H+: SENS Declaration, Endorsed by 15 Prestigious Biomedical Experts

In his essay “Transhumanism and the Posthuman Future: Will Technological Progress Get Us There?” Ted Peters writes about Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Chairman and Chief Science Officer of the SENS Foundation:

Aubrey de Grey says he is ‘not in favor of aging.’ When one is not in favor of something, it is time to apply technology to overcome it. This is what de Grey plans. If we could eliminate aging, then ‘we will be in possession of indefinite youth. We will die only from the sort of causes that young people die of today—accidents, suicide, homicide, and so on—but not of the age-related diseases that account for the vast majority of deaths in the industrialized world today.’1 Now, we might ask: might this be realistic? 2

What is realistic is to work toward anti-aging medicine as an engineer would take on an engineering problem: repairing and reversing aging and making the damage already caused by metabolism harmless. There is no better way to respond to concerns about how realistic it is to work ardently toward indefinite health and vitality than highlighting the SENS Foundation’s Research Advisory Board, the major luminaries who have signed up unequivocally to the repair/maintenance approach to combating aging. Their statement of endorsement of this approach is below. The members of the Research Advisory Board are:

  • Pedro Alvarez, PhD, George R. Brown Professor of Engineering, Rice University
  • Anthony Atala, MD, Professor and Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
  • MarÌa A. Blasco, PhD, Group Leader, Telomeres and Telomerase Group, Spanish National Cancer Centre (CNIO)
  • Judith Campisi, PhD, Senior Scientist, Cell and Molecular Biology, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Buck Institute for Age Research
  • Irina Conboy, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering, UC Berkeley, and Berkeley Stem Cell Center
  • Marisol Corral-Debrinski, PhD, Institut de la Vision, UniversitÈ Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6
  • Leonid Gavrilov, PhD, Center on Aging, NORC at the University of Chicago
  • William Haseltine, Chair, Haseltine Global Health
  • Janko Nikolich-Zugich, MD, PhD, head of the Department of Immunobiology and co-director of the Arizona Center on Aging
  • Graham Pawelec, PhD, T¸bingen University Aging and Tumor Immunology Group
  • Bruce Rittman, PhD, Director of the Institute for Environmental Biotechnology in the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University
  • Jerry W. Shay, PhD, Codirector, Shay/Wright Laboratory, University of Texas Southwestern
  • Vladimir P. Skulachev, ScD, Head, Department of Bioenergetics, A.N. Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology
  • Fyodor Urnov, PhD, Team Leader,Advanced Genomics Technologies, Sangamo Biosciences
  • Jan Vijg, PhD, Chair, Department of Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Statement of Principles

Two thirds of all deaths worldwide, and about 90% of all deaths in the developed world, are from causes that only rarely kill young adults. These causes include Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and most cancers. They are age-related because they are expressions of the later stages of aging, occurring when the molecular and cellular damage that has accumulated in the body throughout life exceeds the level that metabolism can tolerate. Moreover, before it kills them, aging imposes on most elderly people a long period of debilitation and disease. For these reasons, aging is inarguably the most prevalent medically-relevant phenomenon in the modern world and the primary ultimate target of biomedical research.

Regenerative medicine can be defined as the restoration of an individual's molecular, cellular and/or tissue structure to broadly the state it was in before it experienced damage or degeneration. Aging is a degenerative process, so in theory it can be treated by regenerative medicine, thereby postponing the entire spectrum of age-related frailty and disease. But in practice, could regenerative medicine substantially postpone aging any time soon? If so, it will do so via the combined application of many distinct regenerative therapies, since aging affects the body in so many ways. Recent biotechnological progress indicates that many aspects of aging may indeed be effectively treatable by regenerative medicine in the foreseeable future. We cannot yet know whether all aspects will be, but extensive scrutiny has failed to identify any definite exceptions. Therefore, at this point there is a significant chance that such therapies would postpone age-related decline by several years, if not more, which constitutes a clear case for allocating significant resources to the attempt to develop those therapies.

Unfortunately, the regenerative medicine approach to combating aging is not yet being adequately pursued by major funding bodies: only a small number of laboratories worldwide are funded (either publicly or privately) to develop therapies that could rejuvenate aged but otherwise undamaged tissues. The SENS Foundation has risen to the challenge of filling this void in the biomedical research funding arena. Research is chosen for funding by the Foundation on the basis of the following major criteria:

* it is demonstrably relevant to the development of regenerative medicine targeting some aspect of aging;
* it is poorly funded by other sources;
* funding from other sources seems unlikely to be forthcoming in the near future.

As and when it is developed, this panel of therapies may provide many years, even decades, of additional youthful life to countless millions of people. Those extra years will be free of all age-related diseases, as well as the frailty and susceptibility to infections and falls that the elderly also experience. The alleviation of suffering that will result, and the resulting economic benefits of maintained productivity of the population, are almost incalculable. In our capacity as the overseers of the SENS Foundation's research strategy, we urge you to do all you can to help the SENS Foundation carry out this mission with maximum speed.3


Endnotes:

1 de Grey, A. 2005 “Foreword: Forever Young”, p. 9, in (Young, S.) Designer Evolution. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

2 Peters, T. 2008 “Transhumanism and the Posthuman Future: Will Technological Progress Get Us There?” The Global Spiral.

3 SENS Foundation (formerly known as the Methuselah Foundation) is located at http://www.sens.org/

 

 

 

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