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Genome Pioneer, X Prize Founder Tackle Aging 130

Posted by timothy
from the sell-it-on-a-subscription-plan dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Hot on the heels of Google's spin-off company Calico, another major contender has emerged in the race to develop technologies for extending healthy human lifespan. Dr Craig Venter, who was first to map the entire human genetic code and the first to engineer a synthetic lifeform, has teamed up with founder of the X-Prize, Dr Peter Diamandis, to create Human Longevity Inc. 'Your age is your No. 1 risk factor for almost every disease,' said Dr. Venter. 'Using the combined power of our core areas of expertise—genomics, informatics, and stem cell therapies, we are tackling one of the greatest medical/scientific and societal challenges — aging and aging related diseases,' said Dr. Venter. 'Between 1910 and 2010 improvements in medicine and sanitation increased the human lifespan by 50 percent from 50 to 75 years.....our goal is to make 100-years-old the new 60,' said Diamandis."
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Genome Pioneer, X Prize Founder Tackle Aging

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  • You're getting your pension 40 years later. Enjoy!

    • Re:Which means (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 08, 2014 @07:02AM (#46433815)

      What pension? You're still getting fired one month before retirement. But the good news is, your corporate overlords are getting another 40 years of labor out of you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If the motivation required to get funding for this research is that it will allow corporations to keep their employees (read: investment in training, knowledge base, experience and whatever) longer, then I don't fucking care: sign me up for that biological immortality, motherfuckers!

      It seems absolutely silly to avoid this area of research.

      What the hell is point of medicine if not to extend life, anyway? Clearly it would be more cost effective to do something about that "number one risk factor" for all those

      • Re:Which means (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BasilBrush (643681) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @08:46AM (#46433979)

        What the hell is point of medicine if not to extend life, anyway?

        Improving quality of life is more important than length of it. There's little point in extending life into the 100s, if those years are spent being unwell.

        And who wouldn't want to be healthier and live longer?

        Somewhere between 70 and 80 would do me nicely.

        Sure you get a lot of loudmouths who speak before they think blurbing about Malthusian crises

        It's a perfectly valid concern. This planet is finite, and the day when there's somewhere that would be pleasant to live that's off this planet seems like it's a very long way away.

        • Re: Which means (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Somewhere between 70 and 80 would do me nicely.

          Funny how that just happens to be around the average current lifespan at this point in time. I wonder, if you had lived in 1910, would your figure have been only 50 years(the average lifespan at that time)?

          Death and the disabilities of aging are so horrible that people attempt to rationalize it away by being "content" with whatever they think they can confidently expect in the way of lifespan. It is "sour grapes" of the highest order. Then, when the possibility

          • Funny how that just happens to be around the average current lifespan at this point in time.

            Three score years and ten (i.e. 70) is also the length of life mentioned in the bible. Whilst I'm not religious, and don't necessarily believe all the text goes back as far as claimed, it certainly does go back hundreds of years, and certainly earlier than 1910.

    • What's a pension and where do I get one?

  • by buybuydandavis (644487) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @07:12AM (#46433823)

    It's about time. As for all the Death Cultists posting previously about the horrors of remaining alive, bite me.

    • by MindPrison (864299) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @07:16AM (#46433833) Journal
      ^ Someone mod this guy UP!

      Telomere breakdown, and cell deterioration is one of our biggest issues - solve that, and we're well on our way to a longer healthier life. A think I've thinking about a lot though, is how our food directly affects our aging. More consumption + burning seem to equal faster living and accelerated aging. The slower the heartbeat, the longer some creatures seem to live.
      • > Telomere breakdown, and cell deterioration is one of our biggest issues

        And if we stopped entropy, cell detioration would not occur. It's about as likely, I'm afraid. Telomeres are a molecular _answer_ to DNA deterioration, preenting the connection of one DNA molecule to another at the end points. And some types of system damage are cumulative, especially since scar tissue accumulates and regrowth of neural tissue has never been mastered.

        • And if we stopped entropy, cell detioration would not occur. It's about as likely, I'm afraid. Telomeres are a molecular _answer_ to DNA deterioration, preenting the connection of one DNA molecule to another at the end points. And some types of system damage are cumulative, especially since scar tissue accumulates and regrowth of neural tissue has never been mastered.

