Dr. de Grey believes that someone alive today could live for 1,000 years or perhaps forever. His research is focused on repairing the wear on the body that results in aging.
His hopes are for preventative treatments that will enable the human body to “re-repair” without the limitations of time. This therapy is aimed at a person’s body being able to re-repair itself over and over as needed, into infinity.
In discussing his research with Express, Dr. de Grey points out that the human body is simply a biological machine. Like any machine, human bodies have many moving parts.
He compares these parts to those a car. “…it [car] accumulates damage throughout life as a consequence of normal operation.” The human body does the very same thing (2).
How SENS Plans to Restore Youth
The SENS Research Foundation states that the root cause of aging is, “the burden of decades of unrepaired damage to the cellular and molecular structures that make up the functional units of our tissues.” This begins on the microscopic level (3).
The Foundation’s website explains that regenerative medicine principles must be applied at the level of the damage where it occurs. To achieve this goal, these scientists are working to develop “a new kind of medicine”.
This medicine would consist of “regenerative therapies” that are designed to “remove, repair, replace, or render harmless the cellular and molecular damage”.
This rejuvenation biotechnology will basically rebuild the tissue structures that have been damaged over time. The medicine will re-establish the right order of the tissue that it had prior to the damage. The process will then return the normal function of cells and thereby restore health and “the body’s youthful vigor.”
Seven Major Classes of Damage
According to Dr. de Grey, researchers have accumulated data over the years about the aging process. This research revealed there are only seven major classes of “cellular and molecular damage”. He states that there aren’t any other causes since no others have been discovered in almost a generation of research.
Dr. de Grey states that each type of damage is what makes the human body become frail. This frailty usually appears during the 60s and then it accelerates. The human body succumbs to ill-health and deteriorates.
The Foundation’s website outlines each of these causes of damage through the aging process and the years each cause was discovered. In addition, they give their rejuvenation biotechnology response to undo the damage.
–> Cell loss, tissue atrophy (1955)
–> Cancerous cells (1959, 1982)
–> Mitochondrial mutations (1972)
–> Death-resistant cells (1965)
–> Extracellular matrix stiffening (1958, 1981)
–> Extracellular aggregates (1907)
–> Intracellular aggregates (1959)
In addition, the website offers links to their research on how to correct the damage for each of the seven causes of aging. According to the website, “…we now understand how to fix all of this damage.”
This is explained further, “For each major class of aging damage, a strategy for its removal or repair either already exists in prototype form, or is foreseeable from existing scientific developments.”
How Scientists Could Repair Damaged Cells
The SENS scientists and the various researchers the group funds around the world have a specific strategy for each of the seven classes of cellular damage that accumulate and directly cause aging (4).
They are quick to warn that the rejuvenation therapies are not a one-time fix. People would require periodic therapies or tune-ups. In the analogy of the human body being like a car, the therapy would be much like the kind of maintenance needed to keep a car in good working condition.
An example of the funding that SENS Research Foundation does for related research can be found at Wake Forest University Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC (5).
Dr. Graça Almeida-Porada is working to engineer new intestinal tissue for gut tissue transplantation that would be done for people suffering from “inflammatory bowel disease, or whose intestines have been damaged by radiation therapy during treatment for pelvic or abdominal cancer.”
In addition, this engineered intestinal tissue could be used as a rejuvenation therapy to “reverse the damage done by aging that results in “the loss of nutrient absorption and immune function”.
Another funding at Wake Forest is for Dr. John Jackson’s research for “engineering a new thymus gland.” The new thymus gland would “restore youthful immune function”. This is very significant since the thymus gland shrinks with age.
With this type of forward thinking research, many scientists believe that humanity is standing on the cusp of unlocking the secret to immortality. What would a world of immortals look like? Would the world advance beyond human downfalls? What could you accomplish if you had eternity and youth?
References & Image Credits:
(1) TSW: This Scientist Injected Himself with 35 Million Year Old Bacteria for Immortality
(4) SENS: Annual Report
(5) SENS: Cell Loss and Atrophy
(6) Photo of Aubrey de Grey