SRF Ends the Long History of Aging (Part 1)

Guest Article by Jason Hope:

Humankind has learned how to control many serious illnesses over the centuries, from polio to tuberculosis, but scientists have yet to figure out how to stop the aging process. The founders of the SENS Research Foundation decided to change all that.

SENS is an acronym for Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. Let’s deconstruct that name to help you understand the history and focus of SENS.

Senescence is that slow decline in health when some organisms age. All humans, for example, tend to develop common illnesses as they age, such as Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. Some animals, such as lobsters and rockfish, do not show obvious signs of senescence. Dr. Caleb Finch of the University of Southern California first used the phrase “negligible senescence” to refer to a creature’s ability to grow old without developing frailty or disability.

Jason Hope

Everyone involved with the SENS Research Foundation, or SRF, is dedicated to developing strategies that medically engineer negligible senescence. In other words, they want to find a scientific cure for debilitating signs of aging that bring you pain and cut your life short. With this in mind, Aubrey de Grey, Jeff Hall, Michael Kope, Sarah Marr, and Kevin Perrott founded SRF in March of 2009.

Early on, Aubrey de Grey identified seven specific types of damage that cause the human body to deteriorate over time. These types of aging are:

• Cell loss or atrophy without replacement
• Oncogenic nuclear mutations and epimutations
• Cell senescence, or death-resistant cells
• Mitochondrial mutations
• Intracellular junk or junk inside cells
• Extracellular junk or junk outside cells
• Random extracellular cross-linking

Without these seven types of damage, human beings would not experience debilitating signs and symptoms of aging that reduce the quality of life. In TED talks, appearances on The Colbert Report, and other media events, de Grey argued that the ability to fix even a few of these problems could postpone or even reverse the frailty and disease that comes with old age.

SENS Research Foundation carries on the work of its predecessor, the Methuselah Foundation, also founded by de Grey. This non-profit, volunteer organization explored various methods of extending lifespan. The Methuselah Foundation managed several projects under its umbrella concept, MLife, including My Bridge 4 Life and the Mprize. My Bridge 4 Life helps older people manage age-related diseases while the Mprize awards money to anyone who can extend the healthy lifespan of mice, who share many of the same degenerative signs and symptoms of aging as humans do.

Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other age-related diseases are expensive and dramatically reduce quality of life. The average couple can expect to pay $220,000 in medical expenses throughout their retirement. Age-related illnesses pepper the top ten causes of death in the United States, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. Despite all the time, money, and effort invested in the treatment of these diseases, scientists have not yet cured any of them.

Those who participated in the early days of the SENS Research Foundation hoped to develop a strategy to mitigate the signs of aging that cause misery and early death. SRF founders predicted that aging would come under medical control someday with advanced technologies, such as gene therapy, stem cell therapy, and immune stimulants.

The founders of the SENS Research Foundation also said they expected this to happen within your lifetime. SENS believes senescence is an engineering problem that they can fix through organized collaboration between the scientific community, policymakers, and the public. SRF aims to create and maintain collaborations that work toward ending the disability, misery and early death associated with the aging process.

Other parts to follow

Bio of Jason Hope

Jason Hope is an entrepreneur, futurist, philanthropist, and investor located in Scottsdale, Arizona with a passion for technology and giving back to his community. As an Arizona native, Jason grew up in Tempe and received a degree in finance from Arizona State University, and an MBA from ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business. Along with his philanthropic and business initiatives, Jason has a dedicated interest in politics as related to business throughout the state of Arizona as well as nationally.

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