Sens Foundation has a lot of projects that were working on all at the same time.
There are 3 projects that we are working on at our research center in California and then
there are a whole bunch of others that we support at university laboratories around
the world - mostly in the USA.
In the research center in Mountain View California there are 3 projects that we are working on
- 1st of all, mitochondrial mutation - we're interested in combating the accumulation of
mitochondrial mutations, not actually via repairing them, but by making them harmless;
by putting modified copies of the mitochondrial genes into the nuclear dna, modified in such
a way that the proteins go back to the right place - even though the dna is in the wrong
This is an idea that was actually pioneered in Australia by a group in Monash University
- about 25 or 27 years ago even.
But has actually been very challenging to make work in general.
Over the last few years a number of breakthroughs have been made to make the whole thing much
more realistic, and we're perusing that with a lot of energy now.
The 2nd thing we're working on at the research center is to identify enzymes from the environment
(especially from bacteria) that can break down substances whose accumulation in the
body over life causes diseases like cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration.
We've become quite good at finding enzymes that break down these substances, and now
were developing ways to put them into mammalian cells in manners that actually allow the cells
to survive longer.
We've just published in the April of 2012 the first demonstration of rescue of cells
from toxic substances that accumulate in the body using a system of this nature.
The 3rd thing we are doing at the research center is part of our cancer project - we're
interested in combating cancer by controlling the elongation of ends of chromosomes - these
things called 'telomeres' and were working specifically on a rather neglected area in
that field called ALT (Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres) which is a method that about
10% of cancers use that is still very characterized genetically and we're working on that.
The elimination of this junk which accumulates inside cells using enzymes from bacteria
is what we call medical bioremediation. We call it that because bioremediation is the use of very much the same method
to eliminate pollutants from the environment as a method of environmental decontamination.
Bioremediation works extremely well; it's not just an academic idea; it's a thriving commercial discipline.
And it certainly shows us that it's pretty straight forward to find enzymes to break down more-or-less whateever you want
so long as the thing you want to break down is organic, and rich in energy - so that the microbe can break it down and it can live off it.
Most of the work going on that is related to SENS is not directly related to longevity.
And that's because the SENS approach to combating aging is a 'divide and conquer' approach;
an approach in which we split the problem of aging into a number of sub-problems and we address each of those individually.
In any divide an conquer approach to a complex technological problem you don't expect to see any actual results
in terms of the overall goal of the technology until all of the components are at least working reasonably well.
And we're certainly not at that stage yet. So yes, there's masses of progress at SENS in various of the strands that we've been perusing -
but that has not yet translated into a longevity benefit yet in any species. However there is plenty of work going on in simpler strategies to combat aging;
strategies that we don't pursue because they won't scale - they will only give you a modest benefit postponing the diseases and disabilities of old age.
But which we're very much happy for other people to pursue in because they may be easier to implement in human beings
than the SENS approach. So, for example a few years ago it was discovered that the drug named Rapamycin
was able to significantly extend the life-span of rodents - which is quite a surprise
because the drug had been around a long time. But you know there have been a lot of studies of how
that happens ever since that time - and we may be able to turn that into a useful therapy for human beings.
There is still a lot of excitement around drugs that emulate calorie restriction that extends lifespan
of rodents especially, by tricking them (essentially) into thinking they are in a famine when they're not.
And of course there's a lot of work going on still in trying to evaluate other approaches to combating
aging by simple methods - there is always constantly new news in this area.