04 December 2010

Building Methuselahs

Michael Rose, evolutionary biologist
Michael Rose is an evolutionary biologist, of University of California at Irvine, who knows how to sum up the complexity of aging.

He told us at H+ @ Caltech that aging is just a normal process of natural selection. It's obviously a "big picture" view versus a cellular or molecular view.

But to prove his point, he decided to trick natural selection and produce fruitflies that live five times longer than the average.

The trick? Take the fruitflies that can reproduce in old age, which still have most of their physiological function, and repeat.

Pretty simple. Eventually, you get longer-living fruitflies selected for late-life reproduction. And he shared data on how this all worked.

From the fruitfly data, Rose then explained, we can learn a bit about why humans age in the way they do, with pressures of reproduction playing in as a major factor. Also, we can make use of data on the flies and other animals that suggests that species enter a "biological immortality" phase once reaching an older age.

Then, he gave a two-part strategy into how humans can deter aging using "natural immortality technology." The strategy is easy and can be started tonight, he said.

What is natural for humans?
-It's not industrial lifestyle with cars, Twinkies, TV
-But is it the agricultural lifestyle or the hunter-gatherer lifestyle that is natural for us?

As an experimental evolutionist, Rose has research that shows that populations have adapted well to new environments in just 30 to 60 generations, so Eurasian populations are better adapted to the agricultural lifestyle.
How this happens? History in the environment, smaller effective population sizes, and lots of early accidental mortality leading to earlier plateaus.

So, people of ages under 30, should take an Andrew Weil approach to diet (as opposed to a Paleo diet and lifestyle) with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and dairy.
However, he adds that as we age, the physiology of people with Eurasian ancestry progressively reverts back to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

"You will lose that adaptation to the novel environment as you age," Rose said.

So, the recipe for natural immortality?

- adopt a hunter-gatherer lifestyle after 40 if Eurasian, earlier if ancestry is less Eurasian

- use best modern medicine
- use autologous tissue repair when it becomes available (5+ years)
- use next-generation pharmaceuticals with less side effects
Interestingly, Aubrey de Grey expressed outrage that his recipe of immortality did not include rejuvenation research. He'll be speaking soon.

UPDATE: I ended up writing a more in-depth take into Michael Rose's talk for KurzweilAI, which can be found here.

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