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Home arrow Lecture Series arrow February 4, 2006: Aubrey de Grey, Ph.D.

February 4, 2006: Aubrey de Grey, Ph.D. PDF Print E-mail
Aubrey de GreyTitle: "Aging Causes Suffering - So Let's Fix It!" (Abstract)

Speaker:  Aubrey de Grey (Bio)

Date: Saturday February 4, 2006
Time: 4:30-6:15 p.m.
Location: 24769 Redlands Blvd., Ste. A
                Loma Linda, California 92354
Abstract: Whatever your religion, God teaches that the suffering of others is something we all have a duty to minimise.  We should do this not only by avoiding actions that cause suffering, but also by acting when we have a chance to alleviate suffering.  Yet, the one phenomenon that causes more suffering than any other (in the industrialised world, anyway) is generally treated as an exception to this rule.

Most people seem to think that aging is something that it's OK to combat in cosmetic or other minor ways, but that combating it as effectively as we try to combat other diseases -- curing it, for want of a better word -- is somehow inadvisable.  I will tell you why I think people should not treat aging as an exception: in other words, why we should work just as hard to cure aging as we are working to cure cancer, diabetes, or any other disease.

I will also talk about how this relates to the afterlife  When I see interviews with me on the TV or in the papers, nine times out of ten they say I'm working to create immortality.  I'm not!  Aging is just one cause of death -- a really horrible and slow one.  It's true that if we totally eliminated aging we'd probably live at least ten times as long as we do now, on average -- but we'd still be in just as much danger as ever of being hit by a truck, catching bird flu, whatever.

My opinion is that if you die of aging at age 80 or of bird flu at age 800, it's all the same to God.  Therefore, curing aging is not "playing God," as some people like to call it -- it doesn't attempt to change God's degree of control over our lives in the slightest.

About the speaker:  Aubrey de Grey is a biomedical gerontologist and bioinformatician at the Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, England. He is working to expedite the development of a 'cure' for human aging, a medical goal he refers to as engineered negligible senescence (senescence means the biological decline of aging). To this end, he has identified what he concludes are the seven areas of the aging process that need to be addressed medically before this can be done. He has been interviewed in recent years in many news sources, including the BBC, the New York Times, Fortune Magazine, Popular Science and, most recently, CBS's 60 Minutes.

Prior to his work as a biologist, de Grey was formally trained in computer science. In 1985 he received a B.A. in Computer Science. In 1995 de Grey turned his attention to the biology of aging and published the book "The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging". The book's contributions to the molecular biology of mitochondria in aging were well-received in the field. The book also controversially claimed that obviating damage to mitochondria might by itself extend lifespan significantly, though it stated that it was more likely that cumulative damage to mitochondria is a significant cause of senescence, but not the single dominant cause. In recognition of his book on mitochondria and other publications, in 2000 Cambridge granted de Grey a Ph.D. in biology.

Regarding his background as a computer scientist (in genetics), he states:

"There are really very important differences between the type of creativity involved in being a basic scientist and being an engineer. It means that I’m able to think in very different ways and come up with approaches to things that are different from the way a basic scientist might think."[1]

He argues that the fundamental knowledge necessary to develop effective anti-aging medicine mostly exists today, and that the science is actually ahead of the funding. He works to identify and promote specific technological approaches to the reversal of various aspects of aging, or as De Grey puts it, "the set of accumulated side effects from metabolism that eventually kills us,"[2], and for the more proactive and urgent approaches to extending the healthy human lifespan. Regarding this issue, De Grey is a supporter of life extension.

As of 2005, de Grey's current work at Cambridge centered around a detailed plan called Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) which is aimed at preventing age-related physical and cognitive decline. He is also the co-founder (with David Gobel) and chief scientist of the Methuselah Mouse Prize, a prize designed to accelerate research into effective life extension interventions by awarding monetary prizes to researchers who extend the lifespan of mice to unprecedented lengths. Regarding this, De Grey stated in March 2005 "if we are to bring about real regenerative therapies that will benefit not just future generations, but those of us who are alive today, we must encourage scientists to work on the problem of aging." The prize reached US$3 million in November 2005, after having reached US$1.5 million in August 2005. De Grey believes that once dramatic life extension of already middle-aged mice has been achieved, a large amount of funding will be diverted to this kind of research, which would accelerate progress in doing the same for humans.

Aubrey de Grey's website contains a list of his publications, several of which are intended as "introductions for the non-specialist."  Additional information about Dr. de Grey and his work can be found here:

[Bio Source: Modified version of Wikipedia profile]
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