Genomics pioneer Craig Venter’s announcement that he is creating a company to try to conquer human ageing is great news.
His theory that the human gut biome holds the key to the aging process is only a hypothesis, but there’s no harm done by testing it by sequencing 40,000 genomes in a year.
This comes on the heels of Google’s announcement last year, a cover story in Time, about the company’s undefined “moonshot” taking a crack at tacking aging.
There’s no doubt that ageing is the most dangerous thing that happens to our species. It is the process that unlocks the door to atherosclerosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, cataracts, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and Alzheimer’s disease, all of which generally suck, as you can see in this chart.
At the same time, however, the aspiring Buddhist in me recognizes that death is a part the cycle of life.
I, for one, would be happy to live as long as possible provided that I had my faculties, was not a burden to others, and was able to make a contribution, however small, to the world around me.
Research into slowing the ageing process will bring key insight to the fight against Alzheimer’s and the other diseases of ageing, for example, and vice versa.
Kudos to Craig Venter, to Google, and to the anti-ageing campaigner Aubrey de Gray for joining this important fight.
Let a hundred flowers bloom (but unlike in Mao’s quote, let’s have the courage to actually do it).
(But – another word of caution here – there will eventually need to be global standards for genomic research to ensure that egregious red lines are not crossed, and we need to start having a much deeper global conversation to begin figuring out what those are.)