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'Resetting' the biological clock
May 15, 2012 2:46 PM   Subscribe

First Gene Therapy Successful Against Aging-Associated Decline: Mouse Lifespan Extended Up to 24% With a Single Treatment A new study consisting of inducing cells to express telomerase, the enzyme which -- metaphorically -- slows down the biological clock -- was successful. The research provides a "proof-of-principle" that this "feasible and safe" approach can effectively "improve health span." [article]
posted by T.D. Strange (97 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Only rich people deserve access to this.
posted by DU at 2:48 PM on May 15, 2012 [18 favorites]


The mice subjected to the gene therapy now under test are likewise free of cancer. Researchers believe this is because the therapy begins when the animals are adult so do not have time to accumulate sufficient number of aberrant divisions for tumours to appear.

Obvious ethical concerns aside, this is an exciting observation. Extending lifespan is one thing, but extending it while remaining cancer-free seems another.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:49 PM on May 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


Only rich people deserve access to this.

Rich Baby Boomers. Then they'll pass a law that outlaws it when it's our turn.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:51 PM on May 15, 2012 [47 favorites]


The whole 'extending but without cancer' is HUGE.
posted by ZaneJ. at 2:52 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm been doing this for a couple hundred years now and I'm still cancer free.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:52 PM on May 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


Ironic, because lately, around my house, I've been researching ways to radically shorten mouse lifespan.
posted by bicyclefish at 2:52 PM on May 15, 2012 [81 favorites]


The mice subjected to the gene therapy now under test are likewise free of cancer. Researchers believe this is because the therapy begins when the animals are adult so do not have time to accumulate sufficient number of aberrant divisions for tumours to appear

...What? How does being older give less time for aberrant divisions?
posted by maryr at 2:54 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think I would easily roll the dice on 24% more years of cancer risk in exchange for 24% more years of life. Cancer can strike at any time, if you don't get cancer till 110 but can enjoy age 80 through 109 as if you were 78, it'd be a tremendous value.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:55 PM on May 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Mice treated at the age of one lived longer by 24% on average, and those treated at the age of two, by 13%"

In "human years" that's something like age 30 and age 60, assuming these were ordinary lab mice.

Rich Baby Boomers. Then they'll pass a law that outlaws it when it's our turn.

Assuming it works similarly in humans, by the time the therapy is available for human use the boomers will all be too old to derive much benefit.
posted by jedicus at 2:57 PM on May 15, 2012


The article continues: "Two of the mice escaped, and let out a group of rats. It's believed that the rodents perished in the air ducts."
posted by curious nu at 2:58 PM on May 15, 2012 [63 favorites]


I think I would easily roll the dice on 24% more years of cancer risk in exchange for 24% more years of life.

Sure, but I think the original fear was that, as telomerase expression seems to be a specific factor in tumor growth, that you would be increasing your risk of cancer far more than the amount you were increasing your lifespan.

Here is a SciAm article about this connection. As others are saying, it is pretty huge that this is apparently not a problem in this particular experiment.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:58 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Extending lifespan is one thing, but extending it while remaining cancer-free seems another.

There were about 30 mice included in this study.
posted by docgonzo at 3:02 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Only rich people deserve access to this.

I'm in the middle of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy right now. Lots of peripheral references to the economic implications of a technology like this.

Why is it that we get the dystopian aspects of SciFi but none of the good stuff? Where's my space elevator?
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 3:02 PM on May 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yay! More people!
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:03 PM on May 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


Adult mice are NOT GROWING therefore there is less cell division to generate aberrant cells which become tumors. That's why giving it to adult mice is important
posted by spicynuts at 3:05 PM on May 15, 2012


Adult mice are NOT GROWING

Of course they are. All of the epithelial tissues like skin, lungs, digestive lining, etc. are constantly growing.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:08 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bah. Does this mean I have to postpone my plans to get old and cranky in 30 years?
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:11 PM on May 15, 2012


Of course they are. All of the epithelial tissues like skin, lungs, digestive lining, etc. are constantly growing.

