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When I’m 64

Written By: - Date published: 10:31 am, December 5th, 2010 - 14 comments
Categories: death with dignity, Deep stuff, science - Tags:

Imagine a world without ageing.

A lot of people do. A lot of people are working on it. So far I haven’t been too impressed with the progress, but this is getting interesting:

Harvard scientists reverse the ageing process in mice – now for humans

Harvard scientists were surprised that they saw a dramatic reversal, not just a slowing down, of the ageing in mice. Now they believe they might be able to regenerate human organ

Scientists claim to be a step closer to reversing the ageing process after rejuvenating worn out organs in elderly mice. The experimental treatment developed by researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, turned weak and feeble old mice into healthy animals by regenerating their aged bodies.

The surprise recovery of the animals has raised hopes among scientists that it may be possible to achieve a similar feat in humans – or at least to slow down the ageing process.

An anti-ageing therapy could have a dramatic impact on public health by reducing the burden of age-related health problems, such as dementia, stroke and heart disease, and prolonging the quality of life for an increasingly aged population.

“What we saw in these animals was not a slowing down or stabilisation of the ageing process. We saw a dramatic reversal – and that was unexpected,” said Ronald DePinho, who led the study, which was published in the journal Nature. …

In general I’m all for science and “progress”. It would be great to think that we could repair genetic disorders and improve quality of life. But — significantly extend life span? Reverse ageing? If you think the world has resource and environmental problems now, you ain’t seen nothing yet. If you think we have social injustice and insane inequities in wealth now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

I don’t think that this research could, or necessarily even should, be stopped. But I don’t think I’ll regret not being here to see the kind of world that is likely to result from it.

14 comments on “When I’m 64 ”

  1. NickS 1

    Oooooh, this is bloody interesting.

    Basically, it helps confirm that telomeres are a key part of aging in animals, in that the shortening of them due to cell replication acts somewhat like a molecular clock. Which as it gets shorter, in concert with replication and recycling/repair networks in a cell, stop further cell replication and replacement of damaged proteins and DNA.

    Now what Jaskelioff et al have done here is produce mice with impair telomerase function, leading to premature ageing, but they also knocked in a means of restoring telomerase function with a chemical signal (4-OHT) that could be feed to the mice, and induce normal (aka activate) telomerase function. On feeding the knock out strain 4-OHT, in the mice they saw very significant improvements in the treatment group vs the untreated group, and compared to wild-type age matched mice, delaying or some reversal of ageing.

    However, for humans you’d need to use gene therapy to pull it off, and suffice to say the bugs have not yet been worked out when it comes to gene therapy. There’s also issues when it comes to cancer, as sequence basically serves as a means of preventing older, DNA damaged cells from continuing to proliferate and potentially end up becoming cancerous. Making implementing a telomerase activation treatment a mute point until numerous fixes for all the major (and minor) cancers are found, because there’s no point being fit as fiddle from anti-ageing treatment, only to end up with having constant cancer outbreaks.

    Plus there’s also getting the treatment fully into the brain, which thanks to the blood/brain barrier and density of the brain isn’t as easy as you’d think, along with dealing with the lens of the eye, which are just bags of only a member of the alcohol dehydrogenase family of enzymes. And thus can’t be regenerated.

    So yeah, it’s only baby steps, and until gene therapy issues are sorted, about the only potential usage is going to be genetic treatments for sperm, and due to aforementioned issues about cancers, I’d only expect an increase in life span to 100-120 year mark.

    For those who get a lucky-roll on the DNA mutation roulette wheel that is.

  2. NickS 2

    Oh yeah, I only gave the paper a close skim read, so I don’t have the full picture and would probably need to go down the rabbit hole and read the related literature and dig out my genetics and molecular biology textbooks to get a fuller understanding. Though I’d guess the above’s probably on the ball…

  3. lprent 3

    I’ve watching this field with interest for over a decade. Looks like they now have a causation effect and have gotten beyond simple correlation.

    The real issue with any age extending technology as r0b points out, is how you drop the birth rate. The other issue is the way it causes increased concentrations of wealth.

    • Jenny 3.1

      Prince Charles will never be King, if his mom gets hold of this treatment. One good side effect, she may start to resemble her image on our money.

      capcha – “shopping”

      • Ari 3.1.1

        Pfft, Prince Charles will never be king of New Zealand even in the far more likely event that this isn’t ready by then- we’ll most likely be a republic before he has the chance.

