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The Myth of the Longevity Elixir

Marios Kyriazis

Ethical Technology

October 30, 2012

The search for a single elixir or combination of elixirs, which can allow substantial longevity, is false.


Complete entry


Posted by Glen  on  10/31  at  03:36 AM

I don’t think this article is very forward thinking. You’ve become a victim of the pessimism in your field. You’ve run into the problem of trying to understand and control metabolism before you create a remedy for a disease. In the past researchers would not fully understand the complexity of something, like smallpox as a disease, before they could create a vaccine. We don’t need to understand metabolism to reverse aging simply removing or reversing the damage is enough, just like any disease. Society does emphasise anti-aging therapies just in an indirect manner, for example, finding a cure for parkinson’s or alzheimer’s disease is in fact studies in antiaging because we are reversing the damage done by aging. If the objective of anti aging therapy was to understand metabolism then yes I would agree with your sentiment but I do not think this approach is needed to have an effective intervention in aging.

Posted by Kyriazis  on  10/31  at  10:37 AM

One should remember that aging is not a disease. Curing diseases associated with aging such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is not at all the same as curing aging itself. Many people have not got Parkinson’s or dementia, or any other disease, and yet still die from aging.

Posted by Florin Clapa  on  11/07  at  11:58 PM

Kyriazis, I find your claim highly unlikely to be true. Autopsies are rarely performed on people after age 70, and the ones that are performed on the oldest people seem to indicate that they die of specific disorders and diseases. A study of the causes of death in 40 centenarians concluded that 100% died of various diseases. Another study has determined that all quasi-supercentenarians autopsied for the study either died of amyloidosis-related causes (the accumulation of protein that compromises organ function) such as heart failure or aspiration pneumonia which can caused by diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease. I’m not aware of any study that concluded that the cause of death of many older people was “aging” without referring to a specific disorder which was the result of the accumulation of aging damage.

Do you have any evidence for your claim that many people die of “aging” and not of the diseases associated with aging?

Posted by Kyriazis  on  11/09  at  02:29 PM

The biological aging process and age-related diseases are two distinct conditions. People who live for many years are subjected to random damage which causes failure of biological repair –this is called aging. Conditions such as stroke, arthritis, heart disease etc. can happen to anyone at any age.

During my career I wrote many death certificates where I had to state the cause of death. If someone is so weak, decrepit, and unable to repair damage easily due to the fact that he has lived for many years, and then gets pneumonia and dies, then the cause of death is ‘pneumonia’. But curing the pneumonia is not going to improve this person’s aging weakness.

It is illegal to give the cause of death as ‘aging’. This is because aging is not a disease. Instead, the cause of death must be an illness that has clearly caused someone to die. That is why ‘aging’ alone does not feature in any death certificate.

It will take much more than a few pills in order to defeat aging. This is because aging is an evolutionary process and not a distinct medical illness.

Posted by Peter Wicks  on  11/13  at  10:28 AM

I think there may be a bit of a semantic issue here. Whether ageing should be regarded as a “disease” or not depends very much how you want to define disease.

I don’t know enough about this field to be able to judge whether Kyriazis is being excessively pessimistic or not, but I do like his emphasis on societal issues. I also like the fact that he combines what might appear to be pessimism with regard to existing (piecemeal?) approaches with a clear perspective that this might one day be possible. Positive perspectives are good, but so are reality checks.

Posted by Florin Clapa  on  11/13  at  04:16 PM

I’m not sure why you’re trying to make a big distinction between aging and the diseases of aging. If you mean that the process by which metabolism lays down aging damage can’t be stopped, I would agree; we’ll never be able to create silver bullets that could prevent metabolism from laying down damage. However, aging can also refer to the damage produced by the aging process. All of this damage can be classified as specific diseases, and I see no reason why these diseases (and thus aging) can’t be prevented or cured by periodically repairing aging damage by a set of strategies such as SENS.

The age-associated diseases that you referred to increase exponentially the older people become; the vast majority of young people don’t die of these diseases. Since damage can accumulate at different rates, it’s no surprise that younger people can sometimes suffer and die of age-associated diseases.

Curing a single condition such as pneumonia may not cure an old person’s frailty, but eliminating other diseases such as Parkinson’s and dementia would. My contention is that eliminating ALL age-associated diseases would be equivalent to curing aging. No, it wouldn’t “stop” the aging process (i.e., the process by which metabolism produces damage), but it would eliminate the undesirable effects of that process. If you disagree, I’d like to know what you think would cause disability and death in the absence of any age-associated disease.

The studies I cited weren’t inhibited by the legal constraints you cited.

Posted by edebonneuil  on  11/13  at  07:36 PM

Yes ageing is a very complex complex [obvious when one models it as a result of (non) natural selection] that considerably increases risks of severe diseases. **But** reassuringly,

1. Longevity Elixirs are here, hidden, everywhere around
In mice at least the key seems to track them correctly. When doing numerous mouse lifespan tests with drugs S. Spindler recently found that “9 of the 58 groups experienced statistically significant lifespan extension (15.5% of the groups).”
In humans, statistical analysis of health databases might be a good way to find the elixirs.

2. Regeneration of the body holds strong promises
For example, following a heart failure it is now a clinical practice to inject heart stem cells to regenerate damaged heart parts. Could such a strategy be applied to the whole body, then it seems probable that ageing would to a large extent be tackled without decifering the complexity of ageing.

I think that *many more resources* should be dedicated to such research orientations, with genuine individual and societal benefits.

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