First SENS Roundtable

"Biotechnological foreseeability of engineered negligible senescence"
October 1st, 2000 at the Children’s Hospital of Oakland Research Institute, Oakland, CA

Organizers: Aubrey de Grey, Bruce Ames, Gregory Stock
Click to read the paper written by the participants.
A full transcript of the meeting is also available.

Original Summary Text

This meeting was designed to continue and build upon UCLA’s pioneering "roundtable on aging" convened by Gregory Stock in February, 1999. Like the earlier meeting, it included only about ten participants and had a roundtable format with no formal presentations. The major departure from the 1999 meeting was that the focus was somewhat more narrowly defined, as befits a one-day event. We discussed an aspect of biogerontology research that has been dangerously neglected during the recent spate of interest in genome-related breakthroughs: the active reversal of various aspects of age-related degeneration. This is, more-or-less by definition, an area that cannot be informed by comparative analyses between organisms with different rates of aging, which is the focus of microarray and related studies. We do not belittle the value of comparative work, but we feel that far more attention needs to be drawn to ongoing research with the potential to influence human life histories more dramatically than anything based purely on emulating other organisms.

The term "negligible senescence", defined in 1990 by Finch, describes the life history of organisms whose risk of death does not measurably rise as they get older, but remains the same as when they reached adulthood. Thus, "engineered negligible senescence" means restoring and maintaining, by biotechnological intervention, the health (and consequent resistance to life-threatening diseases) that we possessed in early adulthood.

We regard engineered negligible senescence as the true objective of biogerontology research. This is in contrast to the view of many gerontologists, who prefer to stress "successful aging" as their goal. "Successful aging" means extending healthy life (healthspan) so that the period of ill health at the end of life (frailty-span) is very short, but without substantially increasing maximum total lifespan, since they consider that unrealistic. Our view is that not only is extending maximum lifespan realistic, it is the only realistic way to shorten frailty-span much beyond present levels, because it entails extending healthspan (and thus postponing frailty) indefinitely.