Craig Venter’s new company wants to improve human longevity by creating the world’s largest, most comprehensive database of genetic and physiological information.
Human Longevity Inc. (HLI) is a genomics and cell therapy-based diagnostic and therapeutic company. HLI will use advances in genomic sequencing, understanding the human microbiome, proteomics, informatics, computing, and cell therapy technologies to make progress to radical life extension. HLI is concentrating on cancer, diabetes and obesity, heart and liver diseases, and dementia.
Human Longevity, based in San Diego, says it will sequence some 40,000 human genomes per year to start, using Illumina’s new high-throughput sequencing machines at a cost of about $1000 per genome.
Eventually, it plans to work its way up to 100,000 genomes per year. The company will also sequence the genomes of the body’s multitudes of microbial inhabitants, called the microbiome, and analyze the thousands of metabolites that can be found in blood and other patient samples.
By combining these disparate types of data, the new company hopes to make inroads into the enigmatic process of aging and the many diseases, including cancer and heart disease, that are strongly associated with it. “Aging is exerting a force on humans that is exposing us to diseases, and the diseases are idiosyncratic, partly based on genetics, partly on environment,” says Leonard Guarente, who researches aging at MIT and is not involved in the company. “The hope for many of us who study aging is that by having interventions that hit key pathways in aging, we can affect disease.”
Human Microbiome – There are 100 times more cells from bacteria, fungi, and viruses, in and on your body than there are human cells. The metabolome includes the complete set of metabolites in a human genome.
Human Longevity will collaborate with Metabolon, a company based in Durham, North Carolina, to profile the metabolites circulating in the bloodstreams of study participants. Metabolon was an early pioneer in the field of metabolomics, which catalogues the amino acids, fats, and other small molecules in a blood or other sample to develop more accurate diagnostic tests for diseases.
Metabolon uses mass spectrometry to identify small molecules in a sample. In a human blood sample, there are around 1,200 different types; Metabolon’s process can also determine the amount of each one present. While genome sequencing can provide information about inherited risk of disease and some hints of the likelihood that a person will have a long life, metabolic data provides information on how environment, diet, and other features of an individual’s life affect health.
Stem Cell Therapies
Led by Co-Founder Robert Hariri, MD, Ph.D., HLI is embarking on an ambitious multi-pronged effort utilizing stem cell therapy advances to enhance and improve the healthy life span. HLI’s work is premised on the theory that as the human body ages many biological changes occur, including substantial changes and degradation to the genome of the differentiated, specialized cells found in all body tissues. There is also a depletion and degradation of healthy regenerative stem cell populations in the body over time.
HLI will monitor the genomic changes which occur during stem cell differentiation, normal aging, and in association with the onset of disease. HLI will expand on work done by Hariri approximately 25 years ago which showed that young cells could influence the phenotype of aging cells in blood vessels.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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