Saturday, 29 September 2007

Centenarians reach a record high

reposted from:

Centenarians reach a record high
Eldery woman
Many are now seeing three figures
The number of people living beyond 100 years has reached a record high in England and Wales, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics says there are now 9,000 "centenarians" - a 90-fold increase since 1911.

Estimates suggest this will carry on rising to 40,000 by 2031.

The rapid increase in the number of very elderly people began in the 1950s and is due to improvements in housing, healthcare, nutrition and sanitation


The proportion of the population above the age of 70 has been rising steadily, and is expected to rise further.

The over-90s are now the fastest growing age group.

Experts say this is likely to place a far greater burden on the health service, as the costs of catering for diseases of the elderly such as cancer and dementia rise too.

The same increases have been happening in other industrialised countries, the ONS says.

There used to be proportionately more female to male centenarians - seven women for every man.

However this ratio is now beginning to fall as survival to this age becomes more common.

Greater male effect

Recent improvements in death rates have been greater for men than for women.

It's hard to know whether these extra years are providing extra years of good health
Dr Lorna Laywood
Help the Aged

Although the rate at which the number of centenarians increased actually fell between 1981 and 2000, this reflects a slowing down in the birth rate a century earlier, rather than a worsening of the lifestyle and living conditions which contribute to long life.

There were only 100 centenarians in 1911 - up to 1940, the annual increase was 1.9%, rising to approximately 6% between 1941 and the 1990s, 4.5% during the 1990s and 5.8% since 2002.

The ONS expects that the number of over-100s in England and Wales will rise an average of 6% per year, quadrupling the current number by the 2030s.

Dr Lorna Layward, from Help the Aged, said: "It's hard to know whether these extra years are providing extra years of good health.

"Hopefully, with better medical provision, these extra years can be happy and healthy."

Emma Soames, the editor of Saga Magazine, said: "The government has got to get its act together, because the care services in this country are really not fit for purpose at the moment.

"We have a whole generation in their 50s and 60s who are looking after elderly relatives."

Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern, said: "Demographic change presents a number of opportunities and challenges to public services and public spending.

"For example, most people living in care homes are over the age of 85. As the number of people over the age of 90 increases, so will the need for care home spaces.

"All too often we are failing to respond adequately to the changing demographic challenge facing the UK."

Friday, 21 September 2007

Many under-16s carry cancer virus

reposted from:

Many under-16s carry cancer virus
Cervical smear showing HPV infection
HPV infection is the leading cause of cervical cancer
At least one in 10 girls in England is infected by the age of 16 with a virus which can cause cervical cancer, research suggests.

A study by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) found many teenagers are infected with at least one strain of the human papillomavirus (HPV).

The researchers found the risk of infection is "substantial" by the age of just 14.

A vaccination programme for girls as young as 12 is set to begin next year.

The plans have attracted criticism by those who claim the programme will encourage promiscuity, but advocates have argued that it is necessary to start early to maximise the impact on public health.

HPV is responsible for most cases of cervical cancer, which kills more than 1,000 woman a year in the UK.

The HPA researchers tested blood samples from 1,483 females aged 10 to 29 for signs of HPV infection.

The results, published in the British Journal of Cancer, showed that by the age of 18 around one in five females show signs of infection, and by the age of 24 the figure climbs to around 40%.

Not compulsory

Professor Pat Troop, HPA chief executive, said: "This study is a valuable addition to our understanding of HPV infection in women in England and should contribute to effective policies to prevent genital warts and cervical cancer.

"With the government's recent announcement of the possible introduction of HPV vaccination, such research will help us and other public health experts to determine the impact of HPV vaccination."

The Department of Health, acting on a recommendation from a committee of experts, announced plans in June to start a HPV vaccination programme next year.

It is likely that girls aged 12 to 13 will be offered the vaccine in three doses over a six-month period. There will be no compulsion.

At present, there are two vaccines designed to be used in a vaccination programme.

Gardasil, made by Merck and Sanofi Pasteur, has already been approved in many countries, while Cervarix, mae by GlaxoSmithKline, is expected to be launched in Europe later this year.

Latest data on Gardasil shows it protects against a total of 14 different strains of HPV, all of which can cause pre-cancerous lesions.