          "Has never been mastered"? What kind of argument is that?

          Telomeres are one answer to DNA deterioration. It's folly to think that there are no others. Evolution is not a system for finding optimal solutions in bounded time. Or are you arguing that we're already optimally designed?

        • by Nemyst (1383049)
          There was a time when a lot of diseases were thought incurable... and then they became so. Claiming that anything is impossible (which is what you're doing) is a bit foolish, since that puts an upper bound on human ingenuity. You almost invariably get proven wrong.
          • > since that puts an upper bound on human ingenuity

            I'm saying to master the components you need before planning the project. Simply saying "human ingenuity will solve that" is like saying "we'll make the software secure when we're ready to publish". It is, itself, guaranteeing project failure.

            • by khallow (566160)

              I'm saying to master the components you need before planning the project. Simply saying "human ingenuity will solve that" is like saying "we'll make the software secure when we're ready to publish".

              The thing is, you don't need to master the "components" first. You're attaching a precondition that is rather arbitrary.

              As to your example, you can plan this stuff even if you don't have an exact idea of what the functionality or security needs are of your software project. And sometimes it really is "we'll figure that out when we get to it".

        • by khallow (566160)

          And if we stopped entropy, cell detioration would not occur.

          The stars will die out long before entropy becomes relevant here. One doesn't need to stop cell deterioration, instead one merely needs to replace cells and such when they do deteriorate.

          especially since scar tissue accumulates and regrowth of neural tissue has never been mastered.

          Neither which is a permanent problem.

          • > The stars will die out long before entropy becomes relevant here.

            Do you understand what "entropy" is? Even using the purely thermodynamic definition, there is a very real energy cost for preserving complete coherence of the DNA sequence. Certainly, as a dynamic chemical system, the "entropy" present in the DNA molecule itself and its complex environment prohibit the likelihood of perfect sequence coherence over lengthy times. The result of such failures is degradation. One of the most unfortunate resul

            • by khallow (566160)

              Do you understand what "entropy" is?

              Yes. The human body is not a closed system. There's plenty of energy available from the Sun for paying the "energy cost" you referred to.

              especially since scar tissue accumulates and regrowth of neural tissue has never been mastered.

              Neither which is a permanent problem.

              Given the lack of progress for both issues, there's little concrete reason to assume they are _not_ permanent issues.

              Because these things are somehow independent of technological development? If so, then how come we're better off dealing with these issues than our cavemen ancestors were?

      • by OneAhead (1495535)

        Not this again...

        Telomer breakdown is not a bug, it's a feature. An anti-cancer feature to be exact. One of the many safeguards a would-be cancerous cell needs to mutate around in order to be successful. As people are getting older because of "regular" medical progress, cancer becomes an increasingly prevalent cause of death. Disabling telomer breakdown would be a step in the exact opposite direction from where you seem to want to go.

        The general problem with aging is that it cannot be captured in a soundbit

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Society advances because each generation gives way to the next one. It's time to pass the torch, old man.

  • by invictusvoyd (3546069) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @07:29AM (#46433867)

    our goal is to make 100-years-old the new 60,' said Diamandis."

    And where are we gonna get the water, gas , food etc for all these 12 Billion people ?
    Oh wait .. maybe the longetivity is only for the rich .

    • And where are we gonna get the water, gas , food etc for all these 12 Billion people ?

      That answers itself . . . just make one out of the other . . . Soylent Green.

      As to gas, on my last trip to a mall in the US, I was wondering about all that fat that is stored up in people. After all, fat is energy. If we could start harvesting fat from people to create energy, all our energy problems would be solved.

      Water? There's plenty in the ocean. Just pump it into the water system without any desalination. If people complain that it tastes salty, just say that it is "Margarita Style".

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Humanity has always faced challenges, and there will be many challenges in the future regardless of the development of life extension technologies. One of the most beautiful things about humanity is that we can raise to the challenge; we dream, then develop and then deploy solutions to problems. Aging and death are two of the biggest problems humans face. I say that as the intelligent and resourceful beings that we are, we should not only have a desire to, but in fact a moral obligation to overcome the blin

    • by pubwvj (1045960)

      There are plenty of resources on the land of planet Earth to sustainably support 50,000,000,000 (50 Billion) people with ease. Live frugally, not just financially but in the resources you use and you will make room for many more people. We need a lot more people to solve the big problems.

