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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The MMTP and research on senolytic drugs

I’m a bit late for the party, but this is anyway something really worth mentioning.

If you have given a look to this page, you probably know about senescent cells. If you haven’t, I’ll tell you about them again. In a nutshell, senescent cells are cells no longer able to divide like healthy cells are supposed to do. All they do is stick around your body doing nothing useful, really, and while they’re at it, they interfere in other important processes. Pretty much like grumpy people who aren’t just content with sitting around twiddling their thumbs, but also bother other people and prevent them from carrying on their business. Jerks.

The consequences of having senescent cells sitting around are quite bad, and range from vascular diseases to higher chances to develop cancer to reduced immune capacity. It’s no coincidence that the elimination of senescent cells from the body is a keypoint of the SENS agenda.

Recent studies have shown that eliminating senescent cells from mice significantly improves their health in various ways (See, for example, this, this, this, and this). The way scientists have got mice rid of senescent cells is using senolytic drugs, and this is all great news, but the story is the same as with all other scientific discoveries: Not all aspects of the matter are 100% clear yet, and more research needs to be done. If things turned out well, senolytics could be used to increase human healthspan and lifespan, and get us rid of really bad age-related conditions.

In order to be able to carry on further research on the subject, Lifespan.io is presently running a crowdfunding campaign, namely the Major Mouse Testing Program (MMTP) which I urge you to support through donations, sharing the news on your social media, or both. Your youthful cells will be grateful—your senescent cells not so much, but they can stuff it.