It provides almost complete protection against HPV types 16 and 18 - which together cause 75% of cervical cancer worldwide.

Sex education

Juliet Hillier, of the sexual health charity Brook, said of the latest research: "Statistics like this demonstrate a real need to improve education and prevention programmes which target young people.

"The government must urgently implement a vaccination programme for girls and boys before they become sexually active and ensure resource is available to do so."

Norman Wells, from the Family Education Trust, said: "These disturbing figures highlight the failure of sex education programmes which tell children that there is nothing wrong with sex at any age so long as they use a condom."

The HPA also released a "modelling" study showing that a vaccination programme would be a cost-effective use of NHS resources if the jab protected girls against cervical cancer for at least 20 years.

Its research showed that up to 70% of cases of cervical cancer and 95% of cases of genital warts in men and women could be prevented by the jab.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

giving middle-aged people 30 extra years of youthful life

So there you have it. We will almost certainly take centuries to reach the level of control over aging that we have over the aging of vintage cars—totally comprehensive, indefinite maintenance of full function—but because longevity escape velocity is not very fast, we will probably achieve something functionally equivalent within only a few decades from now, at the point where we have therapies giving middle-aged people 30 extra years of youthful life.


Monday, 17 September 2007

Brits 'dying not to do exercise'

reposted from:

Brits 'dying not to do exercise'
Man sat watching TV
Lack of exercise increases the risk of heart disease and cancer
Most UK adults are so unwilling to exercise that not even the threat of an early death is enough to get them off the sofa,
a survey suggests.

Only 38% of people questioned by YouGov said they would do more exercise if their life depended on it.

And British Heart Foundation figures show only a third of people manage to do enough exercise to achieve the minimum recommended amount.

Experts warned inactivity is dangerous even in those who are a healthy weight.

Among the 2,100 people surveyed, brisk walking was found to be the favourite way of getting exercise - before dancing, swimming or going to the gym.

Physical activity and obesity are two different risk factors so even if you're lean, if you're inactive you increase your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease
Dr David Haslam, National Obesity Forum

However, only 4% said they found exercise fun.

A greater inspiration was exercising to change body shape, particularly among women and young adults.

Almost a third of 18 to 24-year-olds reported they would do more exercise if they saw an unflattering photo of themselves or were told they looked fat.

Other less predictable forms of motivation to work out included fancying someone at the gym.


only 13% of men and 7% of women said keeping a healthy heart was their main motivator.

Excuses for not exercising were found to be always close at hand - from not having enough time to the one in seven who blame bad weather for not doing enough physical activity.

Deadly serious

The British Heart Foundation, which

is launching a campaign to encourage people to up their heart rate for 30 minutes a day,
says that
someone dies every 15 minutes as a direct result of physical inactivity.

Dr Mike Knapton, director of prevention and care at the BHF, said it was a "deadly serious" problem.

"With our busy lifestyles and labour-saving devices we've stopped getting the exercise our bodies desperately need.

"For many people, exercise has become an ugly word, something to avoid at all costs - but you'd be amazed how easy it is to up the tempo of your heartbeat.

"Just 30 minutes a day will do you and your heart the world of good."

The government recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five times a week.

Dr David Haslam, clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, said it made for depressing reading but confirmed what had been shown in clinical trials, where even those who had a heart attack did not change their lifestyles.

"Children instinctively exercise when left to their own devices, but they don't because they're stopped from doing that by the school curriculum and parents scared of child abductors and murderers lurking on every corner.

"So, if it doesn't become a habit, you're not going to work hard to go against the tide and introduce it as an adult."

He added that exercise could be incorporated into everyday life.

"Physical activity and obesity are two different risk factors, so even if you're lean, if you're inactive you increase your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease,"
he said.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Many Britons are unaware how to follow a healthy, balanced diet

reposted from:

Many Britons are unaware how to follow a healthy, balanced diet, the official food watchdog has said.
A survey by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) suggests widespread ignorance about how much starchy food like rice, bread and pasta should be eaten.
And there is confusion over what can contribute towards the target "five a day" intake of fruit and vegetables.
Conflicting messages from different weight-loss diets could be responsible for the misconceptions, says the FSA.
Only 11% of people correctly said it was important to eat lots of starchy foods, the survey of 2,094 people found.

