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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Monday, December 06, 2010

Some cold water on life extension for mice

Kyle Munkittrick says: "Mice engineered to lack telomerase aged prematurely. When given telomerase treatments, the mice rejuvenated to age-appropriate health without adverse side-effects. That’s it. That’s the extend of the discovery."


josef johann said...

Aubrey de Grey, who likely stirred up most of the web interest in life extension in mice with his Ted talk, happens to agree.

Finally, for cancer, which is the most lethal consequence of mutations, I advocate using gene therapy to delete the genes for telomerase and to eliminate telomerase-independent mechanisms of turning normal cells into “immortal” cancer cells. To compensate for the loss of telomerase in stem cells, we would introduce new stem cells every decade or so.

LE: Haven’t the biogerontologists Michael Fossel and Michael West advocated telomerase as a means of extending life span?

ADG: Michael West only really advocated telomerase stimulation as a life extension therapy rather tentatively and briefly. Michael Fossel is still keen on it, but I think there is overwhelming evidence now that he’s wrong.

LE: Can you outline some of the evidence you have in mind? If cancer can be eliminated by other means, won’t telomerase in dividing cells be a more lasting solution to aging than stem cells?

ADG: The evidence that telomerase stimulation is not a fountain of youth is quite wide ranging. Perhaps the strongest evidence is the fact that mice with no genes for telomerase are absolutely fine, even though normal mice have far more telomerase in far more tissues than humans do. Mice only begin to show disease associated with short telomeres after being inbred without telomerase for several generations. So even if cancer could be eliminated by other means, we would be unlikely to derive much benefit from telomerase stimulation. But most important, I don’t think cancer can be eliminated by other means. We have underestimated cancer before. If we underestimate cancer again when we are fixing all other kinds of aging damage, the other fixes won’t be of much benefit because we will still be dying of cancer. So I favor giving cancer the respect it deserves.

So he actually favors eliminating telomerase!

John Pieret said...

That’s the extend of the discovery.

Not necessarily. There is, I believe, a rare condition where children rapidly age prematurely. This may not be common but the results are tragic and this may point to a treatment.

josef johann said...

Are my comments radioactive, or what?

I'm certain I posted one about Aubrey de Grey yesterday.

Anyway, the short version of my comment is Aubrey de Grey's TED Talk probably has done a lot to popularize life extension and research in mice.

But Aubrey de Grey does not support telomerase treatments for life extension. He actually supports gene therapy for deleting telomerase as a way of defeating cancer.

So he's been throwing cold water on this as much as anybody.

Russell Blackford said...

Found it, Josef. Occasionally Blogger throws a legit comment into the spam folder, but I do check the spam folder regularly and try to avoid deleting any such comments. It takes a bit longer though, because I get a LOT of spam and I don't monitor that folder, like, continuously.

My apologies for the delay.