Just as the Manhattan Project was conceived in 1942 to beat the Germans to the atomic bomb during World War II, the “Manhattan Beach Project” was founded as an “all-out assault on the world’s biggest killer – aging,” according to project organizer David A. Kekich.
An end to aging may be just as explosive as the atomic blast that occurred at Alamogordo, New Mexico during the predawn hours of July 16, 1945. It’s serious enough that members of the Obama Administration consider it to be one of the major global destabilizing forces of the next 25 years. It will require the political mastery of a scientific and societal transition built around the Nano-Info-Bio-Cogno (NBIC) roadmap.
After nine years of research and collaboration, a group of entrepreneurs and scientists – many known to h+ readers –- are disclosing their plan “to start saving up to 100,000 lives lost to aging every day, by 2029.” A Longevity Summit in November 2009 — organized by Kekich — brought together a number of researchers on human aging and longevity for a discussion on the state-of-the-art research, the implications of their discoveries, and round table, cross-disciplinary discussions that may lead to new and accelerated results. Here’s a video of Kekich explaining the project:
The goal of the summit was “to devise scientific and business strategies with the goal of demonstrating the capability to reverse aging in an older human by 2029.” Many at the conference believe that humans are approaching something Aubrey De Grey calls “longevity escape velocity” (see the h+ article “Aubrey de Grey on ‘The Singularity’ and ‘The Methuselarity’” in Resources). This is the point at which the yearly advances in procedures for extending human life expectancy result in adding one year to the human lifespan –- potentially making death-by-aging a choice rather than a date with destiny.
Entrepreneur and futurist Ray Kurzweil opened the conference with a virtual presentation on exponential technology trends that are bringing the prospect of achieving longevity escape velocity ever closer. “We are very close to the tipping point in human longevity,” explained Kurzweil. “We are about 15 years away from adding more than one year of longevity per year to remaining life expectancy.”
University of California, Riverside biochemist Stephen Spindler reported on his research seeking caloric restriction mimetics. (See the h+ article “You Are What You Don’t Eat” in Resources.) Research shows that restricting mice and rats to about two-thirds of their regular diet extends their healthy lifespans. For example, calorie-restricted mice live up to 50 percent longer and experience less heart disease and cancer than those who eat as much as they want. Spindler is testing a variety of compounds including pharmaceuticals to see if they mimic the effects of caloric restriction in mice.
Michael Rose, a biologist at the University of California, Irvine, talked about his work breeding long-lived fruit flies. Rose is testing the hypothesis that natural selection contributes to aging. Using artificial selection for longevity, Rose has produced fruit flies that live four times longer than normal, the human equivalent of being healthy at age 300. These “Methuselah flies” are more fecund and better at handling environmental stresses than non-selected flies.
William Andrews, head of Sierra Sciences, talked about his company’s project to identify compounds that lengthen telomeres –- repeated sequences of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes to keep them from unraveling and to keep them from binding to other chromosomes. According to Andrews, when an adult’s telomeres get down to about 5,000 repeats they die of old age. By looking at telomere length in a blood sample, he claims to be able to predict how much time until you die a natural death. “I can tell how old you are and how long you have before you die of old age,” claims Andrews.
A group of entrepreneurs and scientists – many known to h+ readers –- are disclosing their plan “to start saving up to 100,000 lives lost to aging every day, by 2029."
Stephen Coles heads the Supercentenarian Research Foundation (SRF) and wants to answer the question why some people live to be over 100 years old. Supercentenarians are people who are over 110 years old. In the world there are 76 currently validated supercentenarians, 72 are female and 4 are male. His research shows that most died of senile cardiac amyloidosis, the accumulation of amyloid fibers in their heart muscles.
John Furber, founder of Legendary Pharmaceuticals, discussed the problem of accumulating cross-linked proteins and sugars inside and outside of cells – these are the fibers that killed Coles’ supercentenarians. The digestive organelles inside cells called lysosomes slowly become clogged with advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).
Nanotechnology pioneer Robert Freitas – recipient of the prestigious 2009 Feynman Prize for Theory, in recognition of his pioneering work in molecular mechanosynthesis –- gave a talk with Ralph Merkle on how medical non-biological nanotechnology will likely work in the next 20 years. “The difference between good and bad health is how your atoms are arranged,” said Merkle. The goal of medical nanotechnology is to mobilize nanobots to patrol the body and its cells repairing damage as it occurs.
The business strategy session included new media entrepreneur and Disney executive Oliver Luckett, 2008 Libertarian Party VP candidate Wayne Allyn Root, computer and biotech entrepreneur Richard Offerdahl, marketing expert John Lustyan, social media marketer Michael Terpin, Lifestar Institute COO Kevin Perrott, CEO of TA Sciences Noel Patton, filmmaker Michael Potter, marketer Joe Sugarman, computer entrepreneur Ken Weiss, and Bill Faloon, co-founder of the Life Extension Foundation.
Can you stay healthy enough to make it to 2029? If you can, you may be able to live indefinitely if you choose – although the political and societal challenges you’ll face will likely be more daunting than the ones that followed the dawning of the Atomic Era at Alamogordo in 1945. Follow the progress of The Manhattan Beach Project at www.manhattanbeachproject.com