Update bundle #4

Gone are—for now—the golden days when I would publish a new post each week. So, for as long as my schedule is going to be this busy, I’ll have to be content with update bundles. I thought I’d let you know about a few news items and interesting things going on in anti-ageing community.

News from LEAF

On June 30 LEAF will host their first Journal Club event, with dr Oliver Medvedik. The topic will be the implications of epigenetic alterations on aging and as a primary aging process.

The recurring crowdfunding campaign to support LEAF has reached $1110, thus surpassing the first goal of $1000. The next one is $2000, and it’d be great if you could help us reach it, and advertise the campaign so that others may help too.

Another way you can help is by becoming a volunteer—there’s never a shortage of stuff to do in the world of anti-ageing research advocacy, and your talents may be precious. You can also join the community on discord to find out what’s going on and how you can help.

Keep an eye on LEAF, because new campaigns are to be expected fairly soon.

The state of the art

Rejuvenaction does a lot of rejuvenation advocacy, but doesn’t talk much about rejuvenation science. That is on my to-do list and is going to change; for the time being, here’s a brief update on a few research projects, categorised for simplicity the SENS way. None of these is exactly news, but they may give you an idea of where we are in terms of progress, in case you have been out of the loop.

LysoSENS

Clearing up the indigestible junk that accumulates in our lysosomes as we age is crucial in the fight against age-related diseases. The SENS approach to the problem of lysosomal dysfunction consists in upgrading our lysosomes with genes that allow them to produce enzymes that break down the previously unbreakable. A first example of this type of therapy moving towards the clinic is that of LysoCLEAR, an enzyme product in the pre-clinical trial stage specifically tailored to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and its early onset version, juvenile macular degeneration. AMD is one of the leading causes of blindness among the elderly; if successful, LysoCLEAR would not only help old and young alike get back their sight, but it could also pave the way to similar treatments for lysosomal dysfunction in different tissues of the body. Indeed, while LysoCLEAR is targeted to treat the macula, its creator Kelsey Moody is optimistic that the method behind LysoCLEAR can be adapted to target different tissues.

This is not exactly full-scale LysoSENS yet—because we’re not talking of inserting new genes anywhere but rather of a treatment based on enzyme replacement therapy—but it’s an excellent step forward and it definitely is a maintenance-based approach which, at the end of the day, clears out unwanted junk. I suppose it can be seen as a ‘manual’ version of LysoSENS, since the necessary enzymes to clear up the macula aren’t produced directly by the body but are delivered by the drug itself.

Another project, a joint effort by SENS Research Foundation and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, may help us get to the ‘automatic’ version of LysoSENS. The goal of the project is testing out an improvement on somatic gene therapy that uses CRISPR to control where specific genes are added to the genome. Further coverage can be found on FA! —which I always recommend as your primary source for anti-ageing science, together with LEAF. (See Jim’s comment below for a clarification.)

ApoptoSENS

Another cause of pathology in old age is the accumulation of senescent cells—cells that should die, but do not have the decency to do so. These felons have stopped replicating entirely, but don’t die. Instead, they stick around and secrete harmful chemicals. Their existence is a bit of a trade-off: They’re useful in small amounts (they play a role in wound healing and help preventing cancer), but once we hit old age they’ve built up to intolerable amounts, and far from being a solution, they become a problem. That’s why they’re one of the primary targets of ApoptoSENS.

In the past few years, senolytics—drugs capable of targeting and destroying senescent cells—have been often in the spotlight among the anti-ageing research community. Several biotech companies, such as Oisin, Unity, and CellAge, are working on different types of senolytics to get rid of excess senescent cells. The Life Extension Advocacy Foundation ran a rather successful crowdfunding campaign for CellAge last year, and Unity’s senolytics are supposed to enter clinical trials in 2018. Additionally, SENS Research Foundation and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging have recently joined forces on a research project focussed on the clearance of senescent cells in the immune system, led by renowned expert Professor Judy Campisi.

Methuselah Foundation’s new fund

Earlier this year (I told you I’m a slow poster) Methuselah Foundation launched the Methuselah Fund, aimed at providing financial help for promising scientific teams that would like to launch their own company focussed on rejuvenation biotechs. Professional investors’ interest is definitely welcome, and you can get in touch with sergio@methuselahfund.com if you’re interested; however, participants to the Methuselah 300 can complete their pledge by investing in the Methuselah Fund as well.

Upcoming MMTP Longevity Panel

MMTP will host a panel with dr. Alexandra Stolzing, dr. Aubrey de Grey, and other guests in early June—the exact date is to be confirmed. The panel will be livestreamed on Facebook and is offered as one of the rewards for donating to MMTP’s fundraiser on Lifespan.io in 2016. If you have any question to for Alexandra or Aubrey, or the other guests, be sure to submit it to info@majormouse.org.

