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Ageing | Munk Debates

SEASON TWO - EPISODE #24

Ageing

Be it resolved: Ageing is a reversible disease.

Guests
David Sinclair
Joanna Masel

About this episode

Oxygen therapy to lengthen our telomeres and prolong the life of our chromosomes. Boosting the functioning of our mitochondria with NAD. Stem cell rejuvenation.

These are just some of the exciting therapies that scientists are exploring in their quest to prevent the decline and suffering we experience as we age. But some scientists argue that these are just partial fixes and that the answer to the eternal quest for the fountain of youth lies in pinpointing the upstream driver of these hallmarks of aging. They claim that thanks to breakthroughs in the science of genetics they have finally discovered the control system that generates the strength and health we associate with youth. It’s the “epigenome”, which is the packaging that coils around our DNA and switches on and off the genes that shape the identity of our cells. They say that as we age this packaging unravels, which deregulates the DNA and cell information they have been safeguarding. Fix the packaging and we can completely reset our DNA and cells and regenerate our bodies, so they are once again like brand new.

Sceptics say that we need to look no farther than evolution to recognize that while aging can be slowed down it can’t be abolished. Despite the formidable powers of natural selection, a species that doesn’t age and die has not emerged. This is because aging is marked not just by cells that are slowing down but also by cells that are rapidly multiplying and becoming cancerous. It is impossible to fix one without the other benefiting, a form of intercell competition where human beings and our hopes of eradicating old age are the losers.

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Guests

David Sinclair

"There are technologies that definitely allow us to reverse ageing. We've just published a paper showing you can reverse the age of a mouse's eyeball and make it function like it's young again."

David Sinclair

"There are technologies that definitely allow us to reverse ageing. We've just published a paper showing you can reverse the age of a mouse's eyeball and make it function like it's young again."

David Sinclair is a tenured Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. He is best known for his work on genes and small molecules that delay and reverse aging by boosting the body’s defenses and gene therapies to rejuvenate tissues. He has published over 200 scientific papers, is a co-inventor on over 50 patent and patent applications and has co-founded biotechnology companies in the areas of metabolic diseases, inflammation, vaccines, infectious disease detection, eye diseases, diabetes, fertility, cancer, and biosecurity. In 2019, his book Lifespan became a New York Times best seller. He is Co-Chief Editor of the scientific journal Aging and has received 36 awards, including the Australian Medical Research Medal, the Merck Prize, the NIH Director’s Pioneer award, TIME magazine’s list of the “100 most influential people in the world,” and TIME’s “Top 50 people in healthcare.” In 2018, he became Officer of the Order of Australia for his work in medical research, science communication, and national security.

Joanna Masel

"The issue is cancer. A huge part of the ageing process is the tendency for new cancers to appear and that tendency is not a reversible disease, unlike making individual cells younger."

Joanna Masel

"The issue is cancer. A huge part of the ageing process is the tendency for new cancers to appear and that tendency is not a reversible disease, unlike making individual cells younger."

Joanna Masel is a Professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, where she teaches Evidence-Based Medicine. She is a mathematical modeler and data scientist who has published in diverse fields including biochemistry, systems biology, infectious disease, aging, evolutionary biology, economics, and education. She studies how selection to prevent and/or mitigate errors in molecular processes shapes biological systems. Other research interests in the diverse nature of biological competitions spill over into economics, where she is the author of Bypass Wall Street: A Biologist's Guide to the Rat Race. Her current research focuses on risk analysis and testing/tracing/quarantine protocols for COVID-19, including in her role as Head of Science at WeHealth PBC.

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