Here are some of the common questions people ask about our research.
Q. What is the goal of the MMTP?
A: We believe that it is possible to slow down the processes of aging, to postpone the manifestation of age-related diseases, extend the healthy period of life and make human lifespan extension a reality. Mice are the best test subjects, animal testing is a necessary step in clinical trials,and this research will lead us to longevity therapeutics for humans. The goal of the project is to discover a sufficiently large and varied base of robust mouse geroprotectors, in order to “connect the dots” in the research and foster the development of means to slow down aging and extend healthspan and lifespan in humans.
Q. Hasn’t this research already been done?
A: Very few quality lifespan studies are conducted each year. Robust mouse healthspan and lifespan models have been developed and are being used by the great pioneers in longevity research, most famously at the Intervention Testing Program. This makes such a project possible now. However at the current pace, of about 5% of tested interventions lead to statistically significant life extensions, then a robust set of 100 geroprotectors will be found in maybe a hundred years! Too late for you or those you care about? Our goal is to accelerate this by a factor of 10 to 20 times by running consecutive series of many life span tests in parallel.
Q. Why not focus on flatworms? Why not focus on people?
A: After large life-extension screenings in flatworms, about 10% of interventions extended lifespan by at least 10%, researchers gradually found a way to extend their lifespan by much more, closer to ten fold. While some results do translate to mice, it is clearly not systematic. Mice are not flatworms and do not appear to age and die for the same reasons. In particular, flatworms have a fixed number of cells at adulthood, making cell resistance particularly useful, and no issues with cancers.
Mice are not humans but both are mammals so there is generally better translation between the two species, such as we have seen with other drugs. One of the strategies mammalians use for longevity is to regrow tissues continuously, without adhering to a fixed number of cells like flatworms do. So interventions that work in mice particularly those relating to common mechanisms eg, stem cells and common repair strategies have a good chance of translating to humans.
Another key reason for testing mice is that animal data is also a requirement for initiating human clinical trials with the EMA, FDA and other government bodies. In other words the valuable data we will generate can help other labs and companies to take promising therapies to clinical trials faster.
Q. What form will interventions take?
A: We are considering various approaches including drugs, gene therapies, stem cells and more. We believe that geroprotecting drugs are likely to bring the first human applications, given the knowledge about risks we already have (e.g. with metformin). However gene therapies are being developed for various diseases as well as age-related diseases today, and are likely to be more efficient with less toxicity and side effects.
Q. What is regenerative medicine?
A: Any treatment that regrows lost structures of the body, to return it to it’s previous functional state. Stem cells, gene therapy, CRISPR can all be considered forms of regenerative medicine.
Q. Isn’t this science fiction?
A: No this is a common misconception, in fact the science of aging has been studied for some time, and strong evidence has been seen for over a decade in animal models. Our research section discusses a number of key examples of lifespan extension and the science behind them.
Q. Will you test combinations?
A: Yes variable doses and combinations is at the very heart of the project. We are currently working with our researchers to create a workable protocol for testing combinations and accurately detecting efficacy. Traditional science has tended to initiate studies focusing on bulk to produce longevity curves, we have designed a unique testing model to produce and maximize data.
Q. Will interventions start with young or aged mice?
A: We have opted to treat already aged mice in our tests. Mice are aged 16-18 months (equivalent to a human approx 60 years old) before they are introduced to our program. This has the advantage not only in speeding up research as we do not have to wait for mice to age naturally but also demonstrates the feasibility of translating successful therapies to already middle aged or older humans.
Q. How much does it cost to keep mice?
A; Prices for mouse housing vary depending on the country but in Germany for example prices are around 1.20 euros a day per cage which houses up to five mice. Cages are spacious and clean for maximum animal comfort with high quality food provided. In fact, these mice are lucky - they will live in good conditions, in better state of health and they, as he hope, will live longer.
Q. How can I access your research results?
A: All our research will be open source and freely available to all interested parties, we believe scientific knowledge should be shared and not behind paywalls.
Q. How can I help?
A: If you are knowledgeable or have access to knowledgeable people about a specific compound/intervention and have a view on what dose/protocol should be tested on lifespan, please contact us via the contact form here. If you can or you know someone who can financially contribute to longer and healthier lives, please contact us or use a Donate button on our website. The more money we will collect, the more tests we can afford and this means faster progress.
You can also help by spreading the word about our project too or if you can spare some time perhaps considering becoming a volunteer. You can get in touch with us directly here.
Increased Longevity inspires a variety of concerns, we have considered some common objections to the increased longevity new medical technologies may bring.
