“Unprecedented“ Study on Aging


A man and woman laying in bed smiling for the camera.

Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.

~ Carl Sagan

Aging in Place

The online publication of the Guardian posted an article by Amelia Hill, Ageing Process is Unstoppable, Finds Unprecedented Study (6/17/ 2021) with the subtitle: Research suggests humans cannot slow the rate at which they get older because of biological constraints. The article referred to a so-called “unprecedented study” on aging with the message, immortality, and everlasting youth are the stuff of myths, according to new research which may finally end the eternal debate about whether we can live forever. The evidence came from an impressive study of credible sources: David Gems, a professor of biogerontology at UCL’s Institute of Healthy Ageing, said that the summary of the report suggested the research was “a very high-powered study proving something contentious and surely right”.

The conclusion drawn according to the article is this, the study has now confirmed that we probably cannot slow the rate at which we get older because of biological constraints. Further, this study suggests evolutionary biology trumps everything and, so far, medical advances have been unable to beat these biological constraints.The article was so definite, so final in its conclusions offering a slight ray of possibility in the final line by including “so far.”

So, with that in mind, I sent the link to contributing author of Health e-Bytes The Science of Optimal Aging, Ramiah Ramasubramanian for review and comments. His critique was piercing and insightful, pointing to the elusive obvious of this “unprecedented” study’s shortcomings.

Here are his thoughts-

Thanks for sending this link to me, Patrick. I managed to trace and download the original paper and read it. The authors have taken several data sets and analyzed them to come to their conclusions. There were little or no experiments performed. The trouble with this study is NOT the data or the analysis of data. It is the failure to look beyond the data at hand — i.e., constrained by their own data-driven conclusions, they are unable to see how future developments in biology could invalidate their conclusions. Let us take an example: at the time of the Wright Brothers everyone knew, based on known science at that time, humans, unlike birds, cannot fly. The law of gravity would make sure that any attempt to defy it would end in a tragic disaster. In other words, there was and still is a physical constraint to human flight called gravity. But Wright Brothers and many others like them, eventually overcame this constraint to make human flight a reality. The current study reminds me of the following:

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.

~ Albert Einstein. Cosmic Religion and Other Opinions and Aphorisms; 1931.

A conceptual leap or leap of imagination is what makes science progress and new knowledge to be created. Failure of imagination is a serious impediment to scientific progress.

The biological constraints theory (BCT) highlighted by this study is not new. One incarnation of this thinking is Hayflick Limit, (Peter Attia did a podcast that briefly addressed the damage caused by Hayflick’s theory and ideas). This kind of thinking is usually advanced by individuals who really do not understand or are unaware of the boundary-altering research and developments that are taking place at an exponential rate in biology as I write this message. You can check this out yourself by looking at some of the landmark papers published in the peer-reviewed literature in biology. The proponents of the biological constraints theory are, in my view, making a huge mistake in underestimating the power and the potentials of convergence of biology, genomics, in particular, AI, Machine Learning (ML), computational biology, and computational clinical pharmacology in changing the trajectory of human lifespan and healthspan. Unfortunately, the article failed massively in not presenting the counterpoints – there are many – to the BCT. Like many famous and brilliant scientists, the expert authors of this paper could be wrong. For example, the article When a Good Scientist Is the Wrong Source, How a bad “fact” helped the lab-leak hypothesis go viral by THOMAS LEVENSON (JUNE 23, 2021) is an example of what happened when a very famous Nobel prize-winning biologist talked before examining carefully all the available information.

Rama

A day later Rama sent a newsletter from the author of Think Like a Rocket Scientist, Varol, Ozan. Ozan introduces the concept of “Backcasting,” which is essentially the opposite of forecasting. Planning for the future means forecasting, we review the current supply and demand for widgets and extrapolate them into the future. In our personal lives, we let our current skill set drive our vision for who we might become. With forecasting, we look in the rearview mirror, rather than the possibilities ahead. When we forecast, we ask, “What can we do with what we have?” But often, the status quo itself is part of the problem. Forecasting takes all our problematic assumptions and propels them into the future. It artificially restricts our vision of what’s feasible. Backcasting flips the script. Rather than forecasting the future, backcasting aims to determine how an imagined future can be attained.

Rama’s reason for sending this concept of Backcasting was to show how the science of the so-called “unprecedented” study on aging failed to consider the emerging science of possibilities ahead. Sagan’s quote alludes to the essential nature of science, it’s a way of thinking that continually seeks and questions, probes the mysteries of the universe–and is never done exploring. Things change and the door must always be open to possible expanded truths yet to be uncovered.

Ozan describes backcasting in a nutshell:

Backcasting can be applied to just about anything.

Determine what you want and move back from that ideal future.

What do you want your life to look like? Work backward from that.

What does an ideal product look like for your business? Visualize a customer delighted with that product and sketch out a roadmap to get there.

Instead of letting your existing reality drive your vision, let your vision drive your reality.

When we forecast the future, we try to predict it.

When we backcast the future, we create it.

Science is Never Final…

 

See

(Note these additions to this blog are added by the author, Patrick Roden)

Human Longevity INC.

Reimagine Aging

Books

Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime by Aubrey de Grey, PhD with Michael Rae

Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To by David A. Sinclair, PhD

Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old by Andrew Steele, PhD

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