repair systems

Aubrey de Grey ag24 at mole.bio.cam.ac.uk
Wed Jan 27 17:20:09 EST 1999


Jurgen Kaljuvee wrote:

> what do you think are the next 2-3 problems which need to be solved?

I'd say we need techniques to retard or reverse the accumulation of
nuclear and mitochondrial DNA damage; my bias is that mitochondrial DNA
damage matters more.  This could be by improving the fidelity of repair
and/or replication, but it could also be done by increasing the DNA's
protection from mutagens, such as by engineering "nuclear mtDNA" --
transgenic copies of its 13 protein-coding genes, suitably modified so
that the proteins would be imported into mitochondria but the DNA would
not have to sit next to the mutagenic respiratory chain.  Some of these
proposed techniques are quite realistic: not as imminent as AGE-breaking
drugs, perhaps, but fairly close.

If I might also answer your question to Damien: an indefinite lifespan
does not in fact require zero aging, e.g. zero somatic mutation rate.
It would also result from a never-ending stream of medical advances
which, cumulatively, increases lifespan (for people of all ages) by a
rate faster than the passage of time.  This certainly means, for
example, that nuclear DNA damage must be repaired with ever-increasing
fidelity; but we don't need to get that repair up to 100% fidelity in
the next few decades in order for Damien's title to be borne out.  If
one doubts the plausibility that such a stream will happen, once begun,
one might reflect that our understanding of the human body is rapidly
-- and not asymptotically -- improving while the body itself is not
getting any more complex.

Aubrey de Grey




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