45% realised tinned fruit and veg count towards "five a day"
54% correct in saying frozen fruit and veg can count
53% realised dried fruit count
73% recognised importance of eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
19% wrongly thought eating plenty of fruit and veg could "outweigh" eating fatty, sugary foods
58% realised foods high in fat and sugar should only be eaten occasionally
The FSA has re-designed the image it uses to show what makes up a healthy diet - the newly-designed "eatwell plate" uses photos of different foods and renames some food groups.
The organisation's head of nutrition, Rosemary Hignett, said consumers ought to know the proportions of each food group needed for a healthy balanced diet.
"It's not a 10-minute fad. It's a diet for life that we know will help reduce the number of diet-related illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers which are on the rise in the UK," she said.
"This is about a simple, straightforward approach that allows us to enjoy a varied diet that includes foods from all groups."
Potatoes do not count towards the target "five a day" portions of fruit and vegetables, says the FSA, but baked beans do.
A healthy, balanced diet, according to its guidelines, should be made up of
  • around one third fruit and vegetables
  • one third bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods
  • 15% milk and dairy foods
  • 12% meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
  • and just 8% food and drink high in fat or sugar

The new image will be used by, among others, dieticians, nutritionists and the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Do patients have the right to demand experimental medications?

reposted from:

Do patients have the right to demand experimental medications?

In the October 2007 issue of Scientific American, we cover a controversial lawsuit that challenges the FDA's system of controlling access to drugs that are still in clinical trials. From the article:

Abigail Burroughs was only 21 when she died. If her father and his supporters get their wish, however, she will attain a kind of immortality, joining Brown, Griswold, Roe and Miranda in the band of ordinary citizens whose personal travails have permanently changed the way Americans live.

A lawsuit, Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs v. Andrew von Esch en bach, contends that government regulations kept Burroughs from obtaining potentially lifesaving experimental cancer medicines that her doctor recommended, violating her constitutional right to defend her life. The U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia ruled against this claim in August, and the plaintiffs plan to appeal to the U.S.

What do you think?

Children 'not exercising enough'

reposted from: bbc

Children 'not exercising enough'
Obese child (Science Photo Library)
Rates of obesity are increasing
Only one in 40 11-year-olds meets the national target of an hour of physical exercise a day, say researchers.

A University of Bath study of 5,595 children found that 95% of boys and 99.6% of girls fell short of this time.

The Archives of Disease in Childhood study follows a warning that the NHS must do more to counter obesity.

The report paints a bleaker picture than the last Health Survey of England, in 2002, which claimed that many more children were meeting the standard.

This suggests, it's asking a lot to expect children to do an hour of moderate or vigorous exercise a day
Calum Mattocks

The study centred on a group of children from the greater Bristol area monitored since birth by scientists seeking to unravel links between lifestyle and illness.

In this study, 5,595 boys and girls were fitted with an "accelerometer" - which measures precisely how they move, and can detect moderate or strenuous exercise - for seven days.

It revealed that children averaged just 17 minutes of moderate exercise, and two minutes of "vigorous" exercise a day.

Illness risks

Calum Mattocks, one of the researchers, said they were "surprised" to find so few children managing an hour of physical activity over the course of a day.

He said that even though the hour target was the result of expert consensus, it was possible that it was too ambitious.

When you think about playtime, getting to and from school, running around at home, it's quite possible to have an hour's exercise
Dr Richard Winsley
Exeter University

"This suggests it's asking a lot to expect children to do an hour of moderate or vigorous exercise a day."

He added: "We should remember that, even though it does not appear that children are doing much exercise, they are still doing, on average, twice as much as adults."

The research paints a far bleaker picture of children's exercise rates compared with the official figures within the Health Survey for England.

The most recent survey, in 2002, suggested that 77% of boys and 64% of girls were meeting the standard at the age of 11.

Too little exercise in childhood has been linked to an increased risk of obesity in adulthood, which in turn raises the risk of serious diseases such as heart disease or cancer.

