Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sinclear Interview in RR

I've posted a few things before about the important aging research of Harvard's David Sinclair. The latest issue of Rejuvenation Research has an interesting interview with Sinclair on his research and the anti-aging molecule resveratrol (which is found in red wine).

Here is a sample from the interview:

RR: a high-profile biogerontologist with a clearly stated agenda to combat aging—a controversial goal. How do you maximize the benefits of the public’s interest in such work while minimizing the drawbacks?

DAS: There are two schools of thought. One is that it is dangerous to talk to the media. The other view is that the public has a right to have the research they fund explained to them in a way they can understand, without hyping it. I am in the latter camp. I have not sought media attention, but I feel it is my duty as a scientist to explain to the public what their money is being used for and why this is an important area that deserves to be funded more than it is currently, and to correct any myths whenever possible. I often do interviews in which I do my best to explain how important and how cutting edge this field is, and what its benefits could be for society. I am not always successful in getting my message across, and many times I have been misquoted and misinterpreted. But that is worth the risk in my view.

Some people are against extending lifespan, and I have debated, for example, Leon Kass (who was chairman of President Bush’s Council on Bioethics from 2002–2005). We have disagreed on many things. My goal is to convince the opposition that what we are trying to do is no different than any other type of medical research. We are trying to improve people’s lives, and in doing so the cost savings to society, not just in terms of people’s well-being, but also the economic benefits, will be in the trillions of dollars.Therefore, we cannot afford not to try to advance this area of science as quickly as possible.

My stated goal is to keep people out of nursing homes for as long as possible. It is known that the longer a person lives, the shorter the period of his or her chronic disability or illness. People who live a very long time die relatively quickly. Thus, the goal would be to reach 90 years of age, feel well, still be a productive member of society, be able to play tennis, and see your grandchildren graduate from college. Then, in a matter of weeks, go through the final stages of life and die. In that way we would suffer less and be less of a burden on our families and society.

I like the way Sinclair summarizes the goal of his research-- "to keep people out of nursing homes as long as possible". So the motto of anti-aging science should be "Live long and die fast!". Or, to borrow a phrase from this Neil Young classic--"It's better to burn out then to fade away!" And such an aspiration is one I think everyone should agree is a laudable goal.