Why do we age… and do we have to?
Every year at Abundance360, I bring together some of the world’s foremost leaders on longevity to discuss the latest breakthroughs in the field.
This past January, I hosted Dr. George Church and Dr. David Sinclair—two of Harvard’s most prominent thinkers on this topic—and you’ll be shocked at what they had to say.
In this blog, we’ll talk about the audacious idea that aging is a disease that can be cured.
We’ll also talk about how you can get access to cutting-edge companies, treatments, and thinking in this area.
Let’s dive in…
NOTE: Every year I take a small group of investors, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs on an annual “Platinum Longevity Trip” to experience first-hand the major players, scientists, companies, and treatments in vitality and longevity science. I’ve also made Longevity and Healthspan one of four focus areas of my year-round coaching program called Abundance360.
Gene Therapy Turns Back Time
One of the most powerful technologies now available in the fight for longevity is called gene therapy: a technology first theorized in the 1980s that has taken almost 40 years to mature.
Gene therapy allows scientists to use a vector (typically an Adeno Associated Virus) to carry a given gene to a set of desired cells in an organism.
Want a specific gene inserted into retinal cells, or bone marrow, or neurons?
No problem, there's a gene therapy approach for that.
Rejuvenate Bio, co-founded by the extraordinary researcher Dr. George Church, is using gene therapy to rejuvenate animals with the ultimate goal of age reversal in humans. The company is researching a subset of genes that, when given to older animals, resets the age clock in both target and adjacent cells.
After testing in mice, the technology demonstrated aging reversal across several disease types, including: type 2 diabetes, heart failure, kidney failure, mitral valve diseases, and neurodegeneration.
Rejuvenate Bio has moved on to testing in dogs, which may expedite the FDA approval process for humans. The veterinary trials have already shown positive results, and approval is expected in the next one to two years. This means that human trials could be just a few years away.
Dr. Church believes that every cell in the body can eventually be reprogrammed. Even our precious neuronal connections could be preserved by retaining connected synapses while replacing the brain cells’ nuclei.
At some point, age reversal technologies will allow us to gain over a year for every year that we age. Aubrey de Grey, one of the most prominent thought leaders in the field, has dubbed this point in time as reaching “longevity escape velocity.”
With the convergence of various exponential technologies impacting biology and accelerating the age reversal field, we may reach this point in as soon as twenty years.
Not Just a Transplant, but an Enhancement
Some of Dr. Church’s companies are also taking on the global organ transplant crisis. But the goal isn’t only to increase the supply of organs available, it’s also to enhance the quality of organs delivered to patients.
Qihan Biotech is using gene-editing technology and expertise in transplantation immunology to create optimal organs for transplant into humans. They are currently engineering pig organs that are resistant to senescence (i.e., aging) and infection. Today, most organ recipients must take immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of their lives to prevent their immune systems from destroying the implanted tissue. To lessen this burden, the company is making its organs immune-tolerant.
Dr. Church refers to the genetically-engineered pigs that supply these organs as “Pig 3.0.” There are currently 2,000 of them supplying organs in preclinical primate trials at Massachusetts General Hospital.
With all positive results so far, it won’t be long until clinical trials begin in humans.
Fountain of Youth in the Epigenome
If each of us has the same genome at 60 that we had at 20 years old, why do we age? What’s different? As it turns out, it’s all about the epigenome, specifically which genes are turned on and which are turned off. Reversing aging, in part, will be about controlling the epigenome, specifically controlling the expression of our genes over time. Ensuring the right genes stay on, and the right genes stay off.
The trick in part will involve convincing cells that they are epigenetically younger, and this is what Dr. David Sinclair, Harvard Medical School Professor of Genetics and Co-founder of the journal Aging, demonstrated in a landmark paper published on the cover of Nature in December 2020.
Dr. Sinclair’s research has focused mainly on the use of three Yamanaka factors, or genes that are highly expressed in embryos and have the power to reset cells to their more primitive, pluripotent states. These factors are essential to reprogram cells into almost any other type.
Dr. Sinclair and his team have already fully revitalized the eyes of mice with glaucoma. After injecting an adenovirus containing three Yamanaka factors into the animal’s eye, they found that the cells did not reset to a blank slate. Instead, the cells recovered to their undamaged form and restored functionality.
The optic nerve, which is similar to the spinal cord in that it’s unable to regenerate, grew back perfectly. Vision loss was even reversed in older animals without glaucoma.
And Sinclair and his team aren’t stopping with the eye. The liver, muscle, brain, and ear will all be studied further.
Sinclair envisions a day when a gene therapy treatment utilizing the three Yamanaka factors can be used to make the cells in your body younger.
The gold rush to “youthify” the cells and organs of our bodies has begun. What was once a topic filled with stigma (i.e., age reversal) has now become one of the hottest biotech research subjects.
And when I asked Dr. Church and Dr. Sinclair when they might expect to see such therapeutic treatments available to humans, their answer was extraordinary: “most likely this coming decade.
Join Me at Abundance Platinum
Both Dr. George Church and Dr. David Sinclair will be joining us in Boston during our Platinum Longevity Trip, alongside a handful of pioneering companies (the likes of Elevian, Moderna, Dyno Therapeutics, Dean Kamen’s ARMI, and Celularity), where we’ll have the unprecedented opportunity to learn firsthand about the next decade in longevity leaps.
The Platinum Longevity & Immunology Trips will take place in mid-August and late-September 2021. Each Trip will be a 5-Day / 5-Star deep dive to meet 20+ companies, 12+ academic labs, and 30+ scientists, physicians and startups who are leading the charge against age-related diseases and extending the human healthspan. Both Trips are nearly sold out. To learn more and lock in your seat, check out our website and sign up here!
Join My Abundance360 Community
If developing a Longevity Mindset and tracking the latest health breakthroughs is important to you, then consider joining my year-round Abundance360 coaching program.
Every year, my team and I select a group of 360 entrepreneurs and CEOs to coach over the course of a year-long program. You can join at any time for a full year’s worth of personal coaching on Exponential Tech, Longevity, Moonshots, and Abundance thinking.
My mission is to help A360 members obtain mastery in four specific Mindsets: an Abundance Mindset; an Exponential Mindset; a Moonshot Mindset; and a Longevity Mindset. Together we will actively select and reinforce your preferred Mindsets.