Scientific Lectures | Aubrey de Grey

Aubrey David Nicholas Jasper de Grey, born in April 20, 1963 in London, UK, is a gerontologist based in Cambridge, UK, and Mountain View, California, USA. Initially working in computer science, specifically software, he changed his subject of study to Biogerontology in the 1990’s after acknowledging the lack of interest from gerontologists in looking for a cure for aging. Professor De Grey is the current Chief Science Officer (CSO) of SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Research Foundation, a charity foundation dedicated to the study of aging, particularly the molecular and cellular damage caused by metabolism, breaking it down into seven major mechanisms of damage and proposing therapies to reverse these processes and thereby keeping age-related illnesses at bay, while extending human healthy lifespan. De Grey has given numerous talks in several different countries addressing this issue, in which he also stressed out that a big obstacle in the way to defeat aging is the public’s perception of this topic and, consequently, the amount of funding directed towards it. A fair share of controversy has been created around his theories, polarizing the scientific community.

Accept the difficulty of what you cannot yet change. But do not accept the impossibility of ever changing it.Aubrey de Grey

Professor De Grey received a BA and a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Biology in 1985 and 2000, respectively, from the University of Cambridge, UK. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of Rejuvenation Research magazine, Fellow of The Gerontological Society of America, The American Aging Association, The International Coenzyme Q10 Association and The Mitochondrion Research Society, also belonging to the editorial and scientific advisory boards of several journals and organizations.

THE NEW ERA OF AGING

Several people nowadays either die or see their quality of life seriously deteriorated by aging-related diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease. One can consider that Modern Medicine has generally strived to this day when it comes to ameliorating symptoms, preventing acute complications, postponing chronic ones, slowing down the progression of the disease and reducing mortality. However, there is currently no way to actually prevent these diseases from installing themselves in the first place, or to reverse them in case they are already present, thus making age-related suffering inevitable. This is the main reason why Professor De Grey claims we should be attempting to treat aging, and not just for the sake of living longer.

For this purpose, Professor De Grey hints that we should focus on repairing the side-effects and removing or neutralizing the byproducts of metabolism that naturally occur with aging instead of trying to prevent these from occurring in the first place, since that would require a massive effort to accomplish the virtually impossible task of taming the intricate network of biochemical pathways that constitute our metabolism, especially considering that the latter is still not fully understood at all. The drugs patients take nowadays, although with the most diverse goals, essentially interact with this complex network in unpredictable and perhaps harmful ways, creating drug-related side-effects while not stopping metabolism-associated damage from happening.

Bearing this in mind, and claiming no other type of age-related damage has been described so far, Professor De Grey goes on to identify the seven types of aging-associated damage that can be narrowed down from the complexity of metabolic processes that happen upstream or the multitude of diseases that will appear at some point downstream, which are nuclear DNA mutations and epimutations, mitochondrial DNA mutations, extracellular junk, intracellular junk, extracellular protein crosslinking, cell loss and cell senescence.

To each of these problems he proposes different approaches that might solve them, involving stem cell therapy, gene therapy, immunotherapy and protein- or enzyme-based therapy.

De Grey acknowledges that this won’t be a linear path, but will instead have its leaps and bounds, meaning some treatments will be implemented and well-developed earlier than others. In this sense, Professor De Grey affirms that the rate at which these different therapies will come into the clinic should be such that each treatment implemented will need to add a number of years of life that allows the patient to live up until the implementation of the next treatment and so on. He calls this rate the “Longevity Escape Velocity”.

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As origens do Pedro Vazão Vasques remontam ao longínquo dia de 5 de Junho de 1993, dia em que infligiu os seus primeiros estragos nos tímpanos de um qualquer pobre coitado a estagiar no Hospital D. Estefânia em Pediatria (ele parte do princípio que os profissionais de saúde já não os teriam sequer e portanto não se incomodassem minimamente com os gritos de sofrimento - infligido, e com prazer - soltados pela amostra de ser humano que tinham perante si, mas refere não se lembrar muito bem). Lembra-se, no entanto, que desde pequeno que tem a mania de escrever textos cheios de parênteses, vírgulas e hífens que ficam muitíssimo - também costuma usar palavras acabadas em "íssimo", adjectivos principalmente (também palavras acabadas em "mente"), embora não neste caso - confusos e que precisam de ser lidos 3498498 vezes para se decifrar o que lá está realmente escrito - e ainda seria mais complicado se estivessem a tentar lê-lo não com a letra de computador mas sim com a sua caligrafia singular, que mesmo o próprio, por vezes, interpreta como uma sucessão bizarra de complexos QRS pleiomórficos. Metade de si é desastrada e esquecida, a outra foi entretanto derrubada ou perdida num qualquer canto da cidade de Lisboa, não se lembra bem qual. É garantido, no entanto, que a sua cabeça, neste preciso momento, andará a deambular algures pela Via Láctea, vindo algumas vezes à Terra para estabelecer contactos com a gente que por aqui anda, pôr conversas em dia e consumir as suas drogas preferidas, música e cinema.

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