Living longer. How can you live longer? Would you like to grow old in good health? What should you eat and what kind of lifestyle changes should you make? What scientific developments are taking place concerning longevity? How are technological developments going to help us extend our lives? And why do companies and corporations also have an interest in this?
I personally try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and stay in shape. In fact, I’m willing to try out anything and everything. What is the best diet? Which supplements should I take? How should you exercise and train? Just how much stress is good for you?
Your lifestyle has a big influence on how old you become. Do you smoke? Do you regularly eat unhealthy food? Do you suffer from chronic stress? Do you drink too much alcohol? Do you have a genetic predisposition to certain disorders or diseases? Do you have a rich social life? All of these factors play a role in your life expectancy.
But what if your lifestyle might become less important in the future? Anti-aging companies, technological developments and scientific breakthroughs in the field of anti-aging could soon make life a lot easier. Perhaps in the future we, as humans, will even be able to reverse aging.
B.T.W. I’ve also written a longer article about anti-aging.
In 2019, I gave a talk about this topic at the Biohacking Conference in Riga, Latvia. Near the end of this article, you can look at my presentation.
Why live longer?
In this article, I explain how you can live longer, what kind of research is currently being done, and what role technology could play. Furthermore, this article will give you more insight into the impact of living longer (5x) and pills you could take to prevent aging (3x).
Before writing this article, I organized a Biohacking Meetup, and I attended the Singularity University Summit the Netherlands and the EHA Symposium. On the Permanent Beta Day (March 2018) and Club Cele (April 2018), I gave a talk about the academic and technological breakthroughs in the field of anti-aging science. Feel free to take a look at my slides [link at the bottom].
I talked with several experts on this topic. Here are two interviews and near the end of this article you can also watch my talk with Aubrey de Grey (SENS Foundation) and Alexander Fedintsev (Open Longevity)
In 2018 I held an interview with Joao Pedro de Magalhaes of the University of Liverpool (United Kingdom) at the Brave New World Conference in Leiden (The Netherlands).
Interview with Joao Pedro de Magalhaes
In 2018 I held an interview Stephen Cave of the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom) about immortality at the Brave New World Conference in Leiden (The Netherlands).
Interview with Stephen Cave, University of Cambridge
Science of living longer
Research into living longer. ‘Anti-aging’ refers to the efforts that companies, governments, organizations and academic institutions are making to halt – and perhaps even reverse – aging.
The Netherlands also plays an important role in this. In 2017, Erasmus MC’s Molecular Genetics department discovered an important breakthrough in a study with mice. After being administered a certain medication, older mice started moving around more and some of their organs started working better again.
An eccentric millionaire called Darren Moore even went so far as to try this medication on himself [link at the bottom]. Although this didn’t directly lead to a rejuvenation of his body, it does show just how far some people are willing to go for this cause.
At the Singularity University Summit (2016), I talked to Kris Verburgh. He gave a presentation on aging and its role in healthcare. He explained that 86% of healthcare expenses go to aging.
Aging, isn’t that an odd thing to begin with? Not according to Kris. He gave me several biological examples, such as the hydra; a fresh water animal that can rejuvenate itself. Or jellyfish. At a Meetup, Khannea talked about immortal jellyfish, by the way.
But humans are able to rejuvenate themselves as well. Kris explains that it’s quite a special feat whenever a baby is born. A baby is born from an egg that has been inside a woman’s body for years. It goes from about 30 years old, back to 0. What can we learn from this biological process?
In his opinion, aging is a disease. A disease caused by evolutionary neglect. This in turn is caused by nature. From an evolutionary perspective, your life isn’t of utmost important after you turn 30. At this point, you’re supposed to have reproduced offspring already.
Progress medical technology
Now we’ve found a way to defeat nature. Kris believes in the progress of medical technology. In the future we can cure nearly all diseases. Medicine will become extremely accurate, as well as personal.
I also interviewed Kris Verburgh for my podcast. We talked about a number of anti-aging methods, such as rapamycin, stem cell therapy, telomeres, AGEs, NAD + and epigenetics. He has high expectations concerning the research into epigenetic programming and clearing out senescent cells.
His expectation, which I share as well, is that there won’t just be one pill or solution. Kris Verburgh: ‘We’ll probably have a vaccine against aging in 10 years from now, but apart from that, we’ll also undergo other therapies, such as gene therapy or epigentic programming’.
Who is Aubrey de Grey?
Scientists are looking into how aging affects organs, cells, the brain and more. Once we know how aging works, we can try to stop that process or even reverse it. Will we start to see scenarios like the movie ‘A Curious Case or Benjamin Button’, in which someone becomes younger (instead of older)? In the photo above, you can see a scene from the movie.