  4. burt 4

    This technology has clearly been around in experimental form for a while and only available to a select few. For instance I noticed Helen Clark looked younger in her 2005 billboards than she did in 1999 or 2002 and then again in 2008 she looked even younger again.

    • BLiP 4.1

      Once was a Tory troll named Burt
      Who hated to see a PM in a skirt
      She made his ball sac tingle
      His sphincter crinkle
      And years later nothing but shit would he spurt.

      [lprent: Off topic. However for some reason I’m physically unable to hit the move button. Laughter perhaps. ]

    • jcuknz 4.2

      It is not the technology Burt but ‘photoshop’ 🙂

      ROB — the sad thing I see about it that people have led such disappointing lives without socialism that they cling to life instead of being happy to go having led meaningful and reasonably happy lives..

  5. prism 5

    It seems hard to get sustained, wide, serious discussion on this weighty matter particularly from the older age group who would be most affected by the growth in their numbers. This growth is exacerbated by the long-living of many. Those who have been earners in their life and retire at 65 might live to the age of 100 which has in the past had rarity interest but not in the future according to informed commentators. This means at present that they would be for a third of their life with much of it as able-bodied people, be living on a benefit that many are quick to sneer at when younger people receive one. The happily announced and received information about new scientific findings about living longer leave me gobsmacked at the idiocy of the whole matter. And I wonder who is paying for the science.

    I see the need for olders to have an intelligent, educated, policy council, beyond Grey Power lobbying for immediate needs and doing regular Oliver requests based on wish lists. Without such a dedicated and objective group I can see no-one honestly talking about this problem as adults. Instead you get charities and business discussing the matter with concerned, hushed voices. There is a sense that old people can’t deal with their own problems with a direct and practical gaze.

    I don’t like just raising the retirement age. Some men who have done very hard physical work, age faster than women the same age. Their bodies start deteriorating where they had past injuries from work or sport or abuse of alcohol shows up as one ages. I also don’t want to see some older people in abject poverty. I don’t know if the situation has changed but the poorest in NZ were single females. If they have worked and received the average 80% of average male incomes then they are not in a position to have a nest egg. If some conning financier hasn’t robbed them by losing their ‘investment’ or the value of their house that is.

    Targeting incomes makes for either a cringing mentality or a need for assertiveness classes and boosts before facing the inhuman savings-driven bonus-paid social welfare system. So social policy academics argue for universal benefits and the wealthy receiving them are then less reluctant to pay tax for this over their lifetime. That’s the idea anyway and the best idea that anyone with knowledge of this area of policy could advance.

    I would like to see all retired expected to do so many hours work a year of public benefit, this not to be onerous, but of a kind approved by social welfare. Grandparents caring for their mokopuna, pakeha or Maori or? would be exempt from other work, and helped with the same education that younger parents would be receiving in my vision of an intelligently run future NZ. Academics looking at the social interaction of different ages have posited the question of what the value of older people in society and particularly women past their child bearing age, and decided that the assistance, support and wisdom that could be passed on to younger society reinforced their original fertility. Similarly for men surely.

  6. Jum 6

    Live a longer life alongside the cretins who voted the monkey in and will probably do so again – you must be fxxking joking.

    Logan’s Run, please, after a slap up dinner and all night party with my friends and family.

    “women past their child bearing age” LOL. It never ceases to amaze me that in this so called scientifically and philosophically ‘advanced’ age, women are still relegated to some role-play box. Having given their lives, most of them, to other people, young or old, the time is their own, not for some bloody academic organizing how to get free labour from women. But no doubt they will still volunteer and that then is their choice.

  7. There is really no need for genetic engineerin­g to activate telomerase as was done in the Depinho mouse model. There is about 20 years of research on Telomere activation­. There are two receptors for estrogen on the TERT gene which controls this process. Whether you happen to be a human being or a mouse, the best way to increase telomerase activity, lengthen the telomeres and reverse aging is with the human bioidentic­­al hormone, 17-Beta-Es­­tradiol, also known as estrogen. In 1999, Kyo demonstrat­­ed that 17-Beta-Es­­tradiol activates telomerase via direct and indirect effects on the hTERT promoter region. This was confirmed in 2000 by Silvia Misiti and again in 2009 by Rodrigo T. Calado from the NIH.

    A recent December 2010 study from Imanishi from Japan showed that 17-Beta-Es­­tradiol (estrogen) augments telomerase activity, thereby accelerati­­ng recovery after injury and reducing the effects of aging (reducing senescence­­).

    Natural substances such as resveratrol, gingko and silymarin also activate telomeres.

    For more see:


    regards, jeffrey dach md

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