Q. Who will pay for longevity therapies once available? Only the rich will benefit!
A: In the short term wealthy individuals will be early adopters, but these treatments will scale very well to mass production techniques. Prices will drop dramatically, as we have already witnessed with full genome sequencing, while adoption will increase equally dramatically over time. Economics means that the potential money to be saved by governments and insurance providers, will mean universal free access in very short order.
In countries with socialized health care the implementation of new therapies will be even easier and no doubt governments realizing the money to be saved keeping people healthy will ensure that such therapies are made widely available. With wide demand will come mass production and with this a rapid drop in cost and access for all.
Take into account that some of the promising geroprotectors like metformin are affordable drugs that can be bought almost in every pharmacy.
Q. Isn’t this wrong because people in poorer countries may not get access to these therapies?
A: Even if this were true, it would not be a good reason not to do it, you don’t stop eating breakfast even though there are children starving in the world! Penicillin was fantastically expensive when it was first developed, but it is now a universal treatment available to peoples of every strata of society and saving human lives all over the world. The price dropping exponentially over time, raising access to ever increasing numbers. The global society is taking important steps to increase the access to new medicines, this is what the Declaration of Human Rights says us to do and what the World Health Organization goes as a part of its activities. Also there are benefactors of humanity like the Gates Foundation. They want to see medical advances disseminated to everyone, not just the rich like themselves! You can read about their work here.
Q. If lifespan is increased, won’t this lead to more years of sickness and infirmity?
A: The objective of regenerative medicine is to address disease at its source, aging decline and associated cellular dysfunction Therefore it is plausible that improvement of long term health would also have the side effect of potentially increasing lifespan. In addition our project is likely to also lead to a number of other insights and potential treatments for specific age-related diseases.The objective is healthy longevity to spend more time doing the things you enjoy and above all compassion is the reason why we can and should develop regenerative medicine.
Source: Blagosklonny, M.V. (2012, How to save Medicare: the anti-aging remedy. Aging 4(8), 547)
Q. Won’t the world be overpopulated?
Usually people that are afraid of overpopulation in reality are afraid of the scarce resources for living. But we must take into account that our capacity to produce necessary things emcompasses our real needs so dramatically, that there is a crisis of overproduction. The problem of obesity is competing with the problem of hunger. The only reason why we even hear about hunger is the imperfection of the system of goods distribution. But as the problem is already recognized there is a big chance that we’ll find a good solution very soon. For instance, the concept of basic income is aimed to supply all people with what is necessary for living. Most probably, we will learn how to distribute goods in a better way in the next decade or two, much earlier, than the longevity technologies will make people live twice as long. Then we’ll enable all people to enjoy the world of abundance, no matter what their lifespan will be.
Q. How can we house everyone?
A: The arrival of 3D printing brings many possibilities for cheap affordable housing. A number of countries have already embraced this new technology and rapidly print houses from cement and other locally available analogs. Such housing is printed within a structural frame holding the printhead which delivers the building material to a programmed pattern. Many houses can be constructed quickly in this manner offering a fast and affordable solution to any housing problem what may arise as a result of increasing populations.You can learn more about 3D printed houses here and here.
One of ten 3D printed houses created in under 24 hours in china as a demonstration of the technology (2015)
Q. Where will we put everyone?
A: large amount of land is currently used to farm cattle and other animals, this practice uses four times as much land to produce protein from animals as would be required from plant sources, added to this are new sciences to mass produce synthetic meat using things like stem cell technology.
This will reduce animal suffering, the need for antibiotics use in animals which has contributed to antibiotic resistant germs, a major concern and will also reduce methane emissions (cows are the primary source of greenhouse gasses on the planet) and a huge share of land and water pollution. And then, people with stronger health, better resilience to radiation can fit better to colonize other planets. The first mission to colonise of Mars is planned for 2038! Mars has about the same area of land as the Earth.
Q. Where will we get enough water from?
A: Modern technology has solutions like nanopore filtration using little or no power to separate water from contaminates such as salt, but also things like pathogens.
Q. How will we feed everyone?
A: Vertical farming, aeroponics (farming that doesn’t use soil), aquaponics, hydroponics, synthetic meat grown from cells, algae farms and many other solutions are available to vastly increase food production in a vastly more efficient and cost effective manner.
Vertical farming in action producing an around the clock solution to food production
Q. Won’t this increase global warming?
A: There are numerous renewable and clean energy solutions available or will be available in the imminent future. Advanced food production such as cell cultured meat will drastically reduce the need for herds of cattle which are a large source of pollution.