NHS burden

This week, a report commissioned by the King's Fund suggested that the rising rate of obesity, and the associated extra costs of healthcare for those affected, posed a greater risk to the future of the NHS than had been previously suggested.

We are all becoming expert at engineering physical activity out of our daily lives
Steve Shaffelberg
British Heart Foundation

Sir Derek Wanless, who wrote the report, said: "Nobody knows how big the bills are going to be but they look quite frightening."

Dr Richard Winsley, from the Children's Health and Exercise Research Centre at Exeter University, said that evidence from other studies suggested that even more than an hour's exercise might be needed by children to protect their future health.

He said: "When you think about playtime, getting to and from school, running around at home, it's quite possible to have an hour's exercise at this age.

"Young children love to run around, and if you give them a safe place to do it, they will do it."

Steve Shaffelberg, of the British Heart Foundation, said: "We are all becoming expert at engineering physical activity out of our daily lives.

"In the last 20 years school car journeys have more than doubled, with less than 50% walking and just 1% cycling.

"The killer combination of far too little physical activity together blended with a diet heavy with soft drinks and snacks is driving rising rates of obesity among British children, and threatening their health."

A government spokesman said tackling obesity was a top priority, and a new strategy would be published in the autumn.

He said: "There are no overnight, easy solutions to creating a culture where every child has a healthy life, actively supported by their parents.

"We absolutely recognise that we must go further and faster."

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Fat chance

reposted from: guardian

Fat chance

The window of opportunity to tackle the obesity crisis is rapidly closing and the present token measures will be totally ineffectual.

Another Wanless review warns of dire consequences unless radical action is taken to aid the recuperation of an ailing health service and its clientele. Yet it should surprise no one that

obesity continues its remorseless upward trend and that this will impose an extraordinary burden - even greater than it already does - on the already stretched health system, the economy and, implicitly, on people's lives and wellbeing.

The latest report from Derek Wanless and his team refers to key determinants that have worsened since his 2002 review, "particularly the unforeseen rise in adult and childhood obesity". Unforeseen? This would depend upon which direction one is looking.

Evidence of the decline in healthy weight and the across-the-board increase in the average weight of the entire population and, with it, the continuing growth in obesity, has been monitored annually and headlined in government statistics ever since the Health of the Nation white paper

in 1992 established the improbable target to return adult obesity rates to the 6-8% level they were a quarter of a century ago.
The target was abandoned, but the alarm bells have continued to ring.

Sir John Bourn, comptroller and auditor general, presenting the National Audit Office's first report on obesity told parliament in 2001:

"Nearly two thirds of men and over half of women in England are now overweight or obese.
And the problem here is increasing faster than in most other European countries. If prevalence continues to rise at the current rate,
more than one in four adults will be obese by 2010
. This would significantly increase the incidence of associated diseases, such as coronary heart disease, and would cost the economy over £3.5bn a year by that date."

As a deliberately conservative prediction, this underestimated the scale and cost of the problem. Wanless notes higher levels of obesity predicted by 2010, when some 33% of men, 28% of women, and one in five boys and girls will be obese.
Even if the Department of Health's Public Service Agreement (PSA) target to halt the year on year increase in obesity in children under 11 is reached by then - and it won't be - it would mean accepting as some sort of achievement that only 20% of our children will be obese.

The consequences of failure to tackle obesity was made clear in the government's 2004 white paper Choosing Health, which forecast an 18% increase in heart attacks, 28% increase in hypertension, and a 54% increase in type 2 diabetes by 2023. Yet there seems to be little real political appetite to take more effective preventive measures that might avert this costly scenario and permit the next generation to grow up at a healthier weight than their parents.

The nod towards a healthier diet is little more than that - with the focus on lifestyle choices leaving individuals to take the initiative. We make do with small gestures such as free fruit for a few infants but not for all children, or an allowance - the equivalent to the price of a weekly cappuccino - for pregnant women to improve their diet, but not given until it is too late to make any difference to those in real need.

The fundamental need to make comprehensive improvements across the entire spectrum of the food on offer, and to protect children effectively from the promotion and availability of junk food has still to be properly addressed.

