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Aging is not a monolith

A little annoyed at the ‘discourse’ today prompted by the tremendous organization known as ‘On Deck’. What it means to be on a deck, I have no idea — I simply would never do such a thing. A short note to the tech community…

We are not ‘solving’ aging. We should not be ‘curing’ aging. This is at the same level of those who say we can cure cancer. Lung cancer and GBM are not the same. Even within each of those, there are subtypes that have distinct biology and respond differently to therapy, if at all. We’ve functionally cured Philadelphia chromosome CLL but AML has a 5 year survival of 27%. If we can’t even figure out this, or cure the thousands of rare diseases that we already have the tools to cure, why are you trying to ‘solve’ aging. At that point it’s not even about trying to help others. It’s about arrogance and trying to be smart by ‘solving the final frontier’. There are like 30 people who tweet publicly about ‘solving’ aging and every single one of them looks like this guy:

Aging Bros

If we want to ameliorate the symptoms of old age, we should be separately tackling sarcopenia, arthritis, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. Actually, even those are too broad. We should be tackling the subtypes of these diseases by improving our understanding of basic biology. Believing that there is a single mechanism underlying all of these conditions is like saying uncontrolled cell division is the mechanism of cancer. It’s too broad to be considered actionable and too simplistic to offer any idea for a therapeutic cure. Chemo kills dividing cells. Do we really want a chemo type ‘solution’ for aging even if we found it?

People are unique. Genotypically and phenotypically different. I think it is highly unlikely that there is a single molecule of therapy that benefits us all, just like there is no single therapy that is curative of cancer. Trying to find this magic molecule in a B6 mouse that is so genetically removed from anything remotely applicable to humans is even worse. We’ve already tried demonizing a ‘disease’ by declaring a war on cancer. It was largely ineffective. It is time to learn from that mistake and go directly for what worked, which was sub-specializing and solving smaller problems at a time with focuses on technology development and mechanistic understanding; not screening.

It’s quite telling that those who care the loudest about this problem have never touched a pipette and don’t hold advanced degrees. Not that having a PhD makes you any smarter but if your only qualifications are reading 2 review papers and writing ‘bio’ or ‘thinking about aging’ on your Twitter page, you’re not that guy. I don’t think we’re at peak shill yet but I doubt these types of people have the stamina to stay in the field for very long because they don’t care about solving the problem if it can’t happen in the next decade.

This kind of hubris can actually have pretty significant implications. No one smart wants to work on this problem because its being parroted by people who don’t understand what they’re talking about. UBX101 and RTB101 failed recently and hurt, but David Sinclair’s failure, Sirtris, may have set the field back a decade. Stem cell therapies and ‘regenerative medicine’ have been made a laughing stock, basically a meme, because of how poorly thought out the therapeutic options were. There has been a lot of talk about reprogramming recently. There is going to be a billionaire somewhere that starts a company here and as soon as they start in human dosing, a patient will get cancer and this will set the field back 20-30 years.

Can we just let people do their basic research and little projects and just chill out with the shilling. It’s fine to be excited but using this to power viral marketing for followers is counterproductive.