      The real issue with living longer is people's unrealistic expectation at at 65 years old all of a sudden they deserve a free ride and can retire. That's the fantasy that is unsustainable.

      • Why in the hell would you want 50 billion people on the planet? There may be 'room' for them - as in a 2 x 2 x 3 meter box for every human, but not much of a lifestyle for that many parasites. You would turn vasts swaths of the planet into monocultural time bomb and you would have to come up with some really neat ways to power that civilization. You seem to think that somewhere in that sea of flesh would be a couple of people that could think our way out of the giant morass we would have created. Really

  • by geekmux (1040042) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @07:30AM (#46433871)

    So, what if we were to create a race of human beings that could remain fairly healthy to age 100 (the "new 60").

    What then?

    We have serious issues globally today with overcrowding in certain areas. Resources will be stripped that much faster from the planet, from food to precious metals. Don't even get me started on unemployment. Not just one family, but multiple families might have be supported by a single income. Taxes would skyrocket 10% or more to try and pay for welfare programs for all those still living that we have no jobs for.

    I'm also assuming they will have solved all those "old people" diseases while creating the 120-year old human too. After all, what good is a ton of people unable to work because their body is good, but their mind left them long ago. Alzheimer's is an absolute nightmare to experience and support second-hand, as anyone supporting a loved one can attest. I cannot imagine living it for decades because my body now says I can.

    Let me put it this way. The world could not even handle every tobacco smoker quitting tomorrow, and people no longer dying from that particular population-stripping addiction, much less a significant shift with longevity.

    Fantastic research, noble cause, but perhaps pointless and likely dangerous until we solve a shitload of other issues, or get the hell off this rock.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 08, 2014 @09:22AM (#46434055)

      It seems ridiculous now, but in earlier times, due to increasing population, people were worried that the streets would be clogged up entirely by horse manure, since all these extra people would need horses to transport them around.

      The point is, the future is very hard to predict. But there are two things we know for certain:

      1: Aging and death and the suffering that these almost always bring are an absolutely horrible fate that any sane person wants to avoid.

      2: Humans are very very good at solving problems and just generally remaking their world.

      Just the fact that we may be on the threshold of substantially increasing lifespan shows how good we are at solving problems. Not long ago the possibility of extending lifespan would have been viewed as ridiculous, but now we're seeing billions of dollars invested in it - it is a very serious business.

      If a problem as big as death and aging are potentially in our grasp to overcome, why would we not think that we may also be able to deal with any problems that may come along with an extended lifespan?

      Me? I'm optimistic. I know that within a few generations we've gone from horses, to cars, to planes, to spacecraft. I know that we've gone from word of mouth, to telegraph, to telephone, to television, to internet.

      I don't want to be subject to involuntary death and the diseases of aging. I don't want my loved one's to be subject to involuntary death and diseases of aging. In fact, I don't want any decent human being to be subject to these horrors.

      We need to stop defending aging and death. When aging and death were completely beyond possibility of cure it may have served us as a helpful and comforting psychological crutch to try to derive some meaning and benefit from these horrors, but now this psychological crutch could hold us back from developing the necessarily technologies to overcome them.

      Step bravely forward. Otherwise, you don't just have something to lose, you have EVERYTHING to lose. There are few unintended problems that come along with extended lifespan that could possibly be worse...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      With all due respect, screw you. I'm not interested in solving longevity 300 years from now, I'm interested in solving it 30 years from now when I may still be around to see any benefit out of it.

      See also: nirvana fallacy.

      • No, I think it's more likely that you will be screwed.

        Longevity isn't going to come out with a pill or a single treatment that gives you an additional 10, 20, 30, whatever years. It will be comprised of fits and starts - a treatment that decreases / cures / effectively treats Alzheimer's or diabetes or even some common form of cancer. Another treatment that keeps joints from failing. Another treatment that can regenerate say, your kidneys and then your heart. Implantable this and that to take the place

    • Following your 'logic', solving "shitload of other issues" would cause shitload of other problems. Your argument for ignorance overlooks all the positives of such discovery and instead presents hypothetical drawbacks in opposition.