But on the other hand their brains, bones, muscles, etc are all growing much less, if at all. But young mice also have skin, lungs, etc. But adult mice are larger and so presumably have more cells in their skin, lungs, etc.

Which poses an interesting question: do infant or adult mammals have more cell divisions per day? And at what age does the answer change?
posted by jedicus at 3:12 PM on May 15, 2012


If mine is the last generation to grow old I'm gonna be pissed.

And if it's the last generation to grow old and the first to never die I'm gonna be pissed forever.
posted by nicwolff at 3:14 PM on May 15, 2012 [41 favorites]


Fascinating. Particularly because it works on adult and older animals.

A colleague of mine was working on a project linking differences in apoptotic mechanisms (programmed cell death) to the development of higher cognition. That is, humans have advanced intelligence, but also have cancer, while chimpanzees and other apes are less intelligent but have few recorded instances of cancer (both in the wild and in captivity). His hypothesis was that cancer and the sort of advanced intelligence that humans have are linked through differences in the programmed cell death mechanisms. He says telomerases were not among of the genes that expressed very differently between chimps and humans. Hopefully, altering telomerase expression, and cell death from aging, does not have any cognitive effects.
posted by Mercaptan at 3:17 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


While I've always fantasized about scifi stories where the characters can live forever, I have realized the older I get, the more (but very few overall) people I end up disliking to the point of avoiding completely. I kind of saw living a thousand years would mean I could probably only stand half a dozen people on earth and I'd hate the rest by then. I imagine the ratio would be worse for most people.
posted by mathowie at 3:18 PM on May 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


There were about 30 mice included in this study.

Which is a reasonable sample size (if on the low end) for establishing statistical significance, but I was careful to call it an observation. And, of course, it's no guarantee that something that works in mice would automatically work for humans. Still, it's an observation that seems worth following up on.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:21 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh man. The cats are gonna be pissed.
posted by schmod at 3:21 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bah. Does this mean I have to postpone my plans to get old and cranky in 30 years?

Why wait?
posted by maryr at 3:22 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


While I've always fantasized about scifi stories where the characters can live forever, I have realized the older I get, the more (but very few overall) people I end up disliking to the point of avoiding completely. I kind of saw living a thousand years would mean I could probably only stand half a dozen people on earth and I'd hate the rest by then. I imagine the ratio would be worse for most people.

I think Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged is probably the most realistic depiction of what immortality would be like. I know it would be for me, anyway.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:23 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh man. The cats are gonna be pissed.

Really? Most of the cats I know would be thrilled to minimize the number of mice that die a peaceful natural death, as opposed to death due to suddenly becoming a cat toy.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:25 PM on May 15, 2012


I'm holding out for the gene therapy that makes my life not suck.
posted by tommasz at 3:29 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Imagine what the political scene will look like when old rich people never die.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:29 PM on May 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


If (or when, I suppose) a viable mechanism for dramatically extending the human lifespan is developed, my greatest concern isn't getting access to the process. It's whether government will outlaw refusal of the process.
posted by O'Bama at 3:32 PM on May 15, 2012


Any possibility this might push us toward taking overpopulation more seriously?

Nah...I didn't think so...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:32 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


fuck politics, imagine the fucking art scene
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:32 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mercaptan: I've long suspected that cancer is a result of industrial society in some way - some combination of pollutants, a bad diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and monogamy probably increase one's chances of getting cancer. I have not tested this theory, of course, and I imagine that, were I a biologist (I am not) who had enough regard to get funding for studies, I'd still not be able to get funding for *this* study, given that, were it even proved partly true, to many powerful interests would stand to lose too much. But still.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:33 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, definitely. Rich people should continue to get richer and ALSO live much longer than everyone else, too. Hmm. Eventually, perhaps they will live so long that the lowly masses may actually imagine they are gods! Ah, can't wait.
posted by Glinn at 3:36 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


If they rush it into production for the rich and super rich already perishing, we may be... lets just say in the right place at the right time to witness a possible blysspluss effect.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:37 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, no. I've seen this episode.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:02 PM on May 15, 2012


Eustacescrubb: No need to test the theory. There's already plenty of evidence for what you're describing. The incidence and mortality associated with cancer is already shown to be strongly dependent on gender, geography, lifestyle, and age. You're talking mostly about geography and lifestyle.