To halt the obesity trend requires more realistic and comprehensive approaches to improve the quality of the nation's diet - and activity.
We should recognise, as we did with smoking, that the external costs of continuing the unbridled promotion of a vast range of poor nutritional value products will be borne by all of us, not just in the enormous burden on health services, but in many other aspects of daily life.

The cost of obesity in the US already exceeds $125bn a year - and is rising. The UK is following the same downward spiral. The trends and consequences can no longer be called "unforeseen".

It is time to take much bolder steps in a different, healthier direction.

Harvard cooks the books on weight and mortality

the scientific evidence for higher mortality for overweight BMI may go back decades - but online evidence is limited
clipped from
The story is simple: That it's well-established scientific fact that being "overweight"--that is, having a body mass index figure of between 25 and 30--is, in the words of Harvard professors Walter Willett and Meir Stampfer, "a major contributor to morbidity and mortality."
According to this line of argument, there's simply no real scientific dispute about the "fact" that average-height women who weigh between 146 and a 174 pounds, and average-height men who weigh between 175 and 209 pounds, are putting their lives and health at risk.
t's difficult to exaggerate the extent to which the actual scientific evidence fails to support any of this. In fact, the current evidence suggests that what the Harvard crew is saying is not merely false, but closer to the precise opposite of the truth. For the most part, the so-called "overweight" BMI range doesn't even correlate with overall increased health risk. Indeed "overweight," so-called, often correlates with the lowest mortality rates.
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Cancer doubt remains over mobiles

reposted from bbc

Cancer doubt remains over mobiles
Child using a mobile phone
Campaigners fear mobile phones damage health
The long-term cancer risk of mobile phone use cannot be ruled out, experts have concluded.

A major six-year research programme found a "hint" of a higher cancer risk.

But the UK Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHRP) did rule out short-term adverse effects to brain and cell function.

Researchers are now expanding the programme to look at phone use over 10 years, and the specific impact on children, which has not been studied.

The MTHRP programme, funded by the government and communications industry, has carried out 23 separate studies into the health impact of mobile phones, masts and base stations.

We can't rule out the possibility at this stage that cancer could appear in a few years' time
Professor Lawrie Challis

Programme chairman Professor Lawrie Challis said it was now up to the government to offer advice.

The team found that there was a slight excess reporting of brain and acoustic neuroma (ear) cancers.

Researchers said this was on the borderline of statistical significance.

Professor Challis said that it was only responsible to do more research, citing the way smoking was not linked to lung cancer at first.

Time will tell

He said: "We can't rule out the possibility at this stage that cancer could appear in a few years' time.

"With smoking there was no link of any lung cancer until after ten years."

He said the problem during the study was that there had been very few people using mobile phones for over ten years.

Cancers do not normally appear until ten to 15 years after exposure.

But he said overall the evidence that mobiles did not pose a significant health risk was "pretty reassuring".

The current precautionary approach - involving limited restrictions on mast-siting relating to schools for example and advice about limiting use by young children - is reasonable
Dr Evan Harris, of the Lib Dems

The team looked at factors affecting blood pressure, heart rate, and electrical hypersensitivity, which include symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and tingling.

They concluded there was no risk.

It was established following publication of an independent government-commissioned report into the safety of mobile phones in 2000.

The report, produced by a group led by Sir William Stewart, concluded that mobile phones did not appear to harm health - but recommended further research was carried out.

However, in 2005 Sir William warned that mobile phone use by children should be limited as a precaution - and that under-eights should not use them at all.

There are now 70 million mobile phone handsets in the UK, and around 50 thousand masts.

Both emit radio signals and electromagnetic fields that can penetrate the human brain, and campaigners fear that this could seriously damage human health.

Lib Dem science spokesman Dr Evan Harris said the findings were "good news for the public", but it was only right more research was carried out.

"The current precautionary approach - involving limited restrictions on mast-siting relating to schools for example and advice about limiting use by young children - is reasonable and this research demonstrates that there is as yet no justification for a more restrictive approach."

But a spokeswoman for the Mast Sanity campaign group said: "We believe mobiles are harmful to health, plenty of other studies have shown this.

"The programme has not really got to the bottom of this, it is too close to industry."

