(Video) Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – “There won’t be generations anymore,” says Aubrey de Grey of tomorrow’s world where anti-aging treatments will give us at least 30 extra years of life. You’ll be able to keep up with your granddaughter on the ski slopes, he told his host at the Lift 2010 conference in Geneva Thursday 6 May. And for de Grey, the future is close: we can expect to see such treatments within our lifetimes, he believes.
De Grey is a biomedical gerontologist who is the chief science officer for the Sens Foundation in Cambridge, England. The foundation is a non-profit charity that focuses on combating diseases of old age.
The questions people invariably ask de Gray focus on such mundane matters as where all these extra people will live, how pension plans will pay for them and what they’ll do with their time, but he says the questions are not the right ones. We should balance out these against the problems caused right now by “100,000 people a day getting very sick and staying that way a long time and then dying.”
De Gray says he does not work on longevity, but rather on combating aging, “specifically in combating aging using regenerative medicine.” Old age is something most of us have wrong. “People will say, that is what we want to die of. And they think, if you die of aging, that’s dying of natural causes, a biological process.
“But that makes no sense at all! Aging is a process that goes on throughout life,” says de Grey. “When we talk about combating aging we’re talking about defeating the diseases of old age.”
Old age kills about two-thirds of the people who die every day in the world, he notes, and in the developed world, that rises to about 90 percent.
The figures need to be improved, not just for reasons of health and happiness, but “there is a financial incentive, $200 billion a year to provide care for people, and that’s just in the US.
The solution is to develop treatments that address cell maintenance, and not just prevention and repair of damage to bodies. “Damage that doesn’t repair itself accumulates” and eventually causes the diseases of old age,” de Grey says.
“We’re within striking distance – I think it will happen within the lifetime of the people in this room.” He has dubbed the process “robust human rejuvenation” with an initial treatment that should give 30 years of extra life but it must go further. “Longevity escape velocity” is the rate at which these therapies will be improved in order to stay one step ahead of the problem, allowing a second, third, or perhaps further treatments that will continue to extend that initial 30 years.
De Grey is the author of a book, Endless Aging, published in 2008.