Geography: For example, cancer rates in the US and other western nations are a lot higher than they are in Asia. This is some crazy combination of genetics, diet, environment, and lifestyle. Here the thought is that diet plays a strong role. Particularly since Asians who move to the US and maintain the Asian diet have lower cancer rates, while those who adopt Western diets have cancer rates closer to the US norm.

Lifestyle: Diet, as we mentioned before. And exposure to carcinogens. Potentially pollutants, but the big one really is smoking. Cancer death rates in the US took a serious nose dive after the anti-tobacco campaigns of the 80's and 90's.

Age: Live longer, and the odds of you developing cancer increase. It's just sheer odds. Cancer comes from the accumulation of mutations in key biological pathways over time. Exist for more time and you're likely to have more mutations. So you could argue that this is a by-product of industrial society, since we live longer as a result. But really it's just how we evolved. There is weak selection for traits that help us to live long lives after we reproduce and raise our young.
posted by Mercaptan at 4:04 PM on May 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


I don't want this for living. I want it for my pretty, pretty face. I can't bear the thought of trudging through another century, or even getting through my sixties at this rate, but I could use some help with my skin while I'm here.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:08 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


"No one lives forever, no one. But with advances in modern science and my high level income, it's not crazy to think I can live to be 245, maybe 300." -- Ricky Bobby
posted by A dead Quaker at 4:10 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


P.S. I don't know about monogamy. I'll volunteer for that study though.
posted by Mercaptan at 4:11 PM on May 15, 2012


I'm sure you were being facetious, but at least in the case of HPV, monogamy reduces cancer risk.

That said, a fun life is probably better than a long life.
posted by poe at 4:19 PM on May 15, 2012


This is why we have the HPV vaccine.
posted by Mercaptan at 4:21 PM on May 15, 2012


Imagine what the political scene will look like when old rich people never die.

Immortal Dick Cheney, people. Immortal. Dick. Cheney.
posted by emjaybee at 4:22 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


In 2007, Blasco's group demonstrated that it was feasible to prolong the lives of transgenic mice, whose genome had been permanently altered at the embryonic stage, by causing their cells to express telomerase and, also, extra copies of cancer-‐resistant genes. These animals live 40% longer than is normal and do not develop cancer.

Holy shit, you can just cause cells to express cancer resistant genes? Are there human trials on this already?
posted by jason_steakums at 4:29 PM on May 15, 2012


While I've always fantasized about scifi stories where the characters can live forever, I have realized the older I get, the more (but very few overall) people I end up disliking to the point of avoiding completely. I kind of saw living a thousand years would mean I could probably only stand half a dozen people on earth and I'd hate the rest by then. I imagine the ratio would be worse for most people.

Heh. It's not so much the ratio for me, but the Early Onset.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:33 PM on May 15, 2012


Basic Instructions: How to Wrestle with Technology's Disturbing Philosophical Implications
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:36 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


So when do we start making children stronger, faster, and better than before (for less than $50/child)? Because I'm really, REALLY looking forward to watching society wrap its head around that.
posted by Slackermagee at 4:40 PM on May 15, 2012


I'm afraid we're going to have to deactivate your telomerase treatment Mr. Anderson. Your bank account is showing insufficient funds. If you'd like to contact your bank to see if you can resolve the issue, we'll be happy to extend you this grace period. Otherwise...
posted by Dr. Peter Venkman at 4:45 PM on May 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Aubrey de Grey, right like a mo.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:47 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


So when do we start making children stronger, faster, and better than before (for less than $50/child)?Because I'm really, REALLY looking forward to watching society wrap its head around that.