The most well-known anti-aging and longevity research institute is SENS [link at the bottom]. SENS’ Chief Science Officer is Aubrey De Grey, an interesting character. He is a biomedical gerontologist. This term refers to someone who conducts research into aging. In his opinion, the first person to become 1,000 years old has already been born.
Basically, aging is the increase and and build-up of damage in your cells and organs. This is also what most of the current research is focusing on. You could compare it with a car. If one of the tires needs replacing, you replace that tire. Why would it be any different for people?
Damage in cells and organs can lead to all sorts of diseases. Right now, the three leading causes of death are cardiovascular diseases (1), cancer (2) and brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (3). By solving mortality, we can also ‘solve’ the diseases.
At the Eurosymposium on Healthy Aging (EHA) in Brussels in September 2016, I spoke to Victor Björk about research into centenarians. As in: people who are older than 110. These are super-centenarians people. Interestingly enough, there are way more women than men who reach this age, but there’s no explanation for this yet.
He showed me some interesting statistics. For instance, the strength of the immune system decreases exponentially as you get older. This can be measured, among other things, by analyzing your blood and then looking at the number of white blood cells. In addition to blood, researchers can also look at changes in your intestinal bacteria flora. The bacteria in your intestines are vital for the breakdown of harmful substances such as AGEs (Advanced Glycation End Products).
Near the end of the symposium, there was a panel discussion. Almost everyone in the room (40 people) was convinced that aging is a disease. That is a big paradigm change. In the new paradigm, diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or heart attacks are seen as a consequence of aging.
No one objects to curing Alzheimer’s. But if we talk about curing aging, it’s a different story.
The challenge is to illustrate this to society, science and governments. However, this also has its dangers. If aging is a disease, pharmaceutical companies could use this as an argument to sell more drugs.
Role of technology in living longer
Technology can also help us live longer. I’ve previously organized a meeting about 3D bio printing, for example. If my liver is worn out, will I be able to print a new one? [link to 3D bio printing at the bottom]
Calico is a company that was founded by Google. The aim of the company is to combat old age and to extend people’s lives. Even for Alphabet (Google’s parent company), with its pioneering search engine, Google glasses and autonomous cars, this is an ambitious goal. Take this quote by Bill Maris, the CEO of Google Ventures. He’s stated: “I just hope to live long enough not to die.”
At the Biohacking Meetup, Khannea talked about two different phases within research on aging. Phase 1 is the combating aging. Phase 2 is reversing aging. According to Khannea, we are currently at the beginning of phase 1. The reason for this is that we have ‘exhausted’ our evolutionary capabilities. We won’t be able to become much older in a purely natural way anymore.
She thinks of aging as a condition that we can remedy, especially through the use of innovative technology. Examples include nanotechnology (to remove waste) and stem cell therapy (to replace damaged cells).
The business of living longer
Other examples include companies such as Human Longevity Inc. and Alkahest [links at the bottom]. Human Longevity was founded by, among others, Peter Diamandis and Graig Venter (one of the first researchers to map out the human genome). Alkahest focuses on developing technologies to halt anti-aging processes, by using blood.
And don’t forget about what’s happening on an individual level either. Well-known venture capitalist and tech-entrepreneur Peter Thiel transfuses fresh blood into his own blood. Ray Kurzweil (Google) swallows a bunch of pills every day, to shut down the aging processes in his own body.
The method used by Peter Thiel is also known as ‘parabiosis’. In 2018, a study conducted by Kalampouka garnered some media attention [link at the bottom]. Researchers had studied what happened if they administered the plasma of both young men and old men to a muscle cell. It turned out that the cell in the ‘younger’ plasma reacted more forcefully to any damage it encountered, than the older plasma.
Although there’s still research being done in laboratories, into the efficacy of this therapy, that doesn’t prevent companies from commercializing it and offering it to clients. Ambrosia Plasma, for instance, sells young blood [link at the bottom]. Currently, you can buy 1 liter for 8,000 dollars and 2 liters for 12,000 dollars (price level 2018).
The company itself has published results from a survey among 600 clients. The fact that they published it themselves means that you need to approach the results with a healthy dose of skepticism. However, their results indicate that among their clients, the amount of amyloids and antigens linked to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease decreased by 20%.
Another researcher, Tony Wyss-Coray of Stanford University, is sceptical of the results: “There is currently no clinical evidence that this therapy works.”