Advancing Conversations with Aubrey de Grey

If you want an inexpensive, lightweight book that discusses the key points of the rejuvenation cause, either for your own reading or to recommend to others who aren’t willing to go through Ending Aging, I suggest you take a look to Douglas Lain’s Advancing Conversations: Aubrey de Grey—Advocate for an Indefinite Human Lifespan. It’s short, not sciencey and thus simple to read, and it answers quite a few questions that a newbie to the cause may have.

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Be the Lifespan

I apologise for my long silence (both here and on l4t), but I’m having another of my crazy busy periods. As a matter of fact, I’ve got something going on behind the scenes for Rejuvenaction—major content updates that I’m planning and soon I’ll be working on, but don’t hold your breath. It’s gonna be a long thing, and I probably won’t get to it properly until my busyness is over.

In the meantime, have a look at Lifespan.io’s new campaign:


This campaign has no expiry date, and it aims at getting a decent monthly budget for LEAF/Lifespan.io to fund more and more projects and initiatives to help scientific research against age-related diseases and spread awareness. The base goal is 1000$, but with a higher budget, LEAF may be able to do a lot of cool things, like collaboration videos with big YouTube names such as SciShow and Kurzgesagt and yearly conferences. If you can spare even just a few dollars a month, you can help LEAF make a big difference.

You can also help out by spreading the word on your social media—remember to use the hashtags #aging, #crowdfundthecure, #bethelifespan.

Ending Aging in Italian

As you might know, I’m Italian. I’ve long left Italy, so I won’t be able to attend the event which I’ll shortly tell you about, but I would still like to give it some extra visibility.

Ending Aging, the book by Aubrey de Grey describing how medical science will be able to fully treat ageing in the foreseeable future, has been translated into Italian with the title La fine dell’invecchiamento (literally, ‘the end of ageing’). The book was published by D Editore—an independent Italian publishing house foucused on transhumanism and related topics—and will be presented on December 1st, 2016, at 18:00 at the bookstore Libreria Cultora, located in via Ughelli 39, 00179 Rome, Italy.

If you’re Italian or speak Italian, you might want to attend. If you know any Italian or Italian speaker, you could help the rejuvenation cause by letting them know of this event. Probably, the most effective way of spreading the word is sharing the relevant Facebook event.

I’d like to thank Emmanuele Pilia for the efforts he put into this project. If you wish, you may follow him on Twitter and/or D Editore, both on Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks!

About SRF Summer Scholars and the Rejuvenation Biotechnology Conference

Although I’m a bit late in the game, I must definitely spend some words on the efforts that SENS Research Foundation puts into outreach and the education of young scientists—the very same ones that, hopefully soon enough, will play a crucial role in the development of the medical breakthroughs that are going to relegate ageing to history books.

SRF offers a summer scholars programme each year, giving undergraduate students the opportunity to work in the emerging, exciting field of regenerative medicine, and conduct research to tackle age-related diseases. As stated on the relevant webpage,

Under the guidance of a scientific mentor, each Summer Scholar conducts his or her own research project in such areas as tissue engineering, genetic engineering, and science policy. The Summer Scholars Program emphasizes development of not only laboratory skills but also communication skills as well. Students participating in the program hone their writing skills via periodic reports, which are designed to emulate text scientists commonly must produce. The program culminates with the students presenting the results of their summer research to scientists from other research institutions at a poster session at the Rejuvenation Biotechnology Conference at the end of the summer.

If you’re an undergraduate in a relevant field looking for a great opportunity to do cutting-edge research and kickstart your scientific career, I’m sure this would be a great chance and it would make an extremely fine addition to your CV. You can get an idea of the projects you could be working on, and the caliber of the scientists you’d be working with, by giving a look to the description page for the projects of this year. Unfortunately, it’s too late to join the programme of 2015, but there will certainly be others in years to come; if you’re interested, I recommend you to keep an eye on SRF’s Research Opportunities page to find out how to apply, what for and about the criteria for eligibility.

In the meantime, you can have a look at what this year’s students have to say about the programme in the video below; I would also like to remind you about the Rejuvenation Biotechnology Conferece 2015 (RB2015)—where the students eventually present their projects—held this year in San Francisco at the end of the summer. If you wish to attend as a member of the audience you can register here. They generally have big discounts if you register early enough, but as said I am late in the game and in fact the discount period ends today. Worst-case scenario, you’re prepared for next year 😛