Q. How can we generate enough power for everyone?
A: Clean energy such as Nuclear fusion, solar and wind, water and thermal sources coupled with new battery technology for storage will help us to get as much energy as we need. In a recent public talk Elon Musk said, that to have enough energy for all the cities on Earth we only need solar panels to cover a surface equal to the size of Spain.
Q. Won’t I get bored?
A: Boredom is the result of not engaging in activities both mentally, physically and emotionally stimulating. This is far less likely, if an individual is in a good general state of youthful health, both physically and mentally, so they can participate in any activity they choose, also they will be far more likely to be socially included. Being long-living doesn't mean being protected from everything, so we believe that many people will be interested in creating new technologies and strategies to tackle global risks like asteroids, climate change, natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunami. Then, the colonization of other planets may start in 2040s, which might become a fascinating experience for everyone who want to take part.
Q. Won’t resources like metals become scarce?
A: We are currently heavily dependent on metals, but in the not too distant future, we will move to a more carbon based economy, but not in terms of fossil fuels which will be replaced by clean energy sources, instead carbon and other abundant resources will be used to replace things like metals for engineering and infrastructure, in the form of carbon nanotubes, graphene, nano cellulose, replacements for so called rare earth metals, man-made superconductors and many others.
Q. Animal testing is not ethical and does not work, can’t you use an alternative?
A: Unfortunately no. The project conducts lifespan studies and for this living animals are needed that just cannot be emulated by alternatives such as ATHENA and organs on chip. Whilst there are some excellent alternatives to animal testing there are simply no alternatives when studying lifespans and aging.
On a positive note our project makes great effort to reduce animal stress, provide a healthy and engaging environment and aims to increase their healthy lifespan as much as possible. Our therapies are chosen to minimize stress and discomfort and high quality housing, food and extracted cages ensure their lives are as pleasant as possible. Such mice are likely to live considerably longer than their wild cousins living in nature.
Q. If I live longer, will that mean I have to work longer? How will this affect my pension?
A: Probably, but you will be enjoying life in a body that is functionally younger and healthier. We consider this a more than reasonable exchange, considering the benefits of longer healthy life spent with family, children and friends and enjoying the things you love.
Being physically younger, healthier and physically active, you will have more time to build a pension should you need one. We consider longer life in a healthy functionally younger body to be ample compensation for not retiring as soon as people do today. If you are fit and healthy why would you want to stop working, learning and enjoying a full life?
It is true that, at present, apart from becoming physically aged and lacking vigour and energy, one reason people might want to retire is having become bored of their jobs. However if a person has increased physical youth there would be nothing to stop them saving for a period of retraining. Alternatively, some people theorise that in a future with increased lifespans it would be logical to pay into a pension scheme allowing about 10 years of rest or retraining, so as to start a new working period feeling refreshed and enthusiastic again.
Q. How will I get a job when I am old and living even longer?
A:Technology to alleviate the diseases of aging, will have as a side effect, the potential to reverse many aspects of biological aging, meaning you will be chronologically old, but biologically younger. This would give you your health and at the same time may have more valuable professional experience making employment highly likely.
Q. How can we have enough jobs for everyone?
A: Emerging technologies such as robotics and automation will fuel a change in the types of jobs and careers to support these new industries. Much like the industrial revolution ushered in radical changes to how we work so too will the new technologies arriving today. Many traditional labor based jobs for example are steadily being automated, however as automation grows there will an increasing need for jobs to support this new infrastructure as well as more focus on intellectual and artistic pursuits in general.
Schemes such as guaranteed universal incomes and similar systems are also currently being trialed in various countries. It is possible such a system could prove useful to help society to transition to a new way of working.
Q. In the event that we can’t make do with clean energy, won’t we still need fossil fuels for some things for a while. Where will we get enough fossil fuels?
A: We can harness the power of modern mass production techniques, such as bioreactors to use bacteria for fuel production.
Q. If we still need fossil fuels for some things for a while? How can we deal with the environment which is already spoilt with things like oil spills?
A:Recently bacteria and fungi have been discovered that can digest contaminants like oil and plastics. The potential to reduce pollution will soon be tapped to create a cleaner world. Often with the best intentions, previous generations have been guilty of polluting our world, but science is rapidly finding solutions to these problems to create a world worth living for.
Q. People have polluted the planet with plastic and so on. Won’t we will live amongst garbage?
A: Many people are concerned about this issue, this is why there are many companies aimed atdeveloping solutions such as this giant ocean cleaning barrier being tested this year here. Other answers to pollution such as worms that can digest contaminants like oil and plastics have also been discovered. The potential to reduce pollution will soon be tapped to create a cleaner world. Often with the best intentions, previous generations have been guilty of polluting our world, but science is rapidly finding solutions to these problems to create a world worth living for.
