Category Archives: longevity

A Single Blood Test For All Cancers? Illumina’s GRAIL

Here’s the story in Forbes:

“What if a simple blood test could detect any cancer early, when it was still easy to treat?

It sounds like science fiction. But Illumina ILMN -0.61%, the $24 billion (market cap) biotechnology company that has pioneered cheap, efficient sequencing of DNA, says it could be a reality in a few years. It is launching a new startup, GRAIL (because such a test would be a holy grail for cancer doctors), with $100 million in funding.”

Antiaging protein is the real deal, Harvard team claims

From ScienceMag.org:

“Harvard stem cell biologist Amy Wagers, cardiologist Richard Lee of the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and their colleagues claim that a specific protein, GDF11, may explain young blood’s beneficial effects. They have reported that blood levels of GDF11 drop in mice as the animals get older and that injecting old mice with GDF11 can partially reverse age-related thickening of the heart. In two papers last year in Science, Wagers and collaborators also reported that GDF11 can rejuvenate the rodents’ muscles and brains.”

Senolytics: Scientists identify new class of drugs that slows the aging process

From the Independent:

“A new class of drugs has been identified that slow the ageing process in mice, alleviating symptoms of frailty and extending a healthy lifespan.

If their effect on humans is as marked as it is on animal models, their benefit could be enormous.

The research was carried out by a team from Mayo Clinic, The Scripps Institute and other institutions and published in the journal Aging Cell yesterday.

“We view this study as a big, first step toward developing treatments that can be given safely to patients to extend healthspan or to treat age-related diseases and disorders,” said co-lead author and TSRI Professor Paul Robbins, PhD.”

Doctors, academics debate the possibility, value of a 150-year lifespan

Here are two well-written stories about longevity, the Palo Alto Longevity Prize, and my book, 100 Plus. Journalist Joshua Alvarez did a good job interviewing a diverse set of voices. Here are the two links: one and two.

A few observations:

-Some may be surprised to see that the head of Stanford’s “Center on Longevity” says that “I’m largely on the fence about increasing lifespan. I see a real need for improving the quality of our lives and accommodating the years we’ve been given.” That’s sort of depressing, particularly given that so much of the cool tech that will extend our health is being created right at Stanford.

-I’m happy to have been given credit for writing the book that Dr. Walter Bortz, a physician who advocates for a 100 year lifespan, thought would never be written.

Can DNA Nanobots Successfully Treat Cancer Patient? First Human Trial Soon

From Singularity Hub:

““No, no it’s not science fiction; it’s already happening,” said Ido Bachelet to a somewhat incredulous audience member at a London event late last year. Bachelet, previously of Harvard’s Wyss Institute and faculty member at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, is a leading figure in the field of DNA nanotechnology.

In a brief talk, Bachelet said DNA nanobots will soon be tried in a critically ill leukemia patient. The patient, who has been given roughly six months to live, will receive an injection of DNA nanobots designed to interact with and destroy leukemia cells—while causing virtually zero collateral damage in healthy tissue.

According to Bachelet, his team have successfully tested their method in cell cultures and animals and written two papers on the subject, one in Science and one in Nature.”

How Exercise Changes Our DNA

From the NYT:

“We all know that exercise can make us fitter and reduce our risk for illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. But just how, from start to finish, a run or a bike ride might translate into a healthier life has remained baffling.

Now new research reports that the answer may lie, in part, in our DNA. Exercise, a new study finds, changes the shape and functioning of our genes, an important stop on the way to improved health and fitness.”

Could New Health Technologies Offset America’s Life Expectancy Gap?

Americans are living longer than ever before, but gains in longevity are not distributed evenly throughout the country. The gaps, which in some cases span decades, have the potential to either get better or worse depending upon longevity technology adoption patterns, making this the right time to start thinking about the issue.

[…]

Read more here.

The Longevity Dividend: Why living longer is actually good for economic growth

The United States is a wealthy and successful superpower, so you’d think that when it comes to life expectancy, its citizens would be in the top 10, right? Not even close: the US currently ranks 42 among the world’s countries, a bad sign for long-term economic growth, which is strongly correlated with longevity.

The top spot in longevity rankings goes to Monaco with a life expectancy of 89.57; the bottom country, Chad, has a life expectancy of 49.44 – a striking 40 year difference (the age John Lennon was when he died). The United States, at 79.56, is a full decade behind the top spot when it comes to life expectancy. Why does this matter, other than the fact that death is bad? For one thing, it affects international competitiveness.

[…]

Read more here.

The world is getting fatter — a huge problem

A new study published in the Lancet today showed that almost 29% of the world’s population, or 2.1 billion people, are obese. The reason this is such a huge problem is that being overweight increases one’s risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer. New technologies are being developed that will allow people to live longer, but they can only do so much. Obesity is one of the biggest threats to human longevity.

Here’s a few article about the study:

LA Times
WSJ

Value in retraining older individuals

“Age should no longer determine the appropriate end of a working life,” writes the Economist Magazine. This seems reasonable to me, especially given that people are healthier now than ever before (and thus able to work longer). But as the magazine points out, there will be a divide between older, well-educated, individuals and those who spent their careers in less-skilled areas. Those who are well-educated are more likely to stay in the workforce, while those with fewer skills are more likely to take retirement even if they are still in good health. From the article:

“Some 65% of American men aged 62-74 with a professional degree are in the workforce, compared with 32% of men with only a high-school certificate. In the European Union the pattern is similar.”

How to address this divide? The Economist suggests training programs — also not a bad idea. “Today, many governments are understandably loth to spend money retraining older folk who are likely to retire soon. But if people can work for longer, that investment makes much more sense.” Here’s another link to the longer briefing.

Google’s plan to extend our life span will change everything

Today’s news that Google is launching a new company (Calico) to fight aging is epic. Epic. Fighting aging used to be the realm of biologists and doctors, but now that the engineers are getting involved, progress will likely move much faster. This is very good news for those of us who want to see health spans extended for everyone.

Here’s Time’s breaking story.

Here’s my op-ed about it.

Here’s Aubrey de Grey’s op-ed.

Pew Foundation survey on longevity

Here’s an interesting survey by the Pew Foundation.

Asked whether they, personally, would choose to undergo medical treatments to slow the aging process and live to be 120 or more, a majority of U.S. adults (56%) say “no.” But roughly two-thirds (68%) think that most other people would. And by similarly large margins, they expect that radically longer life spans would strain the country’s natural resources and be available only to the wealthy.

Of course, most people are probably not considering that technologies that can increase healthspan (rather than longevity per se) will also help us better manage our resources and create wealth.

Longevity interview with Aubrey de Grey

This Newsweek article contains an excellent conversation about longevity — how we might live longer and what that might mean.

Here’s one of my favorite parts of the NW interview with Aubrey de Grey:

NW: But would we really want to live forever?

De Grey: The reason why we want to live a long time is not to live a long time. It’s that we want to not get Alzheimer’s. Do you want to get Alzheimer’s?

NW: Not particularly.

De Grey: All right. Do you think there’s some age at which you will want to get Alzheimer’s?

NW: Probably not.

De Grey: Exactly. It’s the same for cancer and other diseases. That’s why it’s so important for me to emphasize that any longevity benefits that we get out of this are just a side effect.