Response to Hayflick

Randall Parker rgparker at west.net
Tue Nov 14 20:33:35 EST 2000


I fully agree with you Aubrey. When I read of various achievements being 
made by university research labs and biotech firms I get the sense that 
the rate of progress is accelerating dramatically. Cell therapy and gene 
therapy advances seem to be coming almost every week if not every day. 
What seems to be especially speeding things up are advances in automation 
of lab techniques that allow orders of magnitude more assays and tests to 
be done per unit of time than was the case just a few years ago. 

Even if we limit ourselves to gene therapy I don't see why all of aging 
won't become fully reversible. Then if one throws in cell therapy and the 
growth of replacement organs the possibilities for reversal of various 
forms of aging become staggering.

What I want to ask someone like Hayflick is just what part of the aging 
process does he think is immutable. Are we not going to be able to 
deliver any gene to any selected target cell type? Is there some cell 
type that is just not going to be amenable to gene therapy and if so why? 
Or is there some age-caused changes that will not be reversible with gene 
therapy? Is there some waste product of aging that will not, for some 
reason, be removeable for instance?

On 14 Nov 2000 15:54:00 GMT esteemed Aubrey de Grey did'st hold forth 
> Sir -- Hayflick rightly draws our attention [1] to the many tumultuous
> social challenges which would confront civilisation were we to develop
> a way of greatly extending human maximum lifespan -- an advance which,
> in its extreme form, has been termed "engineered negligible senescence"
> or ENS [2].  However, he also argues that this scenario is vanishingly
> unlikely to come about in the foreseeable future.  His reasons for that
> view are critically flawed, based as they are upon extrapolation from
> past (lack of) changes in lifespan.  In 1900, similar logic would have
> firmly predicted that the minimum time taken in 1950 to travel between
> London and New York would be several days; in fact, the advent of
> powered flight made that estimate wrong by over an order of magnitude.
> Current and imminent biotechnology, particularly somatic gene therapy,
> has the potential to do for human ageing exactly what powered flight
> did for long-distance travel.

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