Hmm, I read a story in Asimov's or F&SF a few years ago about exactly that. If I remember right the POV character's son turned out to be such a monster that he (the father) ended up killing him.
posted by adamdschneider at 4:54 PM on May 15, 2012


Aubrey de Grey, right like a mo.

Except I just met Jeremy van Raamsdonk a couple of days ago, who believes that the Free Radical Theory of Aging is wrong.
posted by sulphur at 5:05 PM on May 15, 2012


If rich people can buy their way out of death, I fear this will reduce political will to repeal the estate tax.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:07 PM on May 15, 2012


Folks, relax about the rich. I'm sure some rogue lab technician will start stealing equipment and materials and brewing the drug at home, and it will become available as a street drug. "Stepped on" forms, while cheaper, will extend your life by, say, a few months or a couple years. Then people will start freebasing it with known smokables so that you're high for decades. Horribly mutated forms of the drug cooked up by amateurs will result in some people aging in reverse, transforming into children, toddlers and infants who are centuries old. It's going to be awesome.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:13 PM on May 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm high on life.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:42 PM on May 15, 2012


Calorie restriction extended the lifespan of mice 30%-40% with less cancer than their shorter-lived control-group pals. In the rich mouse vs poor mouse longevity contest, the poor mice are still winning.
posted by the jam at 5:44 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Considering the demographics of our aging western world, anything that reduces senescence (the aging process) would be a net gain for society. Even if it didn't actually extend our lifespan, at least we could be happier and more productive while we're here.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:56 PM on May 15, 2012


This is great news! I have stacks and stacks of books around me I always intended to read. Now I have time, time, time. You might say I have time enough, at last.
posted by digsrus at 6:16 PM on May 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


I'm with Mr. Street. I'd rather live as a 25-year-old to age 70 then as an elderly man--for more than half my life!--to 140.
posted by maxwelton at 6:17 PM on May 15, 2012


While no doubt gene therapy is the way to retard aging, this particular study is pretty underwhelming. Sadly, as with any claims, claims by researches need to be carefully examined - it is an unfortunate fact of life, that exaggerated claims, incorrect conclusions and self promotion happen at high enough levels in medical research, that extreme caution is indicated.

In 2007, Blasco's group demonstrated that it was feasible to prolong the lives of transgenic mice, whose genome had been permanently altered at the embryonic stage, by causing their cells to express telomerase and, also, extra copies of cancer-‐resistant genes. These animals live 40% longer than is normal and do not develop cancer.

Yes, according to claims made in the abstract, claims which are not borne out by reading the actual study (the life extension, such as it was, was quite marginal).

Now, this study has several weaknesses, the biggest being too small a number of animals. Incidentally here's a link to the study:

Telomerase gene therapy in adult and old mice delays aging and increases longevity without increasing cancer

You should have at least 50 or so animals. But they had AAV9-GFP, n = 14; AAV9-mTERT, n = 21; and AAV9-mTERT-DN (catalytically inactive mTERT), n = 17; and (at 2 y initiation) AAV9-GFP, n = 14; AAV9-mTERT, n = 23. These were compared to 43 fully WT controls.

At these levels, random deaths of just a couple animals totally skews results - the danger of getting nothing but statistical noise here is overwhelming. To me, this alone says: FAIL.

They don't really supply proper data for survivorship at 1 year, while at 2 years, a close analysis shows 13% and 9% increases in mean and max LS (vs. GFP), but ALL of these animals are well within the historical norm for C57Bl/6 LS. Again - husbandry is a huge, huge issue in these types of studies - if I can get to the same or greater max or mean LS through proper husbandry, then your entire study is invalidated, because whatever treatment you are giving might merely be alleviating bad husbandry, and not a true life extension (example, if the diet you give the animals, lacks in f.ex. a vital vitamin, and you supply that vitamin and now "extend" the life span of the supplemented animals vs the improperly fed ones, what kind of "life extension" is this - it certainly is not compared to animals properly fed... i.e. your vitamin supplement would fail to extend the lifespan of properly fed animals). This is why it is critical to show max or mean LS extension against lifespan records of a given line of animals, not against a line of animals in your lab.