Worms eating polystyrene in a recent Stanford University experiment are one solution to the pollution problem
But everyone in our society can help decrease the rate of pollution by making good choices in dealing with our property and the waste produced by our households. Goods of a high quality rather than cheap low quality goods for example can serve us longer and help produce less garbage. This throwaway culture has led to the problems we currently have with garbage and pollution and we can all part part of the solution to solve it.
By dividing our waste for recycling into types (glass, metals, food waste and others), we are already helping to making our world cleaner. Care must be taken with batteries and electronics but these can be taken to specialized organizations for reutilization. Ultimately population growth by itself is not a factor of pollution - bad habits of waste management are.
Q. Shouldn’t we solve world hunger, pollution and poverty first?
A: No because society is quite able to tackle all these problems at the same time. These issues that trouble society are of course serious issues but there is no reason why all these problems and more cannot be dealt with at the same time. After all, you and I are quite able to multitask and this is just the same for society.
The division of labor is one of the most important achievements of our civilisation, which can ensure that we can tackle many problems at once. We, the MMTP team, choose to help solving the problem of aging - which, in turn, can help in solving such problems as poverty and hunger, because if a person is healthy and able to study and work, he or she can avoid poverty and hunger.
Q. Shouldn’t we cure cancer first, Alzheimer’s, Heart disease etc… first?
A: No. Most of the severe non-communicable diseases like cancer or Alzheimer have one unique root cause: aging. In a sense, these diseases are just symptoms of aging. To study aging and to developing the treatments to address the processes that underlie aging is more productive, as such treatments can prevent many age-related diseases at once - instead of spending resources to treat diseases. For instance, metformin (an antidiabetic drug which is being now tested to extend human life) has also saved many people from developing cancer!
Q. Shouldn’t we cure children of diseases first?
A: Firstly we can do both things at once. Secondly, children also suffer from age like diseases such as Progeria and cancer amongst others. Also scientific research has intrinsic value and leads to unexpected possibilities that cannot be predicted, such as fruit fly research which sheds light on many human diseases.
Q. Isn’t increasing human lifespan unnatural?
A: No we have always sought ways to extend healthy human lifespans, even basic hygiene like washing your hands, first aid, antibiotics, immunisation and any form of medicine, preventative, emergency and chronic are all steps in this direction. Effective ways of food production and transportation also play a big role in life extension. In fact, during the last two centuries, human lifespan has increased more than twofold, all thanks to the scientific and technical progress of our civilization. So if you are older than 35, you have already crossed the line of natural average lifespans due to these improvements in medicine, hygiene and sanitation.
But Let us change the focus. Let us think about what is good for us and what is not. We believe that being healthy is good. Being able to maintain health is good. Defeating severe diseases like cancer, diabetes, arthritis, stroke, heart disease and other age-related diseases is good. What people usually are afraid of when they question the naturalness of life extension is the novelty of the idea. As a species we are inclined to be cautious towards new ideas until we know the consequences. The best way to let that fear go away is to think how a long and healthy life will affect you personally and also society as a whole.
The specialists who make such predictions are confident that we can all benefit from developing longevity technologies: we can become healthier, live longer, and free lifelong education models will make us all smarter and increase our financial well-being.
Q. Evolution means we should grow old and make way for the young, this is how the world works, Do we have the right to change the natural order?
A: In fact, evolution created our long post-reproductive period. Grandmothers were helping the reproductive success of their children and their genes were more likely to spread. The same factor produced the long post-reproductive period in some other species like other large primates and orcas. So it appears, that evolution has gradually selected to make us even more long-living creatures in the future!
In fact when you consider things, we have always sought ways to extend human lifespan, even basic hygiene like washing your hands, first aid, antibiotics immunisation and any form of medicine are all steps in this direction. These are examples of guiding our evolution and speeding up what nature is already naturally selecting for us as a species, the only difference is what we propose to do this on a much shorter timescale. The tools to guide our own evolution are fast becoming a reality and are inevitable, we just want to foster this process and remove some unnecessary human suffering from age-related diseases faster.
People fear competition between young and old, but this fear should not be an excuse for ignoring human suffering. We all have the same human rights, including the right for life and right for health and adequate medical care. And take into account that basic income schemes could also take away many of the present concerns about competition and scarce resources for living.
Increased longevity will change society as it did in previous centuries but we should be ready to embrace the positive things that come from this and not just consider the negative things. Adapting to changes is one of the things we human beings do the best, it has served us well through the ages and it will do so again in the future!