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Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime Paperback – Oct 14 2008
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“(Dr.) de Grey is hardly just another fountain-of-youth huckster. His it-might-work ideas are based on existing, published, peer-reviewed research. He thinks more like an engineer than a scientist. If even one of his proposals works, it could mean years of extended healthy living.” ―Paul Boutin, The Wall Street Journal
From the Back Cover
"His clarion call to action is the message neither of a madman nor a bad man, but of a brilliant, beneficent man of goodwill, who wants only for civilization to fulfill the highest hopes he has for its future."
--Dr. Sherwin Nuland, clinical professor of surgery at Yale University School of Medicine and author of How We Die and The Art of Aging
"Seems to me this man could be put in jail with reasonable cause."
--Dr. Martin Raff, emeritus professor of biology at University College London and coauthor of Molecular Biology of the Cell
A leading researcher sketches the real "fountain of youth"
- The most realistic way to combat aging is to rejuvenate the body at the molecular and cellular level, removing accumulated damage and restoring us to a biologically younger state.
- Comprehensive rejuvenation therapies can feasibly postpone age-related frailty and disease indefinitely, greatly extending our lives while eliminating, rather than lengthening, the period of late-life frailty and debilitation.
- A comprehensive panel of rejuvenation therapies could probably be validated in laboratory mice within a decade. We would then have a good chance of developing it for human use only a decade or two thereafter.
- Removing the causes of aging-related deaths will also eliminate all the suffering that aging inflicts on most people in the last years of their lives.
- Aging kills 100,000 people a day: old people, yes, but old people are people too. Social concerns about the effects of defeating aging are legitimate but don't outweigh the merits of saving so many lives and alleviating so much suffering.
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Top Customer Reviews
Instead of trying to understand everything about metabolism or pathologies, he's focusing on repairing the damage caused by metabolism *before* it can create pathologies. It is basically the approach of repairing the roof of your house periodically to avoid catastrophic failure -- to be able to do that you don't need to understand all the causality chains that create the damage, you just need to know how to repair it.
This book has inspired me to learn about molecular biology and biochemistry. I've ordered a few textbooks. I think that this, in itself, is the highest recommendation for the book; anything that can inspire to learn more and get involved (I also donated to the Methuselah Foundation) is special. I highly recommend this book. It is well-written, easy to understand for the lay person yet detailed.
Dr. de Grey also touches on the politics of aging - the resistance many people feel because "we're all supposed to get old and die," akin to the resistance against antibiotics expressed by some religious fundamentalists, or the resistance against organ transplants and blood transfusions that pervaded when these were new medical advances. His hope is to raise scientific research funds to be used to usher in a new age of health and productivity, whereinwhich people may become injured and die or may become ill and die, but will not simply grow weak and sick because they have lived for 100 years.
The book is a fantastic read, not only because it conveys the modern medical advances of geriatrics in layman's terms, but because it is written from a forward looking optimism that gives the reader a "yes we can" point of view on the future of aging.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
DeGrey's major beef, in a nutshell, with the R&D community is that they are spending waaay too much time and energy trying to "understand" the complexities of why aging, cell damage, dysfunction, and diseases arise over time as bi-products of simply living life. He argues that we need a more targeted engineering approach -- simply FIND the damage after it has occurred, define what that damage is, and then GO FIX IT. These are much simpler problems to solve. As an analogy, look at what we do to preserve any machine or system. You can see a 100-year old house has holes in the roof; go patch them. While you're at it some new caulking around the windows, maybe some more insulation in the attic, some anti-termite spray, and there you go, good for another 100 years.
DeGrey envisions periodic therapies, say once per decade or so (similar to immunization schedules, for example) where individuals would receive viral injections and/or gene therapy to kill cancer cells, untangle proteins that cause alzheimers and the like, and remove calcification and stiffening from arteries and veins, generally restoring the body to a state of youthful vitality.
It is not nearly as "crazy as it sounds", but the fact remains that the large amounts of govt. and even private funding of such activities are not directed at "aging" per se, but rather at specific foundations devoted to one disease or another -- in other words, massive investment into cryptic treatments directed at helping a very very small percentage of the population. A paradigm shift is needed.
To his credit, and despite wild claims if 1,000-year "potential lifespans" and the like, DeGrey and Rae do not balk at frank discussions of the complexity that some of these treatments entail, or the failures that have plagued researchers along the way. The point is that progress IS being made now, and much more will come in the future, but at a pace that will be determined by focus, funding, and technological progress.
This book ties in well with books on nanotechnology and futurism. As others have said, we are about to enter a golden age of engineering *applications* that were undreamed of a century ago. We discovered quantum physics 100 years ago, but people are now building quantum computers. We first described the human DNA double-helix in 1953, have already sequenced many entire human genomes, and are well on the way to engineering with genetics, even building machines made from DNA.
