IEET > Interns > HealthLongevity > Anne Corwin
Longevity Science - A Brief Snapshot of Progress
Anne Corwin   Nov 29, 2006   Existence is Wonderful  

It can sometimes be difficult to detect change and progress as it is occurring—when following and studying a given subject or scientific endeavor, it is not always immediately apparent which data points and events are significant amidst the noise and buzz of journalism, discussion, and argument.  But it seems quite certain that things are indeed happening in the realm of longevity science and related research.

For starters, the SENS challenge has been addressed, the MPrize has received generous support this year, and the Longevity Dividend represents, perhaps, one of the first vestiges of mainstream attention to the criticality of addressing the health needs of members of the present and future elderly population (who, of course, have as much a right to stay alive and well anyone else).

I’ve also linked to several new blogs and information pages that have come into my sphere of awareness over the past few months:

- Ouroboros - Research in the Biology of Aging (lots of good, hard science)

- Partial Immortalization (Biologist, philosopher, and PhD student Attila Csordás reports on longevity research news and interviews various scientists and philosophers on their thoughts and impressions of the current state and projected outcomes of longevity science)

- The Methuselah Foundation Blog (This blog has been reporting on Methuselah Foundation activities since July and gives a nice overview of the kinds of things the Mprize could be applied to.)

- Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (A fascinating source of tech-progressive musings and biotech philosophy.  One of my favorite aspects of this group is that there’s plenty of heterogeneity of thought, which fits in nicely with my own conviction that since no individual mind can see the overall picture, input from different kinds of minds is necessary when it comes to addressing tough issues.)

However, awareness and support, though indispensible factors, are only part of the equation.  Nobody is going to be able to enjoy the benefits of even moderate life extension until the science is there to make it technically feasible.  Which is why I am pleased to see the beginnings of actual, laboratory-based investigations. 

Lyso-SENS activities have already begin at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, heading up an effort to identify enzymes which might help address common “storage diseases” in which accumulated material—plaques, protein crosslinks, cholesterol, etc.,—contributes to conditions such as Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, diabetes, and cardiovascular illness. 

Mito-SENS activities will be conducted at Cambridge University, in an effort to help reduce the effects of mitochondrial DNA vulnerability implicated as a possible contributor to ill health in advanced age—the goal of the project is to “relocate” the expression of mitochondrial DNA genes to the nucleus, where they will be better protected from the damaging byproducts of cellular metabolism.

The great thing about scientific research (particularly in an era where information and peer-reviewed papers can be transmitted between interested folks on opposite sides of the world in the blink of an eye) is how different studies and even different fields can act in a symbiotic manner—one person could be working on a particular challenge, and then happen to hear about something his or her colleague is doing that s/he might never have suspected could be relevant. 

So, it is quite possible for a person to support, say, SENS research without putting all one’s proverbial eggs into one basket; advances anywhere in biotech have the potential to advance SENS science, and vice versa.  Speaking of which, I had the fortunate experience recently of being able to assist in proofreading an upcoming book on SENS, intented to bring the ideas of engineered negligible senescence to a wider audience.  I am not sure yet when the book is coming out, but I am tremendously excited about it—even in an unfinished state, what I read was quite fascinating.  So, that is definitely something to look out for.

But the question remains—where do we go from here?  Lyso-SENS and Mito-SENS alone are not likely to be “enough”, and besides, their efforts are only utilizing a fraction of available biotech-related scientific infrastructure.  One thing I would like to see would be more opportunities for regular folks—people with bachelor’s degrees (as opposed to just PhDs and PhD candidates) to contribute more directly to longevity research. 

I know from reading various blogs and fora that there is actually a rather impressive “layman’s knowledge” base out there—people who are not necessarily working in university laboratories, but who are reading plenty of peer-reviewed literature and engaging in rigorous self-study on highly technical topics.  If all goes well, hopefully these people will be able to find opportunities to contribute productively according to the particular skills and knowledge areas offered by this diverse community.


Anne Corwin
Anne Corwin was an IEET intern 2006-2007, and is an engineer and technoprogressive activist in California. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Humanity Plus, and is active in the longevity movement through the Methuselah Foundation and in the neurodiversity movement addressing issues along the autism spectrum. Ms. Corwin writes the blog Existence is Wonderful and produces a related podcast.



COMMENTS

Nice! I’ve bookmarked it



Next entry: The Humean argument against objectivism

Previous entry: Terraforming the Earth Under the Spotlight