February 22nd 2016

February 22, 2016

A Convincing Case for Longer, Healthier Lives
SRF CSO Aubrey de Grey, Buck Institute CEO Brian Kennedy Come Out Ahead in Intelligence Squared Debate
On January 19, 2016, Intelligence Squared hosted a debate on the motion: "Lifespans Are Long Enough". Arguing for the motion were Ian Ground, a Philosopher and Lecturer at the University of Newcastle, and Paul Root Wolpe, Director, Emory Center for Ethics. Arguing against the motion were Aubrey de Grey, Chief Science Officer of SENS Research Foundation, and Brian Kennedy, CEO and President of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Click to watch the video of the entire debate.

The premise of the debate was, per the Intelligence Squared website:


What if we didn’t have to grow old and die? The average American can expect to live for 78.8 years, an improvement over the days before clean water and vaccines, when life expectancy was closer to 50, but still not long enough for most of us. So researchers around the world have been working on arresting the process of aging through biotechnology and finding cures to diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. What are the ethical and social consequences of radically increasing lifespans? Should we accept a “natural” end, or should we find a cure to aging?


This is, of course, a necessarily provocative framing for the purposes of enabling what was certainly a fascinating and spirited exchange. In the end, the team arguing "against" the motion emerged victorious, securing 49% of voting audience agreement, versus 40% on the "for" side and 11% undecided. In short, the majority agreed with Aubrey de Grey and Brian Kennedy that pursuing effective treatments for age-related disease is a worthy and even necessary endeavor.

We are encouraged by the results of this debate and we thank Intelligence Squared for hosting and participants on both sides for articulating their views. Visit the debate summary page at Intelligence Squared for a results breakdown, media, and more.

Engaging the Elephant: Why Debate?


At SENS Research Foundation, we know that the tragic lack of funding for damage-repair-oriented research into these conditions is in part due to simple lack of awareness, which is why one major goal of SRF's outreach program is to increase global awareness of the potential of our approach.


We also know that the vast majority of humanity is on our side when it comes to changing the way the world researches and treats age-related disease. The amount of time and money already going into attempts to mitigate diseases like Alzheimer's speaks volumes here. Anyone who has watched the deterioration of a beloved family member, or had to address caregiving needs for a person suffering from dementia, or seen the sadness and frustration of a loved one losing one ability after another as every life activity becomes a source of pain would jump at the chance to provide genuine relief for age-related maladies to those they care about.


That said, some people still maintain an abstract objection to the very notion of living beyond what they consider a 'natural' lifespan. This puts a damper on their enthusiasm for programs like SENS Research Foundation's, which, if successful, could result in more people living longer as an incidental effect of the rejuvenation biotechnologies that protect them from sickness and frailty. Some individuals are uncomfortable with this scenario. We want to reach these people too, and perhaps introduce them to points of view they may not have considered before, in the hopes they might come to see that we all ultimately want the same thing: a world with the least possible amount of needless suffering.


This recent Intelligence Squared debate in particular did a great job of engaging the ‘elephant in the room’ we often contend with in our attempts to communicate our mission and goals to a wider audience, i.e., the fact that fixing age-related disease will necessarily mean fewer people ‘dying of old age’. More to the point, longer healthspan may be inextricable from longer lifespan due to simple biological realities.


It is up to each person to determine their position on this matter, but from the standpoint of our work, SENS Research Foundation maintains that it is an ethical imperative to prevent the undeniable suffering caused by age-related disease. We don’t expect to cure disease through debate, but participating in these events can be a great way to introduce people to new perspectives – perhaps even ones that change their minds and encourage them to support our research. 


Speaking of supporting our research, remember that as a 501(c)(3) public charity, SRF depends on you to help enable critical research, as well as our education and outreach programs. Please consider making a generous contribution today.


To donate go to www.sens.org/donate. 

New Publication from SRF-Funded Team at Rice University


The SENS Research Foundation-funded team at Rice University has just published an open-access paper entitled "A Rapid Platform To Generate Lipofuscin And Screen Therapeutic Drugs For Efficacy In Lipofuscin Removal" in Materials, Methods & Technologies. Authored by Jason Gaspar, Jacques Mathieu, and Pedro J. J. Alvarez of the Rice University Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the paper details a fast, simple method for generating the age-related pigment lipofuscin in cells and screening the effectiveness of drugs for its removal. Read the paper here.


To learn more about the SRF-supported extramural lipofuscin-cleaning program at Rice University, you can also visit our website.

Upcoming Events - Where in the World is Aubrey de Grey?


Dr. Aubrey de Grey will be speaking at the following events in the coming months. Some engagements are open to the public; please see individual sites for details and ticketing information, where applicable.


European Insurance Forum

When: March 16, 2016
Where: The Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, Ireland
"The Road to Risk Revolution - Rethinking Re/Insurance and Risk"
When: April 6, 2016
Where: Auditorium, National Museum of Scotland
"The Seven Ages Debate" (hosted by the BBC's Pennie Latin)



Question of the Month #13: How Can Thymic Regeneration Combat Age-Related Autoimmunity?


Q: You’ve explained the rejuvenation biotechnologies that will be required to restore the aging immune system’s ability to fight off infection via ablating dysfunctional T-cell clones and tissue engineering new thymus gland grafts. But what can be done to prevent or reverse one of the other dysfunctions of the aging immune system: rising autoimmunity?
A: We tend to focus on rejuvenating the aging immune system’s specific immunity to pathogens because the loss of this ability is more often acutely life-threatening, as can be seen in the terrifying rise of influenza-associated pneumonia hospitalization and death rates beginning around age 65.
But there is also a substantial rise in autoimmunity with age, leading to greater incidence of specific autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, along with a less specific rise in autoimmune reactivity in the aging immune system, which is seen in the rising frequency of autoantibodies even in people with no overt autoimmune disorder...One key to rejuvenating the aging immune system and eliminating the autoimmunity of aging is by engineering biologically young thymus tissue to supplement or supplant the shrunken and structurally-damaged (“involuted”) aging thymus. The young, healthy thymus prevents autoimmunity in two ways...

The "Question of the Month" column is your opportunity to submit your research-related queries to SRF's expert science writer Michael Rae. Please send your questions to foundation@sens.org and they may be featured in a future newsletter.

Charitable Stock Donations - A Win-Win Situation 
Just a reminder – SENS Research Foundation can now accept charitable donations of stock. 
Why donate stock? Donating stock can help SRF by expanding your means to support us and enabling you to, in some cases, give more than you might be able to in cash. It can also benefit you, the donor, in that if you have held the stock for more than a year and it has increased in value, you can avoid paying capital gains on the donated stock. Avoiding capital gains means that you not only get the full value of the stock as a tax credit but you also avoid paying taxes on any gains.
If you are interested in donating stock, please contact Jerri Barrett at jerri.barrett@sens.org.

Special Conference Announcement:

Disease Drivers of Aging: 2016 Advances in Geroscience Summit

When: April 13 - 14, 2016
Where: The New York Academy of Sciences Conference Center in New York City
Presented by: The Gerontological Society of America, American Federation for Aging Research, The Trans-NIH GeroScience Interest Group, and The New York Academy of Sciences
Keynote Speakers include:
Felipe Sierra, PhD, National Institute on Aging
Steven Austad, PhD, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Elissa Epel, PhD, University of California, San Francisco

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