A.D.N.J. de Grey

Aging is not popular with the general public, and they look to the scientists with the most detailed understanding of aging to provide credible information on how much longer humanity must endure it. Biogerontologists are acutely aware of their consequent responsibility not to suggest unrealistically optimistic timescales for the defeat of aging. However, they seem mostly to be unaware of their converse responsibility -- not to suggest or imply unrealistically pessimistic timescales. This may be because until quite recently there was no such thing as an unrealistically pessimistic timescale for the advent of real anti-aging medicine -- it was too far off to be foreseeable. The data presented at this conference show unambiguously, however, that this is no longer so: real anti-aging medicine is not science fiction any more, but science foreseeable. This presents two huge and quite imminent dangers to humanity. One is simply that funding is not being adequately targeted to the translational research that can make real anti-aging medicine a reality as soon as possible; the simple fact that 100,000 people die every day of age-related causes demonstrates the gravity of that error. The second danger is that the laboratory breakthroughs which convince humanity that real anti-aging medicine is on the way, and which therefore turn society upside-down overnight, will occur before governments have had time to forward-plan to make the transition to a post-aging world as smooth as possible. Both these dangers are exacerbated by biogerontologists' perpetuation of their once-justifiable stance of refusing to discuss timescales: "eventually" is not a word that makes people change their pension or life insurance plans, or politicians their spending priorities. Hence, alien though it may be to the basic scientist's way of thinking, we as specialists in the biology of aging can no longer shrink from publicly estimating the timeframe for the arrival, if not of real anti-aging medicine itself, then at least of the laboratory breakthroughs mentioned above. I consider it highly likely that within ten years from now, if the rather modest necessary funding is forthcoming, we will have the ability to take a mouse cohort with a three- year life expectancy, when it is already two years old, and treble its remaining life expectancy (that is, give it a total life expectancy of five years). I also consider it highly likely that the announcement of that degree of control over mouse aging will overturn society's prevailing fatalism concerning any chance of personal benefit from real anti-aging medicine. The sooner that moment comes, the better -- but we had better be ready.

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real anti-aging medicine
public debate