These guys might be onto something interesting, but you'd never know it based on this paper.
posted by VikingSword at 6:25 PM on May 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


Whenever I read a story like this, I can't help wondering whether or not the researchers have secretly tested this out on themselves. Wouldn't it be a huge temptation, regardless of the (no doubt huge) risks? On the other hand, I've probably read too many "mad scientist" stories.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 6:26 PM on May 15, 2012


Also? Roy Batty is going to be thrilled to hear this news.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 6:32 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd keep the quotes around "feasible and safe".
posted by benzenedream at 6:40 PM on May 15, 2012


Whenever I read a story like this, I can't help wondering whether or not the researchers have secretly tested this out on themselves. Wouldn't it be a huge temptation, regardless of the (no doubt huge) risks? On the other hand, I've probably read too many "mad scientist" stories.

See also: The Asphyx.

No, really, see it - it convinced me at a tender age that I would never want immortality.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:41 PM on May 15, 2012


El Sabor Asiatico: Whenever I read a story like this, I can't help wondering whether or not the researchers have secretly tested this out on themselves. Wouldn't it be a huge temptation, regardless of the (no doubt huge) risks? On the other hand, I've probably read too many "mad scientist" stories.

I thought about this too - however, my guess is that the virus that is appropriate to convey the gene to mice is probably not a suitable one to use for humans. While not the most 'fiction-friendly' result, my offhand guess is that it wouldn't infect you at all and thus be totally ineffective.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:43 PM on May 15, 2012


I have high hopes for this. Bathing in the blood of virgins is becoming... complicated.
posted by Ritchie at 6:44 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm just a caveman. Your world frightens and confuses me.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:48 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Good lord this thread is rich in funny...
posted by JoeXIII007 at 6:49 PM on May 15, 2012


This all reminds me of Nancy Kress's excellent novella, Fountain of Age, where there is a treatment that freezes the aging process for 20 years - but then you die:
Does this make sense? Freeze yourself at one age for twenty years and then zap! you’re dead. All right, so maybe it made sense for the old who didn’t want more deterioration, the dying who weren’t in too much pain. Although you couldn’t be too far gone or you wouldn’t have strength enough to stand the surgery that would save you. But younger people took D-treatments, too. Men and women who wanted to stay beautiful and didn’t mind paying for that with their lives. Even some very young athletes who, I guess, couldn’t imagine life without slamming at a ball. Dancers. Holo stars. Crazy.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:31 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Aubrey de Grey, right like a mo.

Except I just met Jeremy van Raamsdonk a couple of days ago, who believes that the Free Radical Theory of Aging is wrong.


Because strong opinions on anti-aging treatment goes hand in hand with amazing surnames.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:33 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


To solve the population problem inherent in immortality-on-demand, I propose changing the aimed-for model from immortality-on-demand to immortality-upon-victory-in-the-televised-gladiatorial-arena.

I might have to think harder about this, because society would lose its Einsteins to MMA types... which would be bad... ooh unless we started producing MMA Einsteins! That would be more badass than bacon!
posted by -harlequin- at 7:40 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bah! Pentagram on the floor, turn around three times, prayer to the great satan, and Bob's yer Uncle.

Telomerase shelomerase.
posted by Trochanter at 8:06 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess my fear is that this will work on mice but not on humans, and so I shall have to grow old and die surrounded by immortal mice that mock me for my mortality.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:09 PM on May 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


I guess my fear is that this will work on mice but not on humans, and so I shall have to grow old and die surrounded by immortal mice that mock me for my mortality.

