Thoughts and updates on recent crowdfunding campaigns

Times really are changing.

Five years ago, when I discovered there were people trying to defeat ageing, I had a distinct feeling it would be a really slow process. I don’t mean just in terms of getting the science done, but also of getting people on board, i.e. getting through people’s skull the simple fact that biological ageing is as bad for you as is any disease. (It’s actually worse, since ageing comes with a nice bundle of all sorts of diseases.) However, things are moving faster than I expected.

The number of companies and researchers joining the fight is increasing, and unlike ten years ago, saying you work on delaying or even eliminating ageing doesn’t automatically make you an object of ridicule and earn you isolation from the rest of the scientific community. In fact, in the scientific community, the idea that ageing can and will be defeated is slowly becoming mainstream.

The amount of online articles about the quest to put an end to ageing is also multiplying, and the tone of these articles is much different from what it used to be. A few years ago, the idea of ending ageing was seen as a quixotic, groundless fantasy, the science behind it was dismissed and belittled, and the scientists working on it were seen as nothing more than delusional, arrogant eccentrics. Today, articles tell a completely different story, and rather than making fun of anti-ageing science, they worry about the potential consequences of defeating ageing. Critics are starting to realise that, far from being a delusion, the defeat of ageing is just a matter of when, not if.

That’s not all. The opinion of the general public seems to be changing as well. To see how this is true, it’s enough to have a look at the result of the crowdfunding campaigns on Lifespan.io. The MitoSENS campaign was a huge success and reached 154% of the goal. The MMTP campaign, which is still running for a few more days, is currently more than 100% percent funded, and the original goal of 45.000$ has been extended to 60.000$. The OncoSENS campaign was launched on June 14, 2016, and as of today (June 19, 2016, i.e. five days later), it is already funded to 9%. (On a less bright note, the DRACO IndieGoGo campaign isn’t doing very well—only 14 days are left, and only a mere 28% of the goal has been reached.)

I think part of this success is due to how people change their minds about things. More often than not, people don’t actively oppose new ideas in themselves. Simply put, if there isn’t enough buzz around a new idea, people just ignore it; if you don’t hear about it often enough, you probably won’t consider it worth your time. More importantly, if most people disapprove of a new idea, then you’re likely to feel subconsciously pressured to disapprove of it too, regardless of its actual merit. This happens for three reasons.

The first is that the illusion of being right, coming from the logical fallacy ‘if most people think it’s wrong, then it must be’, is comforting. The second is that it always feels safer to belong to a majority group. The third and final reason is that being one of the many fuckwits who were wrong feels much better than being one of the few fuckwits who were wrong. In other words, if a lot of people think ageing can’t be defeated and turn out to be wrong about it, they can blame it on the issue itself; if so many people were wrong about it, it must have been particularly hard to grasp or deceptive. However, if just a handful of people thinks ageing can be defeated and they turn out to be mistaken, they’ll come across as a bunch of twits who couldn’t realise the obvious.

Because of the reasons outlined above, when an idea is still new and fairly controversial, people may feel that the safest option to avoid ridicule is to side with the majority and dismiss the new idea without further consideration. The new idea is not okay to talk about because almost nobody does, and of those who do, most despise it and very few praise it.

However, if one day the new idea is all over the Internet, more and more people are talking about it, and there’s a growing number of supporters, other people will start thinking that, perhaps, talking about the new idea is okay after all. It’s okay to read about it and make your own opinion rather than accepting that of the majority. Inevitably, the number of supporters will grow even more, making it easier for new people to join in. And as the number of people joining the cause grows, the cause itself gets a lot more exposure, giving rise to a virtuous circle that may eventually result in the once-despised idea being endorsed by most.

This is why I hope you won’t just read this post, nod approvingly, and move on to reading something else. I hope you’ll share it, share Lifespan.io’s crowdfunding campaigns, talk about healthy life extension to your friends and family, and help generating momentum around rejuvenation biotechnologies in any way you can. Only through advocacy can we reach the critical mass we need to turn the dream of rejuvenation into a reality.

