Methods That Help Mice Live Longer Now Being Attempted with Humans
30th Century Series Newsletter 1 by Mark Kingston Levin PhD
Figure 1 Living better, healthier and longer by genetic engineering vs. the ancient art of natural aging.
In the year 1900, life expectancy was 47, and now we expect an 80-year average lifespan. Age-related diseases have become more common today because people are living longer. Progress has been made in heart disease and cancer but not as much in nervous system diseases that are age related, such as Alzheimer’s Syndrome. At 60 years of age, 1% of people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s, but at 85 the rate jumps to nearly 50%. Our aging society is plagued with diseases and conditions that lead to years of suffering and cost our society billions of dollars.
How do we improve human health and life spans by a factor of three? This factor of three was accomplished using mice with a single injection of a supplement known as NAD+. Whoever figures out the key to aging in humans can win the Palo Alto Longevity Prize and most likely the Nobel Prize. The race is on to “improve human aging,” restoring vitality and extending health as well as lifespan in humans.
As of 2009, scientists had discovered a dozen ways to extend the life of mice. I want to highlight the big breakthroughs:
- Proteins such GDF-11
- Removing worn-out cells
- Organ manufacture and replacement
- Transferal of a mind into a computer and/or avatar
- Stem cell engineering
- NAD+ injection and supplements
- CRISPR and other genetic engineering methods to treat aging and other diseases
- Twenty drugs including rapamycin and metformin (in trials now for possible human life extension
- Transferal of brain patterns to another brain grown in a lab
Add the twelve other breakthroughs posted in about 2009 and the number totals twenty-two. I am sure I am missing many others. But this is an overview and not a recommendation for funding or a complete list. What is happening now will affect the funding in the future. Some methods may drop out. But I see the extension of life as the biggest business in the world within 20 to 50 years or less. Billionaires can change the whole picture. Governments have only put their toes into the scientific fountain of youth. Even though no products have yet proven effective, the market in 2009 was about $50 billion annually. I expect a factor-of-ten increase within 25 years.
A major court battle is raging over who owns the patent rights to a revolutionary method of genetic engineering. Is it the University of California at Berkeley or the Broad Institute? The University of California Berkeley works with French researchers, while MIT and Harvard work together at the Broad Institute. MIT and Harvard set up the Broad Institute after a generous gift from the Broad family and other multi-million dollar grants. They plan to carry out much of the genetic engineering research for the next century.
The method is named Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR), or “crisper,” and is poised to change the world. Profit is expected to reach well over $500 billion per year or maybe into the trillion-dollar range, if some other new technology does not knock it out of the top spot. This battle may take years to resolve, as I expect the loser to appeal.
Figure 2. University of Berkeley Genetic Research from outside and in a lab.
Figure 3. Broad Institute and one of its labs.
Figure 4. A compromise could facilitate collaboration and partnership between great institutions.
On September 18, 2013, Google created the California Life Company (Calico). Calico has two goals: 1) to understand the biology that controls health and lifespan and 2) to invent technologies to live healthier lives. Drug companies and top scientists must work together to create an antidote to aging diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Calico has the resources to accomplish these goals and become part of the new wave. Aging medicine will someday be the largest business in the world, in my humble opinion.
Figure 5. The structure of Alphabet and how Calico fits in.
A year after Calico was formed, famous gene researcher Craig Venter and X Prize founder Peter Diamandis created Human Longevity Inc. to compete in the world’s greatest future market opportunity. They will create the database needed to make the progress of others happen. They will do this by 2020.
Many nations are entering this large potential market including Russia, Europe, Japan, Korea, China, India and the UK. In the USA in 1997, Larry Ellison founded Oracle and later a medical foundation, which is now spending 45 million dollars a year mostly targeted at various diseases.
David Sinclair, one of the world’s top aging scientists at Harvard University and the University of New South Wales in Australia, stated, “We’re now at the point where it’s easy to extend the lifespan of a mouse. That’s not the question anymore, it’s can we do this in humans? And I don’t see any reason why we can’t. There are over 20 known drugs in human trials but rapamycin and a diabetes drug metformin show promise in mice, as does NAD+ and its promoters NR and NMN.”
Many contributions have been made to fight the old way of one disease at a time. I think we need a change in mindset to make the next leap from an 80-year average human lifespan to 800 years by the 30th century.
Figure 6. The goals of many and the lack of federal funding has prompted some to speak out.