Thu. Jan 27th, 2022

From Gilgamesh the search for the fountain of youth did not end well. It did not deter Silicon Valley billionaires like Peter Thiel, who once described death as “a problem that can be solved”.

The search for extend long life radical is the first blue-sky idea Lex explores in our annual focus on early-stage innovation.

According to reports, Jeff Bezos is one of the other magnates supporting the effort. Altos Labs, incorporated in the United Kingdom and the USA, strives for biological reprogramming technology. It will build on pioneering research by Nobel laureate Shinya Yamanaka, who will be an unpaid adviser. He discovered that the addition of four specific proteins can cause adult cells to return to something approaching an embryonic state. They can then be converted into any type of cell needed to treat diseases.

Such an approach may be restored vision damaged by glaucoma, a major cause of age-related blindness. This is the implication of recent experiments on mice by a team from Harvard Medical School. In September, researchers largely based in Germany reprogrammed heart cells in the same animals. They were able to regenerate heart tissue after a heart attack.

Calico, an alphabet-assisted anti-aging company founded in 2013, is also working on reprogramming and publishing a paper on the subject in 2021. It conducts more than 20 early-stage disease-addressing programs in collaboration with AbbVie in the US. In June 2021, the partners agreed to invest another $ 1 billion in the pursuit of new insights into the biology of aging and targets for age-related diseases.

There are numerous challenges to overcome before such treatments can be tested on humans. The biggest risk is that reprogramming will wake up cancer-causing genes. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

There are people living today who will live for 1,000 years, according to a biomedical gerontologist. This, if taken seriously, evokes a dystopian future. If technology is expensive, only the rich will have access to it; if not, it will put further pressure on environmental resources.

A less controversial and more realistic goal would be to delay the onset of age-related disorders. Treatments targeting multiple disease pathways can alleviate the economic burden of an aging population.

Technical titans chasing immortality are mocked for their hubris. But research against aging can have far-reaching benefits if it can reduce years of poor health at the end of each life.

This is the first of five articles on blue aerial thinking published by Lex today. Look out for the others in Lex online.

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