be extinct.


Comments (30) RSS

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pg13 1
Posted by pg13 on May 20, 2009 at 3:25 PM · Report this
StillNon 2
I'm so glad to be youngish and not an old leathery man like you. I might get to benefit from these new technologies!!!

Posted by StillNon on May 20, 2009 at 3:25 PM · Report this
"The humans **of the future** will admire the ancients Greeks." ?????

Lots to admire now. Like...inventing philosophy.

Despite their mind blowing contradictions.
Posted by PC on May 20, 2009 at 3:30 PM · Report this
smade 4
There'd better be birth control in the water supply.
Posted by smade on May 20, 2009 at 3:32 PM · Report this
this is good news since we will all be working until age 140.
Posted by Westside forever on May 20, 2009 at 3:37 PM · Report this
Look closely at the genes/life cycles they are halting and you'll see that they are basically preventing the C.elegans from entering puberty. Who wants to be pre-pudecent for all eternity?
Posted by Jonathank5 on May 20, 2009 at 3:41 PM · Report this
The Amazing Jim 7
All that and they make great distance runners too!
Posted by The Amazing Jim on May 20, 2009 at 3:42 PM · Report this
Charles Mudede 9
8, did you fucking bother to listen to the interview? please do, then criticism me. i said almost nothing in my fucking post that the dr did not fucking say. jesus fucking christ!
Posted by Charles Mudede on May 20, 2009 at 3:53 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 10
Actually, Charles, it's not that simple - at least based on something like three seminars and a few conversations with her.

Resetting your telomeres in response to starvation does not yet exactly work in primates. Not that a good fast with vitamin calcium water every 10 years or so is bad, mind you, provided it's say 14 days but less than 30 days.
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 20, 2009 at 3:54 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 11
oh, and @5 - if you lived that long, you would have about an 80 percent chance of Alzheimers or at least dementia by then.

So I doubt you'll be working all 140 years ...
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 20, 2009 at 3:55 PM · Report this
Toasterhedgehog 13
I doubt anyone but the super-rich oligarchy will have access to this technology. It would be grossly irresponsible to give it to people that can't or refuse to control their reproduction, consumption, and polution.

If we do give it to everybody, we'll only hasten the collapse of the biosphere. Imagine getting to live 140 years in an overcrowded industrial toilet planet.

In an environmentalist, post-war, post religion humanity, maybe it would be a good idea to enhance our bodies for longer life. The way our species is now, allowing us to live longer would do more harm than good.
Posted by Toasterhedgehog on May 20, 2009 at 4:13 PM · Report this
Vince 15
I don't know about any of you, but I'm not looking to prolong any of this bullshit any longer than I have to. As for admiring the ancient Greeks, anything that adheres to the good things they practiced and eliminates the bad would be great now. People have a way of creating more problems than they solve. This looks like one of those "solutions" that turns out badly.
Posted by Vince on May 20, 2009 at 4:37 PM · Report this

Simple solution: anyone wanting life-extension also has to agree to undergo sterilization; maybe we could allow them to deposit to sperm/egg banks first, but they themselves would be barred from having (any more, if they've already done so) kids.
Posted by COMTE on May 20, 2009 at 4:40 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 19
@16 - um, women don't need to be sterilized after a certain point. just men.
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 20, 2009 at 5:08 PM · Report this
icouldliveinhope 20
@1: zardoz OR the hunger.
Posted by icouldliveinhope on May 20, 2009 at 5:26 PM · Report this
xkcd has a relevant comic, as is so often the case.
Posted by RL on May 20, 2009 at 5:34 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 22
well it does talk about immortality, RL ... but I don't see how the well is germane.
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 20, 2009 at 5:49 PM · Report this
Toasterhedgehog 23
@16 You are absolutely right.

We should do the same with modern medicine. If you choose to be antisocial and have multiple children, then you should be denied the additional 40-50 years of life brought about by scientific methodology applied to human health.

Wait a minute.

Two men are waiting for a 'youth treatment'. One refuses to be sterilized because his God commands him to go forth and be fruitful and multiply. Will we deny a lifesaving treatment based on Religious ideology? I would. But I don't think most of the world would agree with me.
Posted by Toasterhedgehog on May 20, 2009 at 6:30 PM · Report this
Yeah, that is the only related bit. Point is — we're all gonna die. Charles says, "Old age will become a disease—a curable disease." I doubt that this claim will be able to be judged in our lifetime. Perhaps of interest to people with children. The science would be interesting, although I did not find any transcript for the interview. So, relevance is going to be a stretch for folks who will have not listened to the interview (looks like most folks in this thread, including me).

In conclusion, the gun is good, penis is bad.
Posted by RL on May 20, 2009 at 6:33 PM · Report this
Posted by RL on May 20, 2009 at 6:35 PM · Report this
Still trying to figure out decedents of Cephalus. Eos? Procrirus?

And relevance to aging?

