Aubrey de Grey, PhD, is Chairman and Chief Science Officer of the Methuselah Foundation. The core of his research is the identification of all forms of cellular and molecular damage whose accumulation contributes to human aging, and the design of interventions to remove, repair, replace, or render harmless all such damage so as to arrest or even reverse the biological aging process. He has published extensively on these and other areas of gerontology in the scientific literature, and is also Editor-in-Chief of the high-impact journal Rejuvenation Research, the only peer-reviewed academic journal focusing on intervention in aging.
Question: How do we fight aging now?
Aubrey de Grey: There are two possible ways to extend your life with action that you take today. One is to do things that allow you to maintain your health for a longer period. And the other is to act to hasten this research, so that the time when therapies come along which can rejuvenate you and give you another lease on life come along in time for you – even if you are going downhill. Those two things are … so to speak … independent criteria. Now it turns out that with the first criterion, there’s not much we can do, unless, of course, you are unusually susceptible to some particular age-related problem. Like, you know, some people come down with Type II Diabetes in their 30s. There are drugs for that. If you are the sort of normally healthy person whose natural lifespan is going to be 80 or more, then there is nothing to speak of that we can do that will extend your life by an appreciable amount – or at least that is proven to us to be able to do so. So we have to look at number two. And number two, the situation is completely different. It doesn’t matter who you are . . . whether you’re a scientist, or a broadcaster, or a journalist or a general member of the public. It doesn’t matter who you are. You can make a difference by contributing to the enthusiasm in society for this work by changing the mood of society, and thereby changing the funding environment so the work will be done more quickly. I personally, for example, don’t get enough sleep because I’m traveling all the time. I’m on the road. I’m trying to get this stuff to happen. And from a purely health point of view, that’s probably bad for me. It’s probably shortening my life. But I’m pretty sure that I’m bringing forward the day when these therapies will arrive. By a larger amount that I’m shortening my life. So even in my personally selfish stand, I’m probably winning. And of course, I’m not only doing it for selfish stand. I’m doing it to save your life as well.
Recorded on: 6/22/07