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Improving Health and Longevity

The Postponement of Aging

Aubrey de Grey
Biomedical Gerontologist
University of Cambridge

The postponement of aging is likely to follow a trajectory similar to most technologies for which there is widespread enthusiasm: after an indeterminate period in pursuit of the initial breakthrough, improvements to the technology in terms of cost, convenience and efficacy will occur rapidly. This, combined with the expectation that effective life-extension therapies will be rejuvenation therapies—ones that repair age-related damage, rather than merely slowing down its accumulation—leads to the conclusion that most of the beneficiaries of the early life-extension therapies will survive long enough to benefit from subsequent, more effective ones, and thus long enough for the ones after that, without limit: in short, that they will not need to die of old age at any age. Nanotechnology is unlikely, in my view, to be sufficiently mature to contribute appreciably to the very first rejuvenation therapies, because purely biotechnological solutions to the major types of age-related damage are well advanced and will reach the clinic before nanotechnology can catch up. However, nanotechnology seems likely to play a major role in the more sophisticated interventions that will be required to maintain youthfulness once lifespans on the order of two or three times natural ones are achieved. Repair of nuclear mutations, cleavage of protein/protein crosslinks and destruction of aggregated intracellular material are three major categories of therapy that can be achieved to a large extent by foreseeable biotechnology but may well only be comprehensively implemented using non-biological tools, within which nanotechnology is likely to play a central role.

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