IOS Lecture on Rejuvenation Biotechnology: Why Age May soon Cease to Mean Aging
An on-line lecture on “Rejuvenation Biotechnology: Why Age May soon Cease to Mean Aging” was organised by the Institute of Objective Studies on August 22, 2020. The lecture was delivered by Dr. Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist based in Mountain View, California, USA. He is also the Chief Scientific Officer of SENS Research Foundation, a California-based biomedical (research charity that performs and funds laboratory research dedicated to combating the aging process). In addition, he is the Editor-in-Chief of Rejuvenation Research, the world’s highest-impact peer-reviewed journal focused on intervention in aging.
He began his talk with professing love for India and its people. He said that the aging problem was not confined to a country or continent. But precautions by those who were over 65 years of age could slow the process of aging. This was particularly applicable to the citizens of the United States of America. It was a happy augury that in India, the average age of an individual was increasing. But as compared to India, spending on health care was much higher in terms of the GDP in the US. By 2040, spending on healthcare the in US was estimated to be 34 percent of the GDP. In 2010, the US government spent about 1.16 trillion dollars on healthcare of the people of 65 years of age. One of the reasons for aging could be imputed to poor spending on healthcare, he said.
Dr. Grey held that infectious diseases had been prevented due to better sanitation, vaccination, proper intake of antibiotics and disease carrier control. He said that age-related diseases had not claimed many lives. Thus if the halting of the aging process was not impossible it was at least intractable. Aging was the combination of some bodily processes. Metabolism played an important role in maximising longevity. Damage to metabolism could cause infertility and a range of diseases. He noted that diseases were of two kinds - communicable and congenital. TB, Malaria and HIV fell under the category of communicable diseases whereas tay-sachs and measles came under congenital diseases. Alzheimer’s, cancer and atherosclerosis were chronic diseases. Prescribing measures to prevent aging, he said that proper diagnostic procedure should be adopted.
We should intervene and try to correct increase metabolism to prevent damage. It was due to a better metabolism that some animals lived longer than others. Aging was a machine and not designed to last 100 years, but only 10 years. He said that aging was a phenomenon of physics, not biology. Comprehensive preventive maintenance was how we already kept simple machines. Referring to implementation progress, there was need for total synthesis of every type of endeavour. He clarified that whatever the press might tell the world, he and his team did not work on longevity. Besides, there were ethical considerations, like over population, unequal access to facilities, immoral dictators, boredom and collapse that led to cuts in longevity, he said.
Dr. Grey pointed out that there was nothing to say about slowing the aging process. There might be pathological prescription and damage repair. With the repair of ovary, women might bear child at any age. But its fall out might lead to a spike in population. He hailed India for doing some research in the field. Thus the country was apportioning a big responsibility in taking the research forward. Explaining the complexities that created roadblock to research, he said that medicines were costly and were feared to affect economy. Calling for the use of anti-aging proteins, he said that a lot of proteins had important role. We could maximise the behaviour of proteins, he concluded.
In his concluding remarks, Secretary General, IOS Prof. Z M Khan, who chaired the event thanked Dr. Grey for giving a pleasant surprise to aging people. Religions of the world too had offered prescriptions for living a longer life and these should be taken into account while conducting research. Another problem that might crop up was relating to artificial methods that could destroy the people. It was thus necessary to keep socio-ethical aspects in view while going ahead with research in the field, he remarked.
Shaikh Nizamuddin, a member of the General Assembly of the Institute who conducted the proceedings, extended a vote of thanks to Dr. Grey and the attendees, cautioned against the exploitation of the third world people. He said that the efforts of scientists must not remain confined to research but be brought into public domain.