We can now touch each individual molecule and cell in the body, so why can't we repair enough of them to keep the body functional indefinitely as a whole? It really isn't crazy at all.
Before I get into my opinion of this, let me summarize what this book is about:
De Grey and Rae tackle the problem of aging. They view aging, primarily, as a product of junk that accumulates in the body. The junk happens because of many things: diet, our environment, mutations in our DNA, etc. But primarily because of free radical damage: oxidation. The junk deforms our tissues, both inter and intra-cellularly. It's the hostile environment of oxidation that causes the twisting of proteins in our cells, and makes them deformed and non-funcitonal.
Through the process of oxidation, like a log burning up, we basically become less and less functional as time goes on because of free radical damage. Like the log burning, we don't really have a choice if we want to keep living. Just like the log takes in oxygen to fuel its fire, so too do we take in oxygen to fuel our mitochondria that provides energy to our cells. It's that energy that keeps the cell alive, and keeps us alive. But in the process we are burning up, and dying, just like the log. Mitochondria is the culprit: the energy furnaces which exist in every cell.
In order to thwart aging, we need to clear our bodies of this junk, and reduce mutations in our mitochondria that cause them to malfunction, as well as stop hydrogen peroxide - a free radical - from being systemically released to the rest of the body. Hydrogen peroxide is a byproduct spit out by mitochondria. That is the main cause of systemic oxidation.
The solution to stopping mitochondria from oxidizing the rest of the body is to transplant it into the nucleus of the cell, shielding it. Basically, fusing the separate mitochondria with the nucleus of the cell: playing an evolutionary god.
As for other diseases like Cancer and AIDS, we need to attack those problems through gene therapy. Delete, transform, etc. particular genes that will alter our response to these things (i.e. delete the gene responsible for producing telomerase in cancer, essentially shutting down tumour proliferation, in theory...).
That's about the jist of the book, but you won't find such a terse summary in there. The book is simply a mess of writing, and the above summary probably makes them look better than they are.
On that note, why 3 stars? The writing is very poor. There are paragraphs I have chopped out and reduced down to 1 sentence. It is very long-in-the-tooth at times. Like another reviewer said, the first portion is just a call for funding, and the last portion of the book is all speculation. And that speculation was very long-winded and lacked sophistication.
Now, onto the ideas in the book. Something positive first... I give credit to De Grey and Rae for taking on a seemingly fresh approach to the biggest medical scourge of life: aging. Aging kills us. They are right. If we can find ways to colonize space, living longer will not be a problem, and it will change our behaviour, particularly toward procreating.
But for everyone giving this such high reviews, you do need to further study physiology, biology, and biochemistry. What's clear is that De Grey certainly has an excellent grasp of these subjects. I was impressed with his overall view of the subject. In order to discuss this topic in such a macro/micro-scopic way that they have, they have expert knowledge of the relevant science.
But some of the ideas are fantastic compared to some of the other treatments being explored. For example, and I know I am not alone on this: his whole approach to curing cancer. Deleting all genes that code for telomerase? And how that basically kills people if you do. In order to thwart shrivelling up and dying, he proposes transplanting telomerase incompetent stem cells into the body, and topping us up with stem cells when we get low. This is both fantastic and unweildly in its application.
One promising treatment for cancer is a designer drug that starves, just tumour cells, of capillary formation. Blood supplies are then cut off, and just the tumour dies, leaving the rest of the healthy tissue alone. In fact, there is a drug, one of the only drugs available, that keeps people alive a little longer where cancer has metastasized in their bones. Basically a death sentence. But the drug works, and extends life sometimes up to 6 months and beyond.
No, that's not a cure, but what De Grey and Rae are proposing is something that will likely cause a lot more damage to the organism than anything else.
But aside from cancer, he skirts over problems with research associated with the ideas he advances. He uses words like "dramatic", etc. to describe things in research he interprets as positive. When, in fact, some of it is not that compelling if you do the research. But he plays it up.
What can we expect though? This is, at times, some hard science, and at other times, complete soft science full of fantastic ideas and arrogance.
Thanks De Grey and Rae for making people aware of the problems with aging, and trying to do something about it. But don't think that what you have proposed in this book is the ticket. It's not. It will be the continued, progressive evolution of multi-disiplinary science on a global scale, with shared ideas that will cure aging, because it is that complex.
But gene therapy, designer drugs, and nano-technology, all of which he mentions, are what is in store for us. These will give us powerful tools to fight disease, and to fight aging.
And what another reviewer said: one of the most important things about aging is diet. Eat healthy, and let your body, a magical thing, do the work for you by delivering all of that good stuff to your tissues.