Friday, 7 September 2007

Keeping your teeth clean could help prevent a heart attack, claim doctors

clipped from

Brushing and flossing your teeth could save you from a heart attack, claim experts.

Doctors found those with the worst blockages in their arteries had the most severe gum disease.

There is mounting evidence of a link between gum disease and heart disease, but a study claims to be the first to show that the severity of each disease may also be connected.

Chronic gum disease is called periodontitis, which occurs when waste material or plaque collects around the teeth and irritates the gums. Plaque is removed when teeth are looked after properly.
It is not clear how gum disease may trigger heart problems, although it is thought that bacteria released from the infected gums are the key.
The bacteria enter the bloodstream where they may activate the immune system, making artery walls inflamed and narrowed, or attach directly to fatty deposits already present in the arteries which causes further narrowing.
"The most severe teeth disease was associated with the most widespread arterial lesions,"
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Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Gene 'controls body fat levels'

reposted from bbc

Gene 'controls body fat levels'
Obesity may be at least partly in the genes
A single gene can keep in check the tendency to pile on fat, scientists have shown.

The University of Texas team manipulated the gene, called adipose, to alter the amount of fat tissue laid down by fruit flies, worms and mice.

If the same effect could be achieved in humans, which also carry the gene, it is hoped it could lead to new ways to fight obesity and diabetes.

The study is published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Maybe if you could affect this gene, even just a little bit, you might have a beneficial effect on fat
Dr Jonathan Graff
University of Texas

Lead researcher Dr Jonathan Graff said: "From worms to mammals, this gene controls fat formation.

"It could explain why so many people struggle to lose weight, and suggests an entirely new direction for developing medical treatments that address the current epidemic of diabetes and obesity.

"Maybe if you could affect this gene, even just a little bit, you might have a beneficial effect on fat."

The adipose gene was discovered in fat fruit flies more than 50 years ago, but scientists had not pinned down its exact role.

The Texas team used several methods to turn the gene on and off at different stages of the animals' lives and in various parts of their bodies.

Their work suggested that

the gene acts as a high-level master switch that tells the body whether to accumulate or burn fat.

Health impact

Mice with experimentally increased adipose activity ate as much or more than normal mice.

However, they were leaner, had diabetes-resistant fat cells, and were better able to control insulin and blood-sugar metabolism.

In contrast, animals with reduced adipose activity were fatter and less healthy, and had diabetes.

The researchers also showed that gene activity could be turned up or down, not just on or off.

Dr Graff said this increased the potential to manipulate its effect to treat obesity.

The next step will be to probe further the exact mechanisms by which the gene exerts its control.

Dr David Haslam, clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, warned that

it could take many years to develop genetic treatments for obesity.

In the meantime, he said, the only way to tackle the problem effectively was to encourage people to eat healthily and take exercise.

"I don't want patients coming to me saying: 'It's not what I eat, it's all in my genes'," he said.

"Don't give my patients another excuse to be victims."

End of Aging -The Next Great Paradigm Shift?

reposted from Daily Galaxy

September 05, 2007

End of Aging -The Next Great Paradigm Shift?

Aging_3 In his new non-fiction Amazon bestseller, Ending Aging, Aubrey de Grey, champions recent progress in genetics and calorie-restricted diets in laboratory animals that hold forth the promise that someday science will enable us to exert total control over our own biological aging and substantially slow down the aging process.

Aubrey de Grey is convinced that he has formulated the theoretical means by which human beings might live thousands of years -- indefinitely, in fact.

Like Francis Bacon, de Grey has never stationed himself at a laboratory bench to attempt a ­single hands-on experiment, at least not in human biology. He is a computer scientist who has taught himself natural science, and has set himself toward the goal of transforming the basis of what it means to be human.

Dr. de Grey, who holds a rare University of Cambridge degree on this basis of publications rather than classwork, believes that the key biomedical technology required to eliminate aging-derived debilitation and death entirely is now within reach —technology that would not only slow but periodically reverse age-related physiological decay, leaving us biologically young into an indefinite future—is now within reach.

In Ending Aging, Dr. de Grey and his research assistant Michael Rae describe the details of this biotechnology. They explain that the aging of the human body, similar to the aging of man-made machines, results from an accumulation of various types of damage. And, as with machines, this damage can periodically be repaired, leading to indefinite extension of the machine’s fully functional lifetime.

