Our guest in this episode is a Briton who is based in Berlin, namely Andrew Steele. Earlier in his life Andrew spent nine years at the University of Oxford where, among other accomplishments, he gained a PhD in physics. His focus switched to computational biology, and he held positions at Cancer Research UK and the Francis Crick Institute.
Along the way, Andrew decided that aging was the single most important scientific challenge of our time. This led him to write the book "Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old". There are a lot of books these days about the science of slowing, stopping, and even reversing aging, but Andrew's book is perhaps the best general scientific introduction to this whole field.
Topics in this conversation include:
*) The background that led Andrew to write his book "Ageless"
*) A graph that changed a career
*) The chance of someone dying in the next year doubles every eight years they live
*) For tens of thousand of years, human life expectancy didn't change
*) In recent centuries, the background mortality rate has significantly decreased, but the eight year "Gompertz curve" doubling of mortality remains unchanged
*) Some animals do not have this mortality doubling characteristic; they are said to be "negligibly senescent", "biologically immortal", or "ageless"
*) An example: Galapagos tortoises
*) The concept of "hallmarks of aging" - and different lists of these hallmarks
*) Theories of aging: wear-and-tear vs. programmed obsolescence
*) Evolution and aging: two different strategies that species can adopt
*) Wear-and-tear of teeth - as seen from a programmed aging point-of-view
*) The case for a pragmatic approach
*) Dietary restriction and healthier aging
*) The potential of computational biology system models to generate better understanding of linkages between different hallmarks of aging
*) Might some hallmarks, for example telomere shortening or epigenetic damage, prove more fundamental than others?
*) Special challenges posed by damage in the proteins in the scaffolding between cells
*) What's required to accelerate the advent of "longevity escape velocity"
*) Excitement and questions over the funding available to Altos Labs
*) Measuring timescales in research dollars rather than years
*) Reasons for optimism for treatments of some of the hallmarks, for example with senolytics, but others aren't being properly addressed
*) Breakthrough progress with the remaining hallmarks could be achieved with $5-10B investment each
*) Adding some extra for potential unforeseen hallmarks, that sums to a total of around $100B before therapies for all aspects of aging could be in major clinical trials
*) Why such an expenditure is in principle relatively easily affordable
*) Reflections on moral and ethical objections to treatments against aging
*) Overpopulation, environmental strains, resource sustainability, and net zero impact
*) Aging as the single largest cause of death in the world - in all countries
*) Andrew's current and forthcoming projects, including a book on options for funding science with the biggest impact
*) Looking forward to "being more tortoise".
Music: Spike Protein, by Koi Discovery, available under CC0 1.0 Public Domain Declaration