I think the basic strategy is quite sound, given the exponential progress in technology and especially bio-tech that we are seeing today. It is pretty common to hear researchers say that they can do more in a year today than they could do in 10 years previously, because the tools and our knowledge are both so much better. So once we can get to a point where we can extend current lives by 20+ years, there is a good chance that no one will die of old age ever again (except by choice).
When I talk about this, one of the immediate concerns I hear is for the planet and running out of resources. Personally, I am convinced that when this problem arrives we will solve it, and that there are a variety of ways that this could be done (much lower birth rates, higher density on this planet, moving into space and/or to other planets), so I am much more concerned with curing aging. I don't want to see any more of my friends or family die, and I would like to enjoy life as long as I want. So I am all in favor of this program!
The book is divided into three sections. One that talks about the problem of aging and treating it as an engineering problem to be solved; one that talks about the known issues that have to be solved and possible solutions; and one that talks about what each of us can do to contribute to solving the problem.
The central section of the book is excellent, a superb treatise on why we age and the damage that causes age-related problems. It was also extremely encouraging to see the progress we've made in understanding these processes, and the progress we've made in finding ways to repair them.
I hope this book will help more people realize what is possible, and that we need to push on this to get it to happen sooner rather than later.
Doctor de Grey is unusual in that he is both scientist and engineer and combines the scepticism and rigour of the scientific method with the joyous (and infectious) playfulness evinced by engineering students at those - too few - university campuses run along the principle that the acquisition of knowledge is best when imbued with an open mind and a sense of fun. (For an example of this, see Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch's amazing lecture "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" at [...] The playful engineer's approach to life is: "Hey, what if we combined this theory with that approach... it might just have the effect we want. Let's set up an experiment and see what happens." Once the experiment done, the scientist then insists on validation, reproducibility, and the elimination of alternative explanations. The point is: To get truly valuable new insights that take us forward quickly in defeating the ravages of aging, in addition to being scrupulously scientific, you have to do two things: (1) be interdisciplinary, and (2) be ready to try new - sometimes radically new - things. In setting out to just exactly that, Aubrey de Grey has instituted an approach to biogerontology that is truly groundbreaking. Moreover, it is already yielding tangible results faster that any traditional single-discipline lab research could have achieved. Some of the video footage of actual rejuvenation I have seen at the SENS conferences has been mind-blowing. Most people have no idea of what is already being achieved in terms of actual aging reversal in laboratory animals, albeit specific rather than systemic, or in such areas as tissue engineering, where stem cell therapy meets structural engineering, nanotechnology and chemistry.
Now to the book. They key premise is that the biomedical technology to not only slow, but actually reverse aging, is within reach now. If applied periodically, this will enable us to stay biologically young long enough for further breakthroughs to occur, achieving even better rejuvenation, and so on, ... so that we could stay biologically young into an indefinite future. This idea is typically referred to as longevity escape velocity. The book is divided into three main parts. Part one is an introduction to SENS, including the personal voyage that led the author to develop this anti-aging paradigm. Part two is a detailed scientifically-rigorous-yet-accessible treatment of each of the seven types of damage that leads to aging, and the engineer's response to them. They are: (1) Cell loss/atrophy; (2) Extra-cellular junk; (3) Extra-cellular crosslinks; (4) Death-resistant cells; (5) Mitochondrial mutations; (6) Intracellular junk, and (7) Nuclear [epi]mutations. All types of aging-related damage fall into one of these seven categories. Finally, part 3 covers some of the practical aspects of getting from here to there: Political, societal, and financial.
Although Ending Aging is about science and uses a lot of scientific terminology, it is eminently accessible for the lay person with an interest in the subject. If you are not familiar with, say, mitochondria (the intracellular furnaces that provide the energy our bodies need to survive) or epigenetics (heritable changes in function that occur without changes to the DNA itself), you will find the science explained to you in a lucid, engaging way.
"Ending Aging" is a profoundly engaging, stimulating, and thought-provoking book. As I lost my dearly beloved father two years ago as a result of the accumulated damage from type-2 diabetes (the result of which is an acceleration of certain aging phenomena), I am all too aware of the truth of Aubrey's exhortation "Wake Up - Aging Kills!" I hope that this book may help you and your loved ones understand that defeating the decrepitude that comes with aging is something we can actually do something about.
It us not surprising that Ending Aging and its author Aubrey de Grey have received a fair amount of criticism, even derision, often of the ad hominem kind. But like Randy Pausch says in his lecture, "If you are going to do anything that is pioneering, you will get those arrows in the back." It seems to me that Aubrey and his co-author Michael Rae are in good company. Buy this book. It may well change your life.
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