»Biological Immortality«? Genetic Condition Prevents 12-Year-Old From Aging

Gabby Williams is twelve years old but has the skin of a newborn and only weighs 11 lbs. An ultra-rare genetic condition, for which doctors have no discernible explanation, keeps Williams from physically aging and has her parents caring for her nearly the same as the day she was born.

Williams shares her rare condition with only a handful of people around the world, including a 32-year-old man from Florida who has the body of a 11-year-old, and a 34-year-old Brazilian woman who appears no older than three. While the medical community hasn’t yet established a cause for Williams’ or the others‘ conditions, research into the genetic disorder has promising implications for overcoming the inertia of aging.

»In some people, something happens to them and the development process is retarded,« said medical researcher Richard F. Walker. »The rate of change in the body slows and is negligible.«

THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT

Walker has been researching Williams’ condition for the few years. He reports having spent his entire career studying the causes of aging. The patients he deals with live with other conditions such as deafness and the inability to walk, eat, or even speak. But most notably, they all age at around one-fifth the rate of a normal person.

Williams’ case is particularly noteworthy given her feature spot in the 2012 TLC documentary, “My 40-Year-Old Child.” Since the show aired, Williams’ parents told News, their daughter has stayed relatively the same. »Gabrielle hasn‘t changed since pretty much forever,« said her mother,

FINDING THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

