Yet another silicon valley biotech company has been launched making claims that they intend to “cure ageing.” Altos will focus on cellular reprogramming, a technique used to cause cells to de-differentiate, in this case turn back into human embryonic stem cells.
“Reprogramming is like turning a frog into a tadpole or a butterfly into a caterpillar. They de-differentiate, YES!! But, they wouldn't be biologically younger. De-differentiation and rejuvenation are two completely unrelated events. You can quote me saying that!” states Dr Bill Andrews, PHD and award winning microbiologist.
This is yet another dead end to add to the list of dead ends of recent. Including Ambrosia, a start-up funded by Peter Thiel, in which young blood was injected into old people based on research conducted on mice whereby an old mouse and a young mouse shared a blood supply. The project was shut down by the FDA but at least it had some merit, it was certainly less stupid than Altos.
Another to add to the list is Calico, who by all accounts are still trying to figure out why we age in the first place.
What's wrong with that you may ask? Isn't Billionaires spending money on any kind of medical research a good thing? Don't they have to try something? After all, no one knows why we age or how to prevent it, do they?
The reason I say they are all stupid is this:
On the 28th of November 2010 at Harvard University Dr Ron Dephinho led a team that conducted a study proving that re-lengthening telomeres reverses ageing.
This was reasonably big news at the time and was well publicized. In the study Dr Dephinho uses special mice that have been genetically engineered to age in the same way that humans do. He lets them get old then he switches on a certain gene, the telomerase gene. The mice very rapidly become young again, they can remember previously forgotten mazes, can perform physical feats that were no longer possible such as walking a tightrope, they gain muscle mass and bone density, they gain previously lost brain size and function, they regain fertility and sexual function. In short they become younger by every metric that was used to measure biological age. At the time this was referred to as a Ponce De Leon effect.
Since that time almost 11 years ago, numerous experiments have validated the findings. In other words, THE REASON WE AGE AND THE MECHANISM BY WHICH WE CAN REVERSE AGEING HAS BEEN WELL UNDERSTOOD FOR A LONG TIME but seems to be completely ignored by billionaire after billionaire, start-up after start up.
Why? Is it greed?
Well, they are throwing their money down the toilet so that can't be it.
Are they mis-guided? Undoubtedly.
Do scientists lie to them? Well, what do you expect when the scientists in question don't know the answers but want the lavish salaries being offered?
Obviously when you incentivise the wrong person enough they will just bluff, and why not? It's not like anyone actually expects them to succeed do they? Well not really…so why not just string these stupid billionaires along for as long as possible?
Who knows maybe, just maybe they’ll actually stumble onto something, I mean even a blind squirrel trips over the occasional nut.
Another possibility is that the scientists being interviewed for these positions do understand that telomeres need to be lengthened but have no idea how to do it, so they fall back on the newest idea that they can pursue, such as senolytics, parabiosis, stem cells or reprogramming - or any number of other therapies that do not and can not address the one crucial issue: That all human cells other than germline cells (because they express telomerase) can only divide a certain number of times (the Hayflick limit) this has been widely understood and accepted since 1961.
But aren't billionaires supposed to be smarter than that? Well I guess not. Ultimately it’s up to the billionaire to do their research, talk to the right people and get the right advice, to ultimately make an intelligent decision and to wisely invest their money.
People aren't living any longer, new medicines and therapies aren't in any clinical trials. So the only reason I can conclude as an explanation as to why so many Billionaires are flushing their money down the toilet is just plain old fashioned stupidity.