IEET > Fellows > Aubrey de Grey > HealthLongevity > Innovation
Can regenerative medicine defeat aging?
Aubrey de Grey   Aug 13, 2009   BioNews  

The relevance of nearly all biogerontology research to combating aging is restricted to the potential for slowing down the accumulation of molecular and cellular damage that eventually leads to age-related ill-health. Meanwhile, regenerative medicine has been progressing rapidly and is nearing clinical applicability to a wide range of specific conditions. My view is that we are approaching the point where regenerative medicine can be used against aging. This would entail not retarding but actually reversing the accumulation of damage. If successful, this would obviously be a far more valuable technology than mere slowing of aging. However, in order to be successful it must be comprehensive, and some aspects of aging may seem impossible to address in this way. In fact, however, it seems that all types of molecular and cellular damage which contribute to age-related ill-health are realistic targets of regenerative interventions.

The human body is, ultimately, a machine - an astronomically complex machine, of whose workings we remain pitifully ignorant - but still a machine. Like any machine, it accumulates ‘damage’ as a side-effect of its normal operation: molecular and cellular changes that occur throughout life are initially harmless, but eventually (when too abundant) increasingly impede the normal operation of the machine and eventually cause it to fail altogether. Conceptually, there are three strategies to postpone a machine’s demise beyond its ‘warranty period’. First, we can treat it really well throughout its life, thereby slowing down the accumulation of damage: but that can never stop the accumulation altogether, because to do so would require not operating the machine at all, and anyway it cannot address damage that has already occurred. Alternatively, we can combat the late-life symptoms, the dysfunction that eventually emerges: but that too is only a short-term approach, because the underlying damage that causes the dysfunction is still accumulating and making the dysfunction harder and harder to address. This is why the way in which machines that people love are in fact kept in good shape is the third strategy: repair and maintenance, in which we let the damage be created, but repair it before it becomes so severe as to cause dysfunction. In the case of the human body, this means using regenerative medicine against aging.

So… can it work? Are all the types of damage that contributed to age-related ill-health amenable to repair?

Read the rest at BioNews.

Aubrey de Grey Ph.D. is a biomedical gerontologist, a Fellow of the IEET, the Chief Science Officer of the SENS Foundation and editor of Rejuvenation Research.


The human body is, ultimately, a machine - an astronomically complex machine, of whose workings we remain pitifully ignorant - but still a machine.

Bravo Audrey! To me, and I hope to many others here, this is just common sense. But recently I have heard too many people denying this basic common sense.

Sorry for mispelling your name Aubrey! I had been watching an old season of 24.

Funny how “common” sense is shared with less than 10% of fellow Americans, including many we probably look up to as intellectual geniuses.

Sure it can work, but given the huge complexity of the human body with many inter-related parts, there’s not a hope in hell of life extension much past 120 without artificial general intelligence. (AGI).

We need to get cracking on AGI pronto.  Time is marching on and as many transhumanists know on various lists, I’m long past the point of being truly fed up with the slow rate of progress in transhuman-tech.

There’s been a recent breakthrough in Bayesian inference on ‘Less Wrong’ which has demolished the Doomsday argument, provided conclusive proof that SIA (Self-Indication Assumption) is true, and resolved the anthropic puzzles.   

Of course I’ve been telling them the anthropic stuff was all bullshit for years.  I warned of the black swan ... and now it’s suddenly appeared! The ‘Many Worlds Interpretation’ of quantum mechanics (MWI) will be the next peice of nonsense to go. 

Which just goes to show that what you need to get the answers is good intuition, not high IQ and there’s far too much time being wasted on abstrast nonsense in transhumanism when concrete practical work like life-extension is under-rated.

If only these ‘super-geniuses’  would hurry up and see that Bayesian Inference is merely a special case of analogy formation (categorization) we would actually have a hope in hell of getting AGI in my lifetime. 

I’d like to see some of the advances in artifical intelligence/IT applied more - expert systems at least could be designed and bought to bear on some of the problems of aging right now.  Keep up the good work and lets hope that IT advances can be bought to bear on the nasties of aging!

@Abraham: I assume you refer to the Christian fundamentalist “moral majority”. Well, they are of course entitled to holding whatever opinion they wish, but I trust you will forgive me if I don’t take them seriously.

A few centuries ago there was a fellow named Galileo, who was threatened to be burned by the Church if he did not renounce his ideas. Another fellow named Giordano Bruno was actually burned. Both for saying things that, today, every schoolchild considers as trivial common sense. So, again, please forgive me for not taking them seriously and holding to scientific common sense.

Giulio wrote “@Abraham: I assume you refer to the Christian fundamentalist “moral majority”.”
Maybe you shouldn’t assume. I was referring Christians of /all/ stripes, plus Jews, Moslems, (those who believe in a soul) and even deists like Ben Franklin in his later years, not to mention top scientists like James Clerk Maxwell and Michael Faraday. To you, they are not “holding to scientific common sense,” but to me, we’re dealing in a realm in which science can’t touch, so there’s no “/scientific/ common sense” about it.

BTW, Giordano Bruno’s wiki page challenges your implication that Bruno was killed for scientific beliefs he held.

@Abraham: according to the available evidence, Bruno was burned for both his scientific belief and his theological beliefs. Both were considered heretical by the Church.

“They” are free to consider body and mind as “a realm in which science can’t touch”. I am equally free to consider body and mind as machines which can be understood, repaired, and improved by science. I have no problems with their convictions as such.

@Mark: there is a question I wish to ask you: do you ever, ever, think of something different from your personal feud?

Really, you are a smart guy. Can’t you just move on?

@Giulio: ““They” are free to consider body and mind as “a realm in which science can’t touch”. “
Who says that? I was obviously talking about the soul. And those folks ALSO believe the mind can be understood (at least to a large degree), repaired, and improved by science. It’s just that they don’t hold that the human body is “ultimately” a machine. But I’m fine with the fact that you don’t take them seriously.

@Abraham: and I am fine with the fact that they (and you) disagree with me. The world would be a boring place if everyone thought the same.

But just for the sake of practicing our argumentative skills;-) :

If the human body is not, ultimately, a machine.

What it is then?

I use “machine” in a very generic sense: a physical system which obeys physical laws and can be (in principle) fully understood, reverse-engineered, repaired and improved by technology.

What if the wording was changed to “the human” is just a machine, as opposed to “the human body” is just a machine?
I suppose that even a person who believes in a soul can agree with the latter.

I think “a human is a machine” (“just” is redundant).

Again,  I use “machine” in a very generic sense: a physical system which obeys physical laws and can be (in principle) fully understood, reverse-engineered, repaired and improved by technology.

I think the informational content of my brain is “me”, and I am very interested in speculations on how this “me” can be extracted from my physical body and continue to experience consciousness. If you prefer you can, and many people do, call this “soul”.

This regenerative medicine against aging is another example of advanced scientific technology.

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