Wasn't that the plot of The Green Mile?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:20 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, and here I've been sacrificing to Belial this whole time like a goober.
posted by cmoj at 8:26 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


That and that bladder infections can be cured by forcible fondling from death-row prisoners.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:27 PM on May 15, 2012


I say this as someone who works for a gene therapy company: This will never ever work on humans, because it's a gene therapy. GT is the biggest money pit in pharma, it's like having a boat that runs on diamonds and catches fire.

It's the best idea that nobody has ever made work.
posted by joedanger at 8:44 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


To date, however, this has meant altering the animals' genes permanently from the embryonic stage -- an approach impracticable in humans.
Is it sciencedaily.com? Is it?

Actually I was thinking about that, if we know how to code mouse DNA to be cancer resistant or have extended lives, what's to prevent us from doing the same thing to humans? It wouldn't help current humans, but wouldn't you want your kids to be cancer free for life? or Live longer then most people?
posted by delmoi at 9:01 PM on May 15, 2012


I'm always surprised that some people think immortality would be a curse. Is it a lack of imagination? Because I can't think of anything more exciting than being able to explore every facet of everything. I already have a list of projects that I won't be able to complete in my life time and am always thinking up more.

Either that, or the mortalists have better time management skills . . .
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:11 PM on May 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Holy shit, you can just cause cells to express cancer resistant genes? Are there human trials on this already?
One of the people who did that (or something like that) was on the Colbert Report. The problem is, you need to do this to the mice as embryos. It's not something that can be 'patched' into an adult. So in theory you could modify a human embryo in the same way.

This new research did seem to involve 'patching' mice, but I'm not sure if it meant permanently modifying the genes or what.
posted by delmoi at 9:11 PM on May 15, 2012


...if we know how to code mouse DNA to be cancer resistant or have extended lives, what's to prevent us from doing the same thing to humans? It wouldn't help current humans, but wouldn't you want your kids to be cancer free for life? or Live longer then most people?

Sure! But it's a big leap from mouse to man, and there's so many ways that we could screw up a child's life by messing with their genes. Maybe they'd be cancer free until a certain age, and then have a dramatically increased chance of getting cancer, or heart disease, or purple people eater syndrome... On and on. Change one gene and it alters the effects of a hundred others. At least with an adult the genetic changes are going to be somewhat limited in scope.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:14 PM on May 15, 2012


This new research did seem to involve 'patching' mice, but I'm not sure if it meant permanently modifying the genes or what.

Yeah, that's the part that confuses me. If they got a modified virus to get adult mice to express cancer resistant genes, that's one hell of a bigger story than some mice living a bit longer without telomerase sending them to rampant tumor city (which is a huge story on its own!), because what the hell couldn't you do if you just unlocked the secret to splicing genes into adult animals? And with the talk of "after just one treatment" implying that they can alter the genes of these adult mice at least temporarily, I mean, it seems like that's what they're saying? And if so, this is like the lone example of understatement I can think of in contemporary science journalism.

So I'm very much leaning towards "yeah, no, this didn't happen how they say it did" but usually by this point in a science journalism thread mefites very knowledgeable in the field would have already come by and eviscerated the article point by point. VikingSword's criticism of their methodology puts me even further in the skeptical camp, but I'm waiting for someone to call bullshit on the core claims.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:16 PM on May 15, 2012


a boat that runs on diamonds and catches fire.
that is the coolest thing i've heard today
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:39 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


if you don't get cancer till 110 but can enjoy age 80 through 109 as if you were 78, it'd be a tremendous value.

