De Grey likes to compare the future of treating aging to the time line of human-powered flight. For millennia, man dreamed of flying. Nothing happened. Five hundred years ago, Leonardo da Vinci presented detailed drawings of flying machines. Nothing happened. Then, in a mad rush, we catapulted from the Wright brothers to Lindbergh to the Concorde to the space shuttle.
Fewer than sixty years have passed since Watson and Crick – modern medicine’s Orville and Wilber – proposed the structure of DNA. Only seven years have passed since the Human Genome Project mapped our genetic sequence. Gene therapy wasn’t even theorized until the 1960s. In the past few years, it’s been used in major medical breakthroughs: It was used to cure squirrel monkeys of color blindness, and recently doctors in Paris used it to slow a fatal brain disease called X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy in young boys. What comes next, de Grey predicts, is a series of extraordinary medical progressions, each a further order of magnitude more sophisticated than anything available today.
It’s easy to poke fun at Aubrey de Grey and his quixotic ieas, but a couple of weeks in his presence made it obvious to me that he’s entirely serious about his quest. I don’t think he’s full of shit in the least. I have no idea if a single one of his seven steps will work, but I’m grateful for his crazy devotion. He says he never takes a day off, because he’s acutely aware that every day he’s delayed means another 100,000 humans will die. He’s not getting rich and isn’t driven by his own self-presevation. Rather he’s practically killing himself, it sometime seems, so that rest of us may have a chance to live. I, for one, deeply wish for his success. The truth is, I’d like to be young again. I’d like to be young for a thousand years.
And even if de Grey isn’t correct, there may be significant ancillary benefit to his ideas. So maybe we won’t live to be a thousand, but perhaps de Grey and his team will make a few smaller breakthroughs and we’ll get to 150. or perhaps his efforts will help cure Alzheimer’s disease. Or diabetes. Or cancer. If his insights help us live only five extra years, or just one year – or, hell, one month – isn’t that worth the three bucks he asks from every many, woman, and child in the United States? Maybe tossing a billion at de Grey isn’t a waste at all. Maybe, once you think about it, it’s an absolute bargain.
2. Dr de Grey is the chief scientific officer of the SENS Foundation (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) which carries out research into the prevention and cure of aging.
He agreed that the DWP’s figures were a reasonable projection but added that this was not a new idea.
“Longevity has been increasing by a couple of years each decade for more than 50 years now, due to the success we have had in keeping people from getting the diseases of old age, and in keeping them in better condition throughout their whole lives.
3. Genescient is a life extension company that is using fruit flies that have been selectively bred to live 4-5 times longer than normal over 700-800 generations (3 decades). They now have a nutraceutical pill for sale which has been tested to help flies live twice as long. Fruit flies share 70% of their genes with humans.
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