Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Paper on Genetic Justice

My paper "Normative Theorizing about Genetics" is forthcoming in the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. A sample from the article:

Most contemporary theories of distributive justice are ill-equipped to tackle the kinds of concerns that arise once we expand the domain of justice to include the distribution of genetic endowments. One cannot begin from an account of distributive justice that was designed with the distribution of wealth in mind and then simply “add genetics and stir”. The genetic revolution requires us to undertake a major re-conceptualization of what the demands of justice are. And this means that the fundamental (or first-order) principles or theories we begin with must be open to revision in light of the new empirical discoveries in genetics and human biology.

Genes are special, from the perspective of theorizing about justice, because they (a) have been neglected in our normative theorizing (and thus warrant special attention in order to redress this neglect so that we are better prepared to fairly regulate new genetic technologies); (b) are unique resources and thus require the normative theorist to develop a skill-set that is unique from the skills required for tackling the distribution of external resources like wealth; and (c) genes are special because they play an important role in the development of a wide range of valued phenotypes.


Monday, November 21, 2011

New Ted Talk on Longevity Science

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Timeless Rousseau

Preparing for a lecture on Rousseau's Discourse on the Origins of Inequality and I was struck by the following passage. I don't think a better passage could capture the feeling of the Occupy WallStreet movement than Rousseau's condemnation of his own time:

Like the statute of Glacus, which was so disfigured by time, seas, and tempests, that it looked more like a wild beast than a god, the human soul, altered in society by a thousand causes perpetually recurring, by the acquisition of a multitude of truths and errors, by the changes happening to the constitution of the body, and by the continual jarring of the passions, has, so to speak, changed in appearance, so as to be hardly recognizable.

Below is my "theme song" video to introduce Rousseau to my students. Rousseau's ideas influenced the French Revolution, but they are also just as relevant as a critique of the culture and people living in today's capitalist societies:

And now fastforward 200+ years:


Thursday, November 03, 2011

New Journal of Gerontology Publication

My new Perspectives article titled "Biogerontology and the Intellectual Virtues" has been accepted for publication in Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences.

The abstract:
The case for prioritizing the study of the biology of aging can be persuasively made by making explicit its connection to the exercise of the intellectual virtues needed to realize well-ordered science. These intellectual virtues include a range of attitudes and dispositions integral to all areas of science (e.g. sensitivity to details, adaptability of intellect, the detective’s virtues), but the so-called “teaching virtues” are especially important for biogerontology. Without the foresight to anticipate how your audience will likely respond, biogerontologists risk marginalizing the field’s importance to well-ordered science as the general public are likely to dismiss, or underestimate, the health and economic benefits of an intervention that retards the rate of biological aging.


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Nature Study on Removal of Senescent Cells and Aging-Associated Disorders

The latest issue of Nature has this important study on a potential strategy to combat the harms of aging-- remove senescent cells. The abstract:

Advanced age is the main risk factor for most chronic diseases and functional deficits in humans, but the fundamental mechanisms that drive ageing remain largely unknown, impeding the development of interventions that might delay or prevent age-related disorders and maximize healthy lifespan. Cellular senescence, which halts the proliferation of damaged or dysfunctional cells, is an important mechanism to constrain the malignant progression of tumour cells1, 2. Senescent cells accumulate in various tissues and organs with ageing3 and have been hypothesized to disrupt tissue structure and function because of the components they secrete4, 5. However, whether senescent cells are causally implicated in age-related dysfunction and whether their removal is beneficial has remained unknown. To address these fundamental questions, we made use of a biomarker for senescence, p16Ink4a, to design a novel transgene, INK-ATTAC, for inducible elimination of p16Ink4a-positive senescent cells upon administration of a drug. Here we show that in the BubR1 progeroid mouse background, INK-ATTAC removes p16Ink4a-positive senescent cells upon drug treatment. In tissues—such as adipose tissue, skeletal muscle and eye—in which p16Ink4a contributes to the acquisition of age-related pathologies, life-long removal of p16Ink4a-expressing cells delayed onset of these phenotypes. Furthermore, late-life clearance attenuated progression of already established age-related disorders. These data indicate that cellular senescence is causally implicated in generating age-related phenotypes and that removal of senescent cells can prevent or delay tissue dysfunction and extend healthspan.