      Yes, you are correct in pointing out that old age problems like Alzheimers will still remain with us and possibly become leading source of death, so how we die will likely change. Did you make the same argument against research into cardiology when leading source of death was hear

    • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @10:23AM (#46434185)

      First, you seem to assume that "more people" (ignoring the fact that birth rates are already decreasing) will mean "resources will be stripped that much faster", without creating new jobs or new tax revenue. You also seem to assume that people will reproduce more ("multiple families") as they live longer. That doesn't match what we see happening in the real world today.

      Finally, if you "assume they will have solved" age-related diseases, why do you rely on those diseases as your main argument against longevity?

    • by tmosley (996283)
      Unemployment?

      Is there a fixed number of jobs that can exist in the universe?

      People who view mass death as an answer for ANY problem absolutely sicken me.
    • by khallow (566160)

      Fantastic research, noble cause, but perhaps pointless and likely dangerous until we solve a shitload of other issues, or get the hell off this rock.

      Well, given that the "shitload" of problems aren't any harder than the original longevity research, what's the cause for concern? Are we going to exceed our allowed quota of problems solved?

  • I wish them luck... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Karmashock (2415832) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @07:43AM (#46433895)

    We're probably all going to die of old age around the same time we would regardless. But this sort of thing might eventually solve the aging problem.

    Yes, that might lead to other issues such as over population etc... but its worth it.

    Think of what percentage of the population is capable of high levels of education.

    Then what percentage of that percentage actually gets it.

    Then what percentage of that percentage that does anything useful with the education.

    Then what percentage of their lives are left for productive work after they have been educated.

    We have men that are useful for maybe 20 years tops after going through about 14 years of education and even during that 20 years there is follow up education to keep them current.

    Imagine if they didn't age... if they could be kept productive indefinitely.

    Imagine a whole population of polymaths as people learn at their own pace over 100s of years. 20 years as a bar tender. 20 years as a carpenter. 20 years as a fishermen. Life time on life time bleeding into each other.

    Its a good thing.

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      You minimize the overpopulation issue as if it's a purely organic one.

      Think of the resources it will take to feed this.

      Now think of the greed and corruption that controls that today.

      Good vs. Evil? Seriously?

      "Ha! Not a chance in hell.", says the ghost that was #Occupy.

      They're gonna need more than luck. They're gonna need something to come out above greed. Compassion.

      I suppose we'll see where that compassion lies in the price tag, now won't we.

      I wonder if extending celebritards lives will be considere

      • by Karmashock (2415832) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @08:48AM (#46433987)

        The overpopulation issue isn't a certainty. We've already seen massive declines in population growth in the developed world. You can't accurately estimate what our growth rate will be with immortality. It is entirely possible that our population will stabilize with many people infrequently having children.

        Remember, there will still be deaths from one thing or another. We will have wars... which will claim thousands at the least and possibly millions on occasion. That is population that will have to be replaced.

        Add in car accidents and various medical issues that this won't fix and you'll have a need to replace population.

        it will be much lower then what we need today to counter aging. But it will remain significant. So long as our birth rate doesn't much exceed that rate our population will be stable. If it does exceed it then we'll have a major overcrowding issue.

        Overcrowding leads to a scarcity of land, increases in prices, and a lower quality of living. In our society that tends to depress the birth rate.

        In fact, in the modern world, there is a very keen link between economic prosperity and the birth rate in the middle class. In the very poor there is no such link since they don't actually share the same economy. Their economy is more about welfare stamps and various free housing policies. Its very difficult to quantity their economic prosperity because they don't actually use money per se. Amongst the rich its a non-issue since we can always assume they have enough to justify further breeding.

        In any case, with immortality we can assume there are ways to deal with the overcrowding issue. Most of them will self correct.

        And you forget the many benefits of immortality such as a highly skilled labor force that is always in prime working age. That means a much much higher level of industrial output and a much higher level of technological and educational sophistication.

        With that sort of thing we might just make spreading beyond the planet practical. Far fetched today... but who can say tomorrow.