At the EHA, Sven Bulterijs and I talked about companies that are investing in anti-aging techniques or monitoring aging processes. The most interesting breakthroughs have to do with the integration of a number of innovative Research & Development methods into anti-aging science: big data, new models (such as 3D bioprinting), mathematical models and ‘multi omics’ (including the human genome).
Sven argues that we need to accelerate the anti-aging research that is being conducted. Not just by investing more resources, but also by relaxing regulations and by creating more publicity around the research. One of his most interesting ideas is to let go of the principle of ‘first, do no harm’. As this principle currently limits the speed at which technology and innovation can develop.
My gut feeling: that’s quite a big step.
Longevity pills (3x)
Finally, is there such a thing as taking pills to live longer? There have been a few interesting scientific studies so far.
#1 Rapamycin is one of the most promising anti-aging drugs. In one of the studies that were conducted, mice saw a 60% increase in lifespan after being administered rapamycin. Although the substance was originally intended to be used an antibiotic, it’s now also being administered to transplantation patients, as it fortifies the body’s immune system. Rapamycin pushes cells to go into maintenance mode, according to a scientist named Calkhoven. It slows down the production of proteins and accelerates the rate at which waste is eliminated from the body.
#2 The most widely used medicine against diabetes is called metformin. Research by KU Leuven pointed out that metformin increases the production of oxygen species in the mitochondria. Although these particles can damage protein and DNA, they can have a positive effect in the long run, as long as there aren’t too many of them. De Haes and his fellow researchers also conducted a study on roundworms. ‘Not only did the roundworms age more slowly, but they also remained healthy longer.’
#3 It’s a molecule that exists in every living cell. NAD+ stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. The number of NAD+ molecules in your body decreases as you age. The function of the molecule is to prevent the cell from aging [link at the bottom].
Harvard researchers administered more NAD+ molecules to older mice, and it led them to look younger and eventually live longer. Researcher David Sinclair: ‘This comes very close to the fountain of youth’. The drug is currently being tested in humans.
#Bonus. Aubrey de Grey has also mentioned a number of anti-aging pills and supplements, including rapamycin and metformin. To my surprise, he has also mentioned aspirin. In small doses, aspirin can prevent blood clotting. Therefore, some people recommend taking 0.25 to 0.5 aspirin on a daily basis.
- N.B. In my article on anti-aging, I provide more in-depth information about anti-aging pills [link at the bottom]!
But what if we could slow down or even reverse aging? A lot of people are scared of this scenario, and rightfully so. What are the most common criticisms and challenges?
- Associations with fascism
- Quality of life
#1 It’s difficult to predict what longevity would look like in real life. A lot of people turn to dark and gloomy scenarios, or associate it with fascism. According to Khannea, this obscures the discussion we should be having about these developments. Kris Verburgh agrees with this: ‘We need to make sure that there won’t be a biological aristocracy.’
#2 We won’t just be able to live longer, but we’ll also have an increased quality of life. We won’t be turning 80 with all the usual ailments and health issues. No, you could live to 100 with the body of a 20-year old.
What’s more, some people argue that in the future, we could prevent any and all forms of human suffering. But don’t setbacks and disappointments also keep life interesting?
#3 Money. In the future, we’ll outsource a lot of our work to robots. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that we’ll need to start thinking about alternative ways to distribute financial resources, such as the universal basic income. According to Khannea, this won’t necessarily be extremely costly. We won’t have to pay as much for healthcare, and social services such as retirement funds won’t be necessary anymore.
#4 Overpopulation. What happens if we all suddenly become much, much older? Won’t there be way too many people on planet earth? Khannea disagrees: “We currently have a population of 6 billion, but there’s still space on earth for 13 million people.”
What if we go past that number? Khannea: “By that time, humans will also be living in space. We’ll have colonized other planets and asteroids as well.” We’ll have access to a surface area that is 6.000 times the surface of the earth.
#5 Inequality. I personally find this one the most interesting challenge. What if we’ll be able to raise our intelligence by 20 IQ points? That’s a decision you could make for your child. But you could also decide not to do so. There’s quite a few ethical dilemmas there. I’ve also written various other articles on this topic; about human enhancement, superhumans and technology ethics for instance [links at the bottom].
Will the gap between rich entrepreneurs with access to anti-aging methods and people who don’t have access to these means continue to grow? What about people who would rather not use these methods, for ethical or religious reasons?
I find it absolutely fascinating. Not just for myself. I would personally love to grow really old. Most people would. But there are lots of potential objections as well, especially looking at the social implications.
- Aren’t we already dealing with overpopulation?
- This is extremely selfish!
- Isn’t there a reason why we go through birth and death in life?