By demystifying aging and its postponement for the nonspecialist reader, de Grey and Rae systematically dismantle the fatalist presumption that aging will forever defeat the efforts of medical science.

The most realistic way to combat aging, de Gray suggests, is to rejuvenate the body at the molecular and cellular level, removing accumulated damage and restoring us to a biologically younger state. Comprehensive rejuvenation therapies can feasibly postpone age-related frailty and disease indefinitely, greatly extending our lives while eliminating, rather than lengthening, the period of late-life frailty and debilitation.

"The real issue," de Grey writes, "surely, was not which metabolic processes cause aging damage in the body, but the damage itself. Forty-year-olds have fewer healthy years to look forward to than twenty-year-olds because of differences in their molecular and cellular composition, not because of the mechanisms that gave rise to those differences. How far could I narrow down the field of candidate causes of aging by focusing on the molecular damage itself?"

Removing the causes of aging-related deaths will also eliminate all the suffering that aging inflicts on most people in the last years of their lives. Aging kills 100,000 people a day. Social concerns about the effects of defeating aging are legitimate but don’t outweigh the merits of saving so many lives and alleviating so much suffering.

"There are mutations in our chromosomes, of course, which cause cancer," de Grey muses. "There is glycation, the warping of proteins by glucose. There are the various kinds of junk that accumulate outside the cell (“extracellular aggregates”): beta-amyloid, the lesser-known transthyretin, and possibly other substances of the same general sort. There is also the unwholesome goo that builds up within the cell (“intracellular aggregates”), such as lipofuscin. There’s cellular senescence, the “aging” of individual cells, which puts them into a state of arrested growth and causes them to produce chemical signals dangerous to their neighbors. And there’s the depletion of the stem cell pools essential to healing and maintenance of tissue.

"And of course, there are mitochondrial mutations, which seem to disrupt cellular biochemistry by increasing oxidative stress. I had for a few years felt optimistic that scientists could solve this problem by copying mitochondrial DNA from its vulnerable spot at “ground zero,” within the free-radical generating mitochondria, into the bomb shelter of the cell nucleus, where damage to DNA is vastly rarer.

"Now, if only we had solutions like that for all of this other stuff, I mused, we could forget about the “butterfly effect” of interfering with basic metabolic processes, and just take the damage ITSELF out of the picture."

De Grey's call to action, writes Dr. Sherwin Nuland, clinical professor of surgery at Yale University School of Medicine and author of How We Die and The Art of Aging, "is the message neither of a madman nor a bad man, but of a brilliant, beneficent man of goodwill, who wants only for civilization to fulfill the highest hopes he has for its future.” An opinion darkly countered by Dr. Martin Raff, emeritus professor of biology at University College London and coauthor of Molecular Biology of the Cell: “Seems to me this man could be put in jail with reasonable cause.”

De Grey has formulated a wide-ranging plan for the comprehensive and eventually indefinite postponement of age-related physical and mental decline, named SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence). He is the organizer of an ongoing series of conferences and workshops that focus on the key biomedical research relevant to SENS, and he also oversees the Methuselah Foundation’s growing sponsorship of SENS research worldwide.

"For decades," de grey summarized, "my colleagues and I had been earnestly investigating aging in the same way that historians might “investigate” World War I: as an almost hopelessly complex historical tragedy about which everyone could theorize and argue, but about which nothing could fundamentally be done. Perhaps inhibited by the deeply ingrained belief that aging was “natural” and “inevitable,” biogerontologists had set themselves apart from the rest of the biomedical community by allowing themselves to be overawed by the complexity of the phenomenon that they were observing.

"To intervene in aging, I realized, didn’t require a complete understanding of all the myriad interacting processes that contribute to aging damage. To design therapies, all you have to understand is aging damage itself: the molecular and cellular lesions that impair the structure and function of the body’s tissues. Once I realized that simple truth, it became clear that we are far closer to real solutions to treating aging as a biomedical problem, amenable to therapy and healing, than it might otherwise seem."

Posted by Casey Kazan.

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Video: Aubrey de Grey -Defeat of Aging