        In any case, I will not retard our technological sophistication simply to satisfy the baseless worries of Luddites.

        • In any case, I will not retard our technological sophistication simply to satisfy the baseless worries of Luddites.

          Don't worry about it; they'll be more than glad to worry about it for you.

          And just guessing here -- if you can appreciably extend life, then you're also putting off "meeting your maker". I could see a fatwa brewing over this, since "if man was meant to live longer God would have done it already."

          Or hell, maybe I'm getting too cynical in my old age.

          • I've never had a problem with letting morons die for their god.

            • True, but they always seem to want to bring other people along for the ride.
              • Which is why you have to maintain a certain level of militancy and martial competency in your population. And when attacked... terminate the enemy with extreme prejudice.

                That way you get long periods of peace punctuated with short bloody, though ultimately victorious wars.

                Ideally with most of the blood being your foe.

                As they said, if you want peace, prepare for war. Which means assume there is going to be a war at some point in the future, figure out what you're going to need to fight it. Maintain stockpile

        • by CODiNE (27417)

          I don't think people with effectively unending lives would be interested in war. There's too much to lose there. As it stands people say "I'm going to die anyways", or consider their expected lifetime and see it as not much to lose.

          In other words if I'm 50 years from inevitable death what's the difference? If I'm 500 years from death whoah I am NOT interested in getting shot at.

          And "immortal" means can't die. No humans can ever be immortal.

          • 1. I suddenly see an emerging market for elderly war
            2. Oh for a mod point
          • The politics would change but there will always be war as long as there are people.

            Its in our blood.

            I am not entirely fatalistic about it. We can resist it and contain it. But we are going to kill each other on occasion.

            I suppose the worst thing about immortality is that dictators will get it. And then you'll get someone like Castro that will never die. That is Cuba's only hope here... that the revolutionary generation dies of old age and the following generations are more realistic.

    • Imagine a whole population of polymaths as people learn at their own pace over 100s of years. 20 years as a bar tender. 20 years as a carpenter. 20 years as a fishermen. Life time on life time bleeding into each other.

      Its a good thing.

      No, no, no! The only way for a species to progress is for its individual members, with all their hard-won experience and wisdom, to each suffer and die after a fairly short lifespan. That's why rabbit culture is so far ahead of our own.

  • Make the magic pill available only to those that switch exclusively to desktop Linux and stay there.
  • This is just shifting the problem.

    What we need to cure is: fear of aging.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hate to break it to you, but dying is objectively bad. There are zero upsides to it that we can prove beyond any doubt, and there are innumerable downsides which I'm sure everyone can easily imagine for themselves. There is nothing wrong with objective fear, it's not a problem to be solved.

    • Fear is not required, just dissatisfaction. I don't get my hair cut because I "fear" having long hair. I don't buy an ergonomic chair because I "fear" lower-back pain, I just prefer not to have it.

      You might as well say, the same thing about cancer research, "What we need to cure is: fear of cancer."

      Sure, that would also work. But I would prefer to find a cure for cancer instead.

    • All hail the Death Cultist!

  • Start there. Go for it.
    My training in genetics was late 70s/ early 80s.
    Infinitely fascinating, and as with lotsa things in science, it turned out to be the simplified version.
    And now the world has expanded once again, telomeres, epigenetics, etc.
    A foot and a half away from me is a copy of "The Joy Of Finding Things Out."
    Man, this is a blast.

  • 'Your age is your No. 1 risk factor for almost every disease,' said Dr. Venter.

    I'm not sure I believe that. It may be true on an individual level for a person with good health insurance in a first world country, but I bet for most people in the world it is the ability to afford and access the kind of advanced medical care that Dr. Venter will be researching. That observation, of course, leads to things like the quote from the article on Facebook meme evolution [slashdot.org], "No one should die because they cannot afford

  • Good news everyone! It turns out that technologies which extend, augment or otherwise improve human life are already here!

    You may have heard of some of them: clean water; urban sanitation; smokeless cooking facilities; free access to healthcare; a guaranteed minimum income; a good, free education. There are more – and you’d be surprised how many of them have been around in one form or another for decades, even centuries! But they’re unevenly distributed at the moment, so the first agenda i

  • Be sure to long for eternal youth too.

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