These are all valid concerns. However, there’s plenty of arguments in favor of anti-aging research as well. If you replace the word ‘aging’ with words like ‘Alzheimer’s’ or ‘heart attack’, way fewer people would object against this research. It depends on your perspective, with regards to these developments.
A second argument is that people who live longer, are generally also sick for a way shorter period of time. People who become very old are generally healthier (despite all of the genetic, social and cultural differences). The period during which they are, ill before they die, is generally shorter than among younger people [link to research at the bottom].
This is an interesting insight in more ways than one. Not only would getting older mean less suffering. You’d also have much more time to do everything you’d like to do, and it wouldn’t cost society as much money as it does now.
Besides, I think I would enjoy living longer. It’s not scary at all. A director of a nursing home in a Belgian newspaper:“There’s a 100-year old woman here who is loving life, and a woman who is a few decades younger, but who’s already tired of life. You can’t put an age on happiness.”
Whatever your opinion is: it’s a development that is progressing at an extremely high pace. Especially now that companies such as Google have gotten involved. No one wants to be sick. But what if the opposite of that happens? That everyone remains healthy for eternity?
That raises a whole new question. One about ethics and social impact. Take these examples:
- What will happen to our retirement funds, if people start getting much and much older?
- Will we work much longer as well?
- How will we feel about euthanasia?
- What are the mental consequences of knowing you could become 300 years old?
- Will you still be happy?
- What should we do with cryonic suspension? (people that have had their bodies frozen, who are waiting until their disease has been cured to be thawed)
For those reasons, I love reading more about longevity and giving talks and presentations about this topic.
My conclusion: this is an intriguing development that will be progressing rapidly in the next few years. But how fast is it moving? Kris Verburgh mentioned that conducting clinical scientific research takes between 5 and 10 years. ‘Perhaps if you are still alive in 2050, you could be immortal’.
It’s not just about the technological developments, but also about the radical innovations and especially the gigantic social impact of this. We currently think that old age and death are a ‘part of life’, but that’s simply because of our current worldview. With these technological advancements, ethical, religious, political, legal and demographic aspects, as I discussed in the section on Impact, are becoming increasingly important.
Would you like to live longer as well? And do you not feel like waiting until there are viable anti-aging pills or longevity technologies? According to microbiologist Bruce Lipton, one of the most important things you can do right now is to reduce stress. Lipton is a pioneer in the field of epigenetics [link at the bottom]. He’s convinced that stress has a negative physical impact on your health. In his opinion, the best ways to combat stress are meditation, optimism and socializing.
A related study from 2014 concerned itself with the perception of old age. Yale researchers implicitly and explicitly introduced research subjects to positive stereotypes about getting older. It turns out that implicit messaging is an effective way to get rid of negative cultural stereotypes about old age.
A well-known method to achieve living longer, is calorie restriction. In a study with roundworms, this led to an increase of 42-50% in life expectancy. In a study with mice, the result was 30%. That’s why I’ve also tried this method myself. I once did a personal experiment where I didn’t eat for 5 days [link at the bottom].
However, there’s quite a few challenges when it comes to transferring the results in animals to getting results in humans. In a laboratory, animals can be provided with a certain amount of food and all other factors can be controlled. When it comes to humans, this is a lot more complex. However, not eating too much and preventing obesity is a proven method to be less predisposed to various diseases.
Presentation on longevity
In April 2019, I gave a presentation about the impact of longevity and anti-aging on society at the Biohacking Conference in Riga, Latvia.
My presentation on longevity
Besides Joao Pedro de Magalhaes and Stephen Cave I also had an interview Aubrey de Grey at the EHA 2018 in Brussels (Belgium).
Interview met Aubrey de Grey
In 2017 I had an interview with Alexander Fedintsev (Open Longevity, Russia) at the Biohacker Summit in Helsinki (Finland).
Interview with Alexander Fedintsev (Open Longevity)
Would you like to find out more about anti-aging? Feel free to contact me if you have any questions! Please reach out if you would like to invite me to give a talk or presentation for a corporate event, conference or symposium.
Take a look at my keynotes and presentations page for an overview of previous keynotes and presentations I’ve given.
This article focuses on anti-aging science and technology:
I’ve previously written the following articles related to this topic:
These are the external links that I’ve used:
- Study about people who live longer being sick for shorter periods
- Human Longevity Inc.
- Website Darren Moore
- Research by Kalampouka
- Company Ambrosia Plasma
- Research calorie restriction roundworms
- Research calorie restriction mice
- Research metformin
- Research NAD+
Are you interested in longevity? Are you taking measures to prolong your life? How do you feel about this topic?