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First results of the MitoSENS crowdfunding campaign

Just a quick note to let you know the guys of the MitoSENS team have achieved amazing results, and are about submit them for review and publication.

That’s the power of crowdfunding, people.

Update bundle #2

It’s been quite a while, and my schedule is no less hectic than before, unfortunately. I cannot yet get around shortening my to-post list, but I can’t help writing something about some good and important news.

Lifespan.io’s crowdfunding project for MitoSENS: When the campaign started, on August 25th, I didn’t know what to expect, and I probably wasn’t expecting much at all. However, much to my delight, about ten days later, roughly 40% of the 30.000$-goal was already pledged, and now, twenty-six days before the end of the campaign, the project is 102% funded (so there is almost one more month to make that percentage grow even higher). It’s a clear sign that people are becoming more and more aware that ageing is a medical problem that we can and must address.

FightAging!’s matching fundraiser starts on October 1st: FA!’s annual fundraiser is set to start tomorrow, This year’s matching fund amounts to 125.000$, so for every 1$ you donate, 1$ will be unlocked form the fund; the goal is to raise a grand total of 250.000$ by the end of the year. Let’s all help to make this goal come true—remember, every donation counts, however small.

Killingsickness’ Indiegogo campaign: On October 6th, Killingsickness will launch their crowdfunding campaign to finance research on DRACO, a broad-spectrum antiviral drug that holds the promise of putting an end to nearly all viral diseases. You can join their mailing list to keep up-to-date with their progress and news.

UPDATE : I had forgot something.

Lifespan.io’s longevity challenge: Lifespan.io challenges you to help the cause either by donating or by publishing a picture or video on your social media to tell your friends why you care about healthy lifespan extension. The challenge will last for the whole month of October.

Crowdfunding anti-ageing science

I’m pleased to break my temporary silence with exciting news: Lifespan.io, a crowdfunding platform dedicated solely to longevity research projects, has been recently launched. Their first—and, at present time, only—crowdfunding project is nothing less than MitoSENS. The crowdfunding campaign for this project will last until October 25th, 2015, and has a goal of 30.000$. Pledged funds thus far amount to 2.131$ (it’s interesting to note that, when I first saw the page yesterday night, that amount was around 1.600$). Depending on the amout you’ll decide to pledge, you can choose a nice reward for yourself among many options, ranging from gadgets to getting to meet the SENS team.
I may be an incurable optimist, but I do think that the anti-ageing movement is about to take off for real, and before you know it, its popularity will start to grow exponentially. You can contribute to that growth even with just as little as letting your friends and family know about this new crowdfunding initiative.
 

Update bundle #1

These days I am quite busy with several projects, leaving me little time for anything else, so my list of things I wanted to post about is growing longer and longer. I resolved that I need to establish which items on the list deserve a post of their own, and which ones can be grouped together in a single bundle; it could get a bit messy, but at least I will be able to post the news before they become too old. Therefore, here comes the first update bundle. Where applicable, I will cite a brief excerpt from every linked article, but I do recommend you go and give a look to them in their entirety.

 
Fight Aging!’s fundraiser
I’m pleased to see that the fundraiser has reached a total of $70,000. I have no doubts that we can do even better 🙂

 
Quest to redefine ageing
NOVATO — Death will come; that we know. But as each of us traverses a path toward inevitable demise, the length of the path matters less than the quality of the trip and its cost in pain and dollars. In the past year, business interest in aging research has surged. The potential payoff in profits and quality of life is staggering.

As a sidenote, I would like to point out that if we cure ageing comprehensively, then death’s come is not all that certain anymore, because just being mortal doesn’t mean that you will die, but only that you can die.