Up, I doth give.
Posted by PC on May 20, 2009 at 7:28 PM · Report this

Under normal circumstances that's true. But the whole point of this would be to arrest the natural biological aging process. What if a woman were to undergo such treatment while still in her 30's? Theoretically, she could continue to bear children almost indefinitely, depending on how many years the extension process gives her.


I'm not sure I completely buy your argument. There have been news articles as recent as this week about religiously-minded parents refusing to allow their children to be treated by modern medical practices, so I'm not certain such a restriction would necessarily be the disincentive you suggest.

Besides, a lot of what we think of when we envision modern medical technology and procedures don't even come into play until people are already well into their 70's or 80's, because people are just generally healthier than they were a century ago So, unless they suffer some sort of unforeseen physical debilitation before then, they could easily reach high-geriatric ages just by maintaining a relatively healthy lifestyle, regardless of whether they required additional medical treatment in the meantime.
Posted by COMTE on May 20, 2009 at 9:28 PM · Report this
Violet_DaGrinder 28
While I don't consider this to be an especially huge leap forward, yeah, we'll sort out that whole aging nonsense eventually.

If we don't kill ourselves with god-wars and/or nukes and/or other massively destructive stupidity first.

I'm betting on our self-destruction, actually, but if we don't manage to obliterate ourselves, we're gonna need additional real estate. I think that people who consider space exploration to be superfluous are very short-sighted.
Posted by Violet_DaGrinder on May 20, 2009 at 9:33 PM · Report this
Violet_DaGrinder 29

Charles, roughly 98% of the time, your science posts are completely off base. The rest too, arguably, but the science ones are really obvious. If you want people to give you the benefit of the doubt with each new post, you're gonna have to knock down that number a bit. I'd suggest posting things in the form of questions, rather than in the form of sweeping statements. "Might this lead to a reevaluation of aging? Will old age someday be seen as a curable disease?" Try it!

Now, I know I'm an ass to you 98% of the time, and I'm still being pretty condescending, so you're unlikely to hear me on this, but this is in the 2%. Seriously. I'm trying to help. Because you're clearly going to Slog until you die, and I don't know how to quit you. The killfile scripts don't work in Safari, and I'm not crazy about Firefox.

Posted by Violet_DaGrinder on May 20, 2009 at 9:42 PM · Report this
ams_ 30
But when I'm a spry 400 year old and meet my 17 year old soul mate, will she want the treatment to turn into a monster like me? Or will I convince her to stay human and just content myself with watching her sleep and carrying her around on my back up to the tops of trees?
Posted by ams_ on May 20, 2009 at 10:03 PM · Report this
This will not turn out well. Old age, we may conquer, but never our own hubris.
Posted by ScreenName on May 20, 2009 at 10:57 PM · Report this
Sorry, but this sounds like a shitty idea. The world is overpopulated as it is, and using science to make people immortal would deplete our existing resources.
Posted by context ender on May 21, 2009 at 12:16 AM · Report this
mr. herriman 33
yay @32!

i remember being told in school (1998) that if everyone only ate 1200 calories a day starting very early in life they could potentially live to be 150 years old. the theory was that digesting protein is the one thing that ages us (by wearing out our organs) faster than anything else. less food intake = less wear and tear. at the time, the idea was being researched pretty intensely, but i haven't heard it promoted much since then, thank goodness.

encouraging people to extend their lives as far as possible is about the most irresponsible thing i can think of for the overall health of the planet and it's population, both human and non. that, and having too many kids!!!
Posted by mr. herriman on May 21, 2009 at 12:45 AM · Report this
I am pasting a quotation on immortality from Freud's book, Beyond the Pleasure Principle. It is from the sixth chapter, which ends on a fantastic reference to Plato/Aristophanes' theory of a third gender, a man/woman.

"We built up further conclusions on the basis of the assumption that all life must die from internal causes. We made this assumption so light-heartedly because it does not seem to us to be one. We are accustomed so to think, and every poet encourages us in the idea. Perhaps we have resolved so to think because there lies a certain consolation in this belief. If man must himself die, after first losing his most beloved ones by death, he would prefer that his life be forfeit to an inexorable law of nature, the sublime AvdyxT], than to a mere accident which perhaps could have been in some way avoided. But perhaps this belief in the incidence of death as the necessary consequence of an inner law of being is also only one of those illusions that we have fashioned for ourselves 'so as to endure the burden of existence'. It is certainly not a primordial belief: the idea of a 'natural death' is alien to primitive races; they ascribe every death occurring among themselves to the influence of an enemy or an evil spirit. So let us not neglect to turn to biological science to test the belief."
Posted by chloe on May 21, 2009 at 8:02 AM · Report this
I with 32 and 33

We can barely sustain ourselves as is, add 50% more people to the mix and we are screwed. No one talks about the selfishness of trying to extend our lives and the toll it would take on society, though I understand it is probably inevitable that we will continue to work towards it.
Posted by tictoc on May 21, 2009 at 9:15 AM · Report this

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