Second SENS Roundtable

"Biological, social and political implications of SENS"
August 12th, 2001 at the University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA

Organizers: Aubrey de Grey, Gregory Stock
Click to read the paper written by the participants.

Original Summary Text

On August 12th 2001, a small roundtable meeting was held at UCLA, Los Angeles, to discuss a wide range of issues surrounding the possibility that, within a few decades, biotechnology might be developed that would enable us to reverse all the key lifespan-limiting components of human aging.  The meeting was a sequel to one held in Oakland in October 2000 entitled "Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence" (SENS).  Full funding was generously provided by the Maximum Life Foundation.

The October meeting gave rise to a highly controversial and provocative article, "Time to Talk SENS: Critiquing the Immutability of Human Aging", which was published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences as part of the Proceedings of the 9th Congress of the International Association of Biomedical Gerontology. (More details of that meeting, including a transcript, are here.)  The central conclusion of that article was that there is a substantial possibility that, within about ten years, we could take a mouse aged about two years (i.e., with a remaining life expectancy of six months or so) and restore it to sufficiently youthful physiology that it would live a year longer than otherwise.  Given that such technology -- were it developed in mice -- might potentially be translated to humans, the second roundtable was convened with the goal of discussing the social, political and ethical implications of this possibility, as well as several aspects of the biology of aging that were inadequately covered in the first roundtable or the resulting paper.

The participants in the second roundtable comprised three participants from the first (Aubrey de Grey, Gregory Stock and Chris Heward) and seven others: John Baynes, David Berd, David Gems, Leonard Hayflick, Richard Miller, Huber Warner and John Wilmoth.  The expertise of the group thus ranged over many pertinent areas, including glycation, immunosenescence, immunotherapy for cancer, bioethics of life extension, demography of human aging and public and philanthropic funding of anti-aging research.  In addition, Steven Coles, David Kekich and Kat Cotter attended as observers.  As at the first roundtable, each participant gave an informal overview of their area which was followed by extensive discussion.

In contrast to the first roundtable, there was neither any intention nor expectation of reaching unanimous consensus on all issues discussed.  Issues that divided the participants included the feasibility of the proximate goal set out in the first roundtable (the mouse rejuvenation project), the desirability of public optimism regarding the likelihood of progress, the reasons for the low level of funding of basic biogerontology research and the social advantages or disadvantages of controlling human aging.  All these topics were, however, addressed with great care and cordiality and many important new arguments were presented.  All participants left the meeting with much to think about.