 
SENS: Are Mitochondrial Mutations Really All That Important?
You might recall that I posted about a recent study that seemed to question the importance of mitochondrial mutations in ageing. SENS has written an article about the study; I recommend you follow the link for all the details; what follows id a brief summary takesn from the source itself.

Q: A recent study out of Japan got a lot of coverage in the press, claiming to overthrow much of what was known about the role of mitochondria in aging. It is said to have found that mitochondrial mutations don’t really accumulate in aging cells over a lifetime. Instead, it found that age-related mitochondrial dysfunction is driven by “epigenetic” changes — changes in the “scaffolding” around DNA that helps regulate which genes are turned on and turned off. In particular, the investigators traced the effect back to the epigenetic downregulation of two genes involved in glycine production in mitochondria, such that providing them with glycine restored much of their normal function. Does this mean mitochondrial mutations really aren’t a problem and we can stop working to fix them?

A: The study is interesting, and contributes to a long-standing debate in this field about the frequency of specific mitochondrial DNA mutations with age and tissue type, and whether they contribute to specific diseases. It is clear at this point that michondrial dysfunction occurs with age and that damage in the form of mutations to mitochondria contributes to the diseases and disabilities of aging. We don’t believe that this particular study is actually a challenge to scientists’ existing understanding about how changes in mitochondria with age both drive and are driven by cellular and molecular damage, and the diseases and disabilities of aging. To maintain and restore youthful good health in aging people, it remains imperative to repair the cellular and molecular damage of aging directly, including alleviating the effects of large DNA deletions in aging mitochondria.

 
Team develops transplantable bioengineered forelimb in an animal model
A team of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators has made the first steps towards development of bioartificial replacement limbs suitable for transplantation. In their report, which has been published online in the journal Biomaterials (“Engineered composite tissue as a bioartificial limb graft”), the researchers describe using an experimental approach previously used to build bioartificial organs to engineer rat forelimbs with functioning vascular and muscle tissue. They also provided evidence that the same approach could be applied to the limbs of primates.

 
New class of drugs dramatically increases healthy lifespan, mouse study suggests
A research team from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), Mayo Clinic and other institutions has identified a new class of drugs that in animal models dramatically slows the aging process — alleviating symptoms of frailty, improving cardiac function and extending a healthy lifespan.

 

That’s all for now.

News for MitoSENS?

A recently published article on ScienceDaily talks about research done on human fibroblast cells to put to test the so-called mitochondrial theory of ageing, according to which—in a nutshell— the abnormal mitochondrial function observed in aged humans is due to accumulation of mutations in mitochondrial DNA; this specific aspect of ageing could in principle be dealt with by implementing MitoSENS.

The news is, though, that according to this experiment it seems that mitochondrial DNA mutations don’t play that big of a role in the decline of mitochondrial function as thought; the researchers had at their disposal cells from young and elderly humans, and they observed that while the so-called mitochondrial respiration was expectedly lower in older cells than in young ones, the amoung of mutations wasn’t significantly different. Additionally, the researchers found out that by means of epigenetic regulation of the genes regulating glycine production in mitochondria, they were able to restore the respiratory function in the elderly cells.

This would seem to make MitoSENS useless, since it is all about addressing mutation-caused problems, but it is to be said that, from what I recall of my reading of Ending Aging, these mutations are quite rare (1% of your cells) even in old age, so perhaps it comes as no surprise that the researchers didn’t find any significant difference; I have no say as to whether or not they play a role in ageing. That’s all I can guess: I would recommend you have a look at Fight Aging’s article about it, or perhaps even the relevant paper published by the Japanese team led by professor Jun-Ichi Hayashi.

The bottom line, though, is the usual: we need to do more research. We need to establish beyond reasonable doubt the causes of ageing if we want to defeat it. No anti-ageing science is carved in stone yet, but every tiny piece of the puzzle that we add to the picture gets us closer to the moment when ageing will be finally under medical control.