SAN FRANCISCO — Can modern medicine find a way to delay or even stop the aging process of the human body? Aubrey de Grey believes it is possible through better medicine that undoes years of molecular and cellular damage to the body.
De Grey is a biomedical gerontologist with the SENS Research Foundation who discussed his theories of regenerative medicine and the prevention of aging at the Inman Connect conference this week.
His research and theories are controversial, but he’s convinced there is a way we can bring nature under comprehensive medical control. “You have to bring a lot of ideas together and see how they fit together in a coherent technological way. It’s a technological design that will deliver the periodic repair of the body and postponement of ill health,” said de Grey.
He attributed the gains in longevity over the last century to one primary factor — the reduction of infectious diseases. With infectious diseases largely gone in the developed world, he said we need to turn our attention to the main cause of death.
“There’s almost one thing that kills everybody now in the developed world,” said de Grey. “It’s the accumulation of these various types of molecular and cellular damage that the body does to itself as a side effect of just being alive at all.”
According to his research and theories, that molecular and cellular damage can be repaired with new regenerative medicines, including stem cell therapies, gene therapies, drugs and vaccines.
De Grey challenged the wisdom of modern pharmaceutical research leading to really expensive drugs that delay diseases by very short periods of time. “We will not cure cancer this way. We will not cure Alzheimer’s this way,” said de Grey. The incentive structure for modern pharmaceuticals perpetuates this because “it can be done reasonably quickly, sold for a lot of money and because people are desperate for anything.”
“I think it’s really important to understand that the relationship between quality of life and quantity of life is not as most people think about it,” said de Grey. “Today most people think about those two things as some kind of trade off, and that makes sense today because there are many things we like doing that are not very good for us. But we are talking about a world in which quality will confer quantity, in which you will live longer because you are living better. That’s the critical thing here.”