Billions of dollars invested … Gene-editing technology chases the fountain of youth | technology

In 1962, when the level of technical development did not allow for reflection on the modification of genes and reprogramming of cells to slow the progression of aging and prolong life for a long time, Robert Ettinger, a American physicist and author, published his famous book “The Possibility of Immortality” which deals with the possibility of freezing a person before his death and then reviving him when it appears Treatments for the causes that led to his death.

In the seventies of the last century, 6 companies specializing in the proposed cryotechnology were opened in the United States, and the first person to have cryopreserved was dr. James Bedford (professor of psychology) at the age of 73 on January 12, 1967 There are currently hundreds of frozen bodies around the world (at a temperature of about 196 degrees below zero) and thousands of people registered their names for this operation with their death .

Although this process cannot be reversed at present, the development of artificial intelligence and rapid technological growth has encouraged some researchers to say that the revival of regenerated bodies will be possible from 2040 onwards.

scientific breakthroughs

The last decade of this century has witnessed 3 scientific / technical breakthroughs that have fueled man’s dreams of immortality by reprogramming his genetic code:

the first: The completion of the human genome sequencing project in 2003, after 13 years of international cooperation and investment, has a value of approximately $ 2.7 billion.

The genome is the complete genetic material consisting of deoxyribonucleic acid, known simply as “DNA” (DNA), and contains between 20-25 thousand protein-encoded genes.

This achievement was followed by a decrease in the cost of identifying and analyzing the complete human genome sequence (WGS) for one individual from $ 100 million initially, to 10,000 in 2010, then to 1,000 in 2015 and finally to $ 400, and the costs are expected. to reach only a few dollars in less than a decade ago, quantum computers have been used commercially.

The second: Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka (2012 Nobel Prize winner) found that by adding only 4 proteins (now known as Yamanaka factors), adult cells can be programmed back to the embryonic stem cell state, allowing them to rejuvenate.

By 2016, a scientific laboratory had applied all of these drugs to live aging mice and looked for signs of rejuvenation, which led to the method being called the “more lively” one.

By adding 4 proteins (Yamanaka factors), adult cells can be reprogrammed and regenerated, enabling rejuvenation (Getty Images)

the thirdGene editing tools are readily available with the innovation of CRISPR-Cas9 technology by American scientist Jennifer Doudna and French Emmanuel Charpentier in 2012 (the two recipients of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry in the field of gene editing).

This technique began to be used on human embryos in 2015, and the journal “Science” considered it the most important scientific discovery that year.

Previous scientific / technical breakthroughs have opened the door to a great work that can take many years to accurately identify the functions of between 20-25 thousand genes located in the human genome in the cell nucleus, and arranged in the form of 23 chromosome pair. It also requires that the side effects of changing any gene be recognized.

Aging as a disease

Based on the indicated developments, in 2015 a group of international researchers released an article calling for the classification of biological aging as a disease.

On 8 June 2018, the World Health Organization published the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and it was approved by the members of the organization on 25 May 2019 to take effect from 1 January 2022, and to Place to replace the tenth edition of the International Classification of Diseases.

The new releases include two important changes regarding aging:

first change – Change in the disease code designation “Age-related physical disability” in version 10 (ICD-10) to “age” in version 11 (ICD-11).

This change represents a shift in the designation of diseases that accompany aging to what can be read as the disease of aging (aging) and as a measure of chronological age, which some thinkers and doctors have objected to, as it suggests that each person older than 60 or 65 suffers from this health problem “aging.” “.

The second – Expand the code associated with aging to include processes that lead to a decrease in an organism’s ability to adapt with age. This expansion has been seen as an important step in encouraging potential investment in the development of drugs that target the biological processes of aging that appear to underlie many age-related diseases.


Regardless of the criticism leveled at these two amendments, it has contributed to the acceleration of investment in this field. In 2011, investments to find a cure for aging were zero. In the ensuing years, more than $ 5 billion was allocated to this subject. More investment is expected in this area in the coming years.

In October 2020, a large number of scientists gathered at the mansion of Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, in the hills of Los Altos, for a two-day scientific conference on the topic: How can biotechnology be used to make people younger?

This meeting led to the establishment of an ambitious new anti-aging company called Altos Labs, whose mission is to develop a technology to reprogram human cells so that they become younger and eventually extend their life.

Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the richest man in the world is among the investors in Altus Labs, together with Yuri Milner (European)

Reports indicate that Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the richest man in the world, along with Yuri Milner were among the investors in that company.

Reports have also indicated that a group of scientists has joined or will join this company, including Juan Carlos Izbesa Belmonte, a Spanish biologist known for his research combining human embryos and apes, who believes that “aging is not a irreversible process is not “and that human life can increase by about 50 years of age.

The company was joined by Steve Horvath, a professor at the University of California and developer of a “biological clock” that can accurately measure human aging. He will chair the company’s scientific advisory board, Yamanaka, which specializes in cell reprogramming, to which we have already referred.

Eight years ago, the Google-backed company Calico was founded in the United States with the goal of uncovering the biological processes behind aging, treating associated diseases, and researching how biological programming can be used to reverse aging in cells and tissues. stop. field.

Until effective gene therapies are devised to slow down the aging process at an affordable price, take the traditional, reliable methods: calorie restriction, healthy eating and exercise..

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