Aubrey de Grey has become the leading prophet of the radical life extension movement. To adherents, he has become a messiah figure as well; the long Jesus-like beard serves him well.
No other speaker trumps his passion for the subject of aging. Instead of searching for pragmatic methods to slow aging using current technology, de Grey has his sights set on the future.
His primary message is that even with all the major advances in regenerative medicine and biotech, we are still far from the goal of repairing damage accumulated from aging. Funding isn’t adequate enough to benefit people living today; it needs to be ramped up dramatically. Business will only act if there is sufficient demand along with promise of profitability. Aubrey’s goal is to convince scientists, decision makers, and the public at large that the answer to aging will materialize if we want it bad enough. The time has come to vote with our voices and our wallets.
Without further ado, here are some key quotes from Aubrey de Grey.
“A lot of people, especially journalists, like to characterize my work and the SENS Foundation’s work as being about immortality or living forever. (…) But actually what we’re about is stopping people from getting sick, which is a very down to earth and not terribly controversial topic.”
From Singularity University talk
Futurist and anti-aging writer Ray Kurzweil gobbles down 250 supplements per day. To us normal folk such measures seem excessive given the limited power of such interventions. At the other extreme, contemporaries like Aubrey de Grey see little value in supplements.
Often the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Supplementation won’t extend your lifetime but there is a good chance it can improve the quality of your life. After all, who wants to hang on to a miserable existence with a frail body? What we really need is a way to maintain our vitality and our youthful approach to living.
There isn’t a more promising compound within the grasp of mere mortals. The scientific studies and evidence behind resveratrol continues to stack up. Findings have been largely positive although major pharmaceutical companies have funded unfavourable studies of questionable credibility.
Resveratrol mimics the effects of caloric restriction, which to date is the only known way to slow down the effects of age-related disease in mammals. As a side effect of the way it alters metabolism, resveratrol fends off the threat of type 2 diabetes. This means that overweight people benefit from it more than thin, active people.
The science behind telomeres is fast becoming a pop culture phenomenon. Just about anyone interested in anti-aging interventions has heard about its effect on aging. People with longer telomeres are said to look and feel younger, regardless of biological age.
A few years ago resveratrol was the talk of the town. However, when new research showed that resveratrol does more to improve quality of life than extend life span, the hype died down. The anti-aging community soon after found its new saviour.
Coaxing telomerase into lengthening telomeres is the new hope for longer human lives.
It turns out that humans do have a built-in mechanism to control the process of aging. The passage of time along with poor lifestyle choices wears down telomeres. The function of telomerase is to rebuild the tips of the DNA. The problem lies in the fact it can’t keep up with the damage. No matter how carefully you follow the direction of your doctor, eat right and exercise, the gradual decline of your genetic code persists. Mutations give us age spots, sagging skin and weaker organs. When our telomeres get too short, we die.
Despite the lack of funding, a small group of biotech laboratories are working around the clock to find out what substances can lengthen telomeres. Companies such as Sierra Sciences in Reno, Nevada use sophisticated robots to test compounds. Their goal is find something that can effectively halt the aging process. So far the best compound they have found has reached 15.89% of this target.
Prior to the 20th century tanned skin was associated with the underprivileged class. It was easy to spot who worked in the fields. Well-off Caucasians spent much of their time indoors. Wide-brimmed hats were worn outdoors to avoid altering their pale, nearly translucent skin.
By the mid-1920s everything had changed. The poor now largely worked indoors. Leaders in fashion like Coco Chanel and Vogue magazine succeeded in glamourizing the look of bronzed skin.
Medical quackery convinced the public that the sun had a healing effect on the body. A tanned physique was now associated with good health. Pale individuals were perceived as sickly looking and weak.
Culture vs. Science
Through modern science we now recognize tanning for what it really is: a sign of skin damage. Skin cells that have been compromised by UV rays produce more pigment, achieving a darker skin tone.
Old perceptions persist. Many still associate tanned skin with good health. They are attracted to the allure of tanned skin due to cultural conditioning yet probably aren’t aware of the root of their preferences.
The tanning bed business is a very profitable one. Marketers know that as long as pop culture icons are tanned, the public will feel compelled to live up to this standard of beauty. Even those well aware of the skin damage caused by tanning beds ignore the “dark side” because arbitrary fashions often trump health concerns.
Resveratrol is one of the most discussed supplements on health message boards such as Longecity at Imminst.org. There is a wealth of information in a giant thread entitled the “500 club.” Users chime in about benefits and side effects experienced as well as how much they take daily. You’ll commonly read about increased energy. This effect has been proven in mouse studies. You’ll also come across less common results like reversal of gray hair.
There is more feedback about reversal of hairs in the beard than on the scalp. Some have photographed their lower face as evidence. In one example some hairs were dark at the root and white at the tip. Although far from conclusive it seems there is substance to the claims.
So far resveratrol users that claim to have less gray on the scalp are met with scepticism. First off, it is very hard to prove because it is a noted improvement, not a dramatic reversal. There are generally 100,000 hairs on the average human head to account for. Secondly, there is no way to confirm that the resveratrol alone is solely responsible for the reversal. Let’s remember that it is a compound taken by people concerned with optimal aging and health. Any number of positive lifestyle changes may help darken the hair.
Since gray hair reversal from resveratrol hasn’t been studied or proven it isn’t a good bet to buy it based on a handful of antidotes on the internet. Some lucky folks may experience less gray hair but this should be thought of as a pleasant side effect.
Primarily resveratrol’s strength lies in prevention and treatment of a number of age-related diseases. It will certainly make you feel younger. Whether it helps you keep your youthful good looks is still up for debate.