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A future landmark?
on 20 June 2008
Ending Aging may one day be regarded as having made history. And it is fun, provoking, and informative.
Its starting point itself is eye-opening: aging isn't built into our bodies, it only results from a gradual breakdown that evolution hasn't found efficient to equip us against, picking reproduction as the preferred path for gene survival. De Grey adds that this breakdown can be fixed. Science will soon be able to engineer eternal youth, he asserts - yes, not just slow aging down but actually set back the clock. This would apparently require fixing decay in seven broad areas, for which he details the solutions. To me, a complete layman, four of the proposed solutions seem in the process of advanced medical research, two look farther off, and one, dealing with cancer, sounds somewhat unpalatable if perhaps credible (requiring regular cell transplants to a multiplicity of organs).
De Grey is not originally a biologist, but a computer programmer. He says his outsider status is an advantage. Sounds suspicious? Perhaps, but he published revolutionary research on the DNA of mitochondria (the part of the cell that generates the energy on which we live) and their role in aging; this was peer-reviewed and acclaimed by the scientific establishment. He was awarded a PhD for it at Cambridge, where he works.
Ending Aging says its goals can be achieved in 25 years. Considering the impotence of big pharma and the propensity to blunders of public government (viz. the stem cell controversy, which is detailed in the book), this sounds doubtful. But incredibly, one big hurdle to pursuing the requisite research seems to be that a number of people don't actually want to end aging. This is where De Grey turns from scientist to advocate. Apparently, the fear is that ending aging would cause grave disruption to the environment and existing social structures. So what?