"Hooray! I feel like I'm only 78 again!"
*spontaneously breaks a hip*
posted by pracowity at 11:56 PM on May 15, 2012


If I could live longer, and have the funds to have decent health care, travel to the places I want to see, sit on the deck and read books, listen to music, read interesting stuff on the Internet, make friends, re-connect with old friends, see more sunsets/ full moons/ summers, etc., it would be pretty great. But if it's another 50 years of work, which sucks for me right now, that's pretty depressing. Would we really develop more wisdom with an older population? I wish that would be true.
posted by theora55 at 12:02 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If people didn't experience the decline of senescence (or if it was significantly slowed down), I think we'd see a lot less extremism and one-track thinking. So many of our flaws are driven by fear of death and the anger that comes from loss of vitality. So many people become set in their ways as they get older because they're afraid of losing everything.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:53 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yah, I have to admit I don't really understand the arguments against longevity. Obviously there would be problems we couldn't predict, but if we assume that people who want to sign up have to undergo sterilization, then in the medium term we effectively cut our public spending needs in half as health care and education costs drop to the floor.

Couple this with the transition to a society where 90% of people are fit to work, and what you have is an economic revolution that can't even be imagined in scope. The practical benefits of regenerative medicines are almost incalculable.

The costs of any such treatment will be fairly negligable next to the economic gain, and so these 'rich people will get theirs first' arguments ring false to me. And if you begin to find life interminably boring, there are just as many ways available as before to kill yourself. I, personally, though, would like the choice.
posted by Alex404 at 1:02 AM on May 16, 2012


I have to admit I don't really understand the arguments against longevity.

As my dad always says whenever somebody asks 'who would want to live to 150?': Anyone who's 149.
posted by colie at 1:29 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


If mine is the last generation to grow old I'm gonna be pissed.

And if it's the last generation to grow old and the first to never die I'm gonna be pissed forever.
posted by nicwolff


Obligatory Mitchell and Webb.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:45 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have to admit I don't really understand the arguments against longevity.

I read this a few months ago. Good read, sparked a few good conversations about the dangers of longevity.

Also I work in the pensions industry - economically, increases in longevity are unlikely to be good news.
posted by khites at 7:23 AM on May 16, 2012


I kind of saw living a thousand years would mean I could probably only stand half a dozen people on earth and I'd hate the rest by then. I imagine the ratio would be worse for most people.

If you lived long enough you could pork your own clones.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:11 AM on May 16, 2012


Imagine what the political scene will look like when old rich people never die.

Just because they are unlikely to die of natural causes doesn't mean that certain things cannot be..... arranged.
posted by elizardbits at 8:18 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also I work in the pensions industry - economically, increases in longevity are unlikely to be good news.

Depends on the kind of longevity. If healthy lifespan is extended, then people can keep working longer. If people enter a holding pattern at age 80, then yeah that's a problem.
posted by jedicus at 8:24 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If lifespan is actually extended, pensions will need to be rethought, along with inheritance laws and a lot of other stuff that's currently designed to fit within a "normal" human lifespan.
posted by Kevin Street at 8:57 AM on May 16, 2012


If you lived long enough you could pork your own clones.

Now we know who Robert Heinlein reincarnated as, "octobersurprise"...
posted by IAmBroom at 11:29 AM on May 16, 2012


We would have also accepted "That's no way to pork your clones!"
posted by octobersurprise at 11:48 AM on May 16, 2012


I think Vikingsword has the gist of the shortcomings in sample size etc. In quickly looking over the paper, I think they did some nice work comparing some metabolic symptoms of aging, like insulin and bone density.

However, I am surprised that there was this much of a change. when they made tert deficient mice it took several (7 maybe?) generations to see age related defects, so how does re-introduction of tert as an adult show effects in a partial generation? Also, telomerase is regulated differently in mice and men, one of a few differences anyway.
posted by oshburghor at 1:51 PM on May 16, 2012


The Illusiveness Of Immortality: The longer our lives, the more we’ll realize that there’s no “self” living them
posted by homunculus at 10:38 PM on May 16, 2012


radical life extension will create fearful gerontocracies, where legions of seniors leer at the shrinking pool of sexy young.

That's just the music industry, now.
posted by colie at 2:15 AM on May 17, 2012


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