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.

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!

Cha-ching!

I’m a slow poster, you know that. Sometimes I’ve posted about ‘news’ that were a month old. That’s because life comes often in between.

However, this time around life can stuff it. I don’t want to be late for this news.

On July 12, 2016, SENS Research Foundation announced that Internet entrepreneur Michael Greve, who runs the Forever Healthy Foundation and KIZOO Technology Ventures, has committed a whopping 10.000.000$ (let me spell that for you: ten fucking million dollars) to SENS research and to startups focused on bringing rejuvenation therapies to the market.

In the words of Greve himself, “My goal is to provide support for the critical research of the SENS Research Foundation and to facilitate the development of the rejuvenation biotech industry and ecosystem. I think we should have more people contribute to the step-by-step creation of cures for the root causes of all age-related diseases. And we should have a whole rejuvenation industry based on the SENS treatment model including the self-accelerating feedback-loop of success stories and amazing opportunities for scientist [sic], entrepreneurs and VC investors. This will truly accelerate both research and therapies. I have decided to lead by example and make this $10 million commitment.”

Five of the 10 millions will be donated directly to SENS over the course of the next five years, while the other five, as said, will be donated to other startups of the field. The 5mln to SENS constitute 10% of the goal of SENS’s new initiative Project|21, meant to make the first human trials of rejuvenation biotechnologies happen by 2021.

That’s the kind of news that make my day. It’s the kind of news that makes you think rejuvenation biotechnologies just got a lot closer to being a reality.

However, don’t think that our job as rejuvenation supporters is over: We still need to keep spreading the word and donating what we can. Speaking of which, Lifespan.io’s OncoSENS campaign has been feeling terribly lonely as of late. It has reached a mere 19% of the goal, much less than other campaigns have reached in the same timespan. Why don’t you pay it a visit and bring in some friends?

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 😛


Annual fundraiser by ‘Fight Aging!’

Chances are that, if you know of my website, then you already know of Fight Aging!, one of the most well-known websites advocating for the development of rejuvenation biotechnologies, and for SENS in particular. The website hosts a number of resources on the topic of anti-ageing science, but what I would like to focus on here is FA!’s annual fundraiser. The campaign aims to find philantropists who are willing to contribute to anti-ageing research by means of charitable donations. In year 2014, FA! managed to put together a matching fund of 100.000$, which together with the individual donations of people like you and me reached a total of 150.000$ that went straight to SENS Research Foundation’s budget. The remarkable thing is that the last 50.000$ were collected in the last three months of the year—as you can see, people are getting more and more interested into rejuvenation research, and it is even more evident when you consider that the same campaign in year 2013 had reached only about half of what was reached in 2014.
At the moment, the matching fund is 45.000$.

Do you think you could be a matching funder? Do you know anyone who could be? Please get in touch with Reason of FA!. Even if you can’t be a matching funder and don’t know anyone who could, I suggest you spread the word about the campaign, to increase the chances of finding new donors. Also, you can still contribute to SENS research with even a very modest donation—every cent matters. You can make your donation through SENS’s donations page. Thanks!

Two for the price of one

Yesterday I was looking for a short video of dr. de Grey to serve as a quick introduction for newbies, but I couldn’t find any that was very short, so I had to be content with what I published. As per usual, when you look for something you don’t find it, and when you don’t look for it, you bump into it! Not one, but two short videos: SENS and de Grey hitting the news on CCTV.

 
 

A video-primer on rejuvenation

For the benefit of the newbies of the rejuvenation world, I spent some time trying to dig out the clearest, shortest and most to-the-point talk by Aubrey de Grey on the topic of what ageing is and how we can cure it. I would really have wanted to find something along the lines of 5 minutes, for the sake of even the most impatient of my readers, but I thought I’d sacrifice shortness to clarity. The video is still reasonably short (20 minutes).
Please, do disregard the word “immortality” that somebody thought smart to put in the title; rejuvenation is not about immortality, it’s about health. However, the i-word attracts a lot more attention (even though most people seems to dread the thought of never dying), so often it ends up attached to SRF’s work, despite bearing no connection whatsoever with it.