Ending Aging

Ending Aging by Aubrey de Grey is one of the more revolutionary books I’ve read ever. It doesn’t just ask the question ‘Can we live forever’? No, it proposes concrete research directions for solving the causes of death.

I currently follow some of the research and it’s amazing to see what has happened in the last 11 years (since 2008). In some time I would very much like to be involved with solving ageing.

Here are some of my notes from the book:

  • dedication: “To the tens of millions whose indefinite escape from ageing depends on our actions today”
  • Aubrey’s insight was to stop focusing on the (very difficult) problem of metabolism. He just looked at the damage it causes and how to heal that
  • All you have to understand is the damage itself. Take that away, take ageing away
  • In industrialised countries, more than 90% of people die of ageing (vs homicide, suicide, road accidents, etc)
  • “The average person in the industrialised world consumes more health-care resources in his or her last year of life than in an entire life up to that point” (in other words, what if you could keep someone healthy, that seems to save an awful amount of money)
  • Aubrey wrote the book to shift public perception. To make ageing the new smoking. To let people think about the possibilities
  • He predicts that (from 2008) there is a 50/50 chance of finding solutions to the current ageing diseases by 2038. And that after that we will discover more and more at a rate that is quicker than that things will kill us
  • One thing I question is how equally this will be distributed. And at what rate therapies like this will be adopted. But better be sure that I wish to be part of it
  • A good point in the book is about diet. I think you should have a good diet, enjoy your food, and eat mostly plants. Aubrey agrees but doesn’t see it as a viable solution to ageing. It might add a few years but that is not what he is after (he has larger ambitions)
  • There is no biological limit/barrier of ageing. Our bodies just haven’t evolved the ‘right’ things to survive, because there was no evolutionary pressure to do so (already reproduced).
  • Prevention is better than combating the bad outcomes of a bad lifestyle. “Most people leave the serious maintenance of their car [body] until it’s too late”
  • SENS (his non-profit) identified 7 ways the body fails with age (and the path forward):
    1. Cell loss, cell atrophy (cell therapy)
    2. Junk outside cells (phagocytosis by immune stimulation)
    3. Crosslinks outside cells (AGE-breaking molecules/enzymes)
    4. Death-resistant cells (suicide genes, immune stimulation)
    5. Mitochondrial mutations (allotopic expression of 13 proteins)
    6. Junk inside cells (transgenic microbial enzymes)
    7. Nuclear mutations aka cancer (telomerase/ALT gene deletion plus periodic stem cell reseeding)

That is where I will leave it for now. Another day I will talk a bit more about the societal consequences, either here or on a future article on longevity.