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Takeaways from the Undoing Aging 2019 Conference

SamBlakeSamBlake Los Angeles, CaliforniaPosts: 31 mod
@Roey Tzezana and I attended the Undoing Aging conference in Berlin from March 28-30, where we attended various conference sessions — including the opening keynote from Dr. Nir Barzilai and a debate between Aubrey de Grey and Dr. Vadim Gladyshev on the validity of the “damage repair” approach — and conducted nearly 50 interviews with longevity experts.

Based on the many conversations we had, the XPRIZE team reached the following conclusions:

● We still lack a deep understanding of what drives aging; the “mechanisms” are just a start.
● More funding is needed for basic science, e.g., to better understand aging.
● There is a significant need to improve our ability to measure biological aging.
● The clinical trial process is a bottleneck. Translating science from animal models to humans is fraught with failure; the Valley of Death, or the period between drug discovery research and market entry, was frequently mentioned.
● There is widespread doubt whether we can perceive molecular interaction with enough precision in order to help us expedite development of aging treatments, e.g., through AI.
● The importance and prevalence of personalized medicine is trending up; the same is true, to a lesser extent, of biohacking, for which concern of risks persists.
● There is strong evidence that diet and exercise extend lifespan, and widespread belief that personalized programs would increase the impact of such treatments, including supplements; precise prescription across a wide range of heterogeneity, however, is at best in its infancy.
● Some of the most commonly mentioned aging treatments were those related to stem cells, the extracellular matrix, senotherapy, and epigenetic reprogramming.
● Proper messaging around fighting aging is essential, though there seems to be no consensus.
● There is optimism that one success (e.g., the TAME trial) could cascade more funding and interest.
● Concern remains about the side effects of emerging treatments like rapamycin, resveratrol and senotherapy.

Please, share your own views on any of these or related topics here!

Comments

  • NickOttensNickOttens Barcelona, SpainPosts: 284 admin
    @mkaeberlein, you may have more insight for us on the mechanisms of aging.
  • SamBlakeSamBlake Los Angeles, CaliforniaPosts: 31 mod
    @mkaeberlein, thank you for such a thoughtful response! I have a couple of follow-up questions.

    Yes, lack of funding is the biggest factor delaying breakthroughs in this field. This is mostly because a majority of funding for biomedical research goes toward curing specific diseases. It's an inefficient approach to improving human health, but there are many factors that are working to maintain the status quo here.
    • I'd love to hear you elaborate on some of these other factors.
    I agree we need better tools for measuring biological aging, but I've yet to hear anyone come up with a good plan for how you actually validate such tools in people. "Biomarkers" of aging rate are not particularly useful if you can't prove that they work. That's why I think functional measures of aging are more useful from a translational perspective, at least for now.
    • Help me understand your point a bit better, please; how would you describe the difference between a biomarker and a functional measure?
  • JessicaYoonJessicaYoon Los Angeles, CaliforniaPosts: 24 mod
    @mkaeberlein so great to see you here on this community discussion--thank you for joining! I also have the same question that @SamBlake mentioned: what would be some examples of a functional measure of aging?
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