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Biogerontologists’ duty to discuss timescales publicly Aubrey D.N.J. de Grey Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge.

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Presentation on theme: "Biogerontologists’ duty to discuss timescales publicly Aubrey D.N.J. de Grey Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge."— Presentation transcript:

1 Biogerontologists’ duty to discuss timescales publicly Aubrey D.N.J. de Grey Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge

2 Fox hunting Human aging Traditional  Keeps the numbers down  Fundamentally barbaric 

3 “a Dutch journalist (Theo Richel)... is apparently conducting his own survey to learn what investigators in the aging field believe is attainable in terms of extending human life span. I told him that I thought such a number would be totally meaningless. You don't resolve a scientific question by voting, only by experiment! I suggested that he ask scientists how much they would prefer life span to be extended -- that might prove a more interesting question, and less in danger of misleading the public.” Judy Campisi

4 Misleading the public.... by silence? “One day, we will at least double the healthy human life expectancy. And when we do so, we will feel guilty that we had not done so much sooner.” Michael Rose interviewed on “Future Fantastic”, BBC

5 Three types of prediction 1)“We will eventually multiply human lifespan by N ” 2)“We will have effective anti-aging drugs in N years” 3)“We will multiply human lifespan by N1 in N2 years” Claim: only the third type of prediction is any use

6 The result of not making such predictions: perpetuation of utter absurdity in the public view of what long lives would mean “Who would want to spend all those years being old?” “How would we pay all those pensions?” “How would we avoid getting bored?” Claim: no one is really that dumb

7 No one is really that dumb -- so why do they look it? Claim: this inanity persists only because 1)people are so scared of getting their hopes up that they uncritically swallow any way not to 2) gerontologists (yes, you) allow them to view the possibility as too remote to take seriously

8 Two predictions containing both a timeframe and a degree of progress “The first 150-year-old human is probably already alive” Steve Austad, 2000 “Within 10 years, assuming funding of only $100m/year directed at the right research, we will probably be able to make mice with a life expectancy of 3 years live 5 years on average, by a panel of treatments begun at age 2 years” Aubrey de Grey, 2002

9 1)After this conference, would you bet real money that I’m wrong? 2)If RMR were announced tomorrow, what would be society’s reaction? 3)What can be done in the intervening ten years to mitigate the turmoil? Robust mouse rejuvenation (RMR) by 2012: questions to consider

10 1) Inadequate R&D preparedness to translate such therapies to humans quickly 2) Inadequate finances to make human therapies widely available quickly as/when they arrive 3) Increased strife between wealthy “immortal” nations and poor “subhuman” nations 4) Quite a lot of death.... avoidable death? Society’s reaction without forward planning: some pessimistic possibilities

11 My conclusion: biogerontologists’ duty today 1) state how soon we expect RMR to arrive, with/without proper funding. I say 2012 with, 2022 without 2) like it or not, state how soon we expect RHR to arrive, given (1). I say 2030 expected, range ) publicly critique, in detail, plans to develop RMR (i.e., strategies for ENS). In other words, attend IABG10! 4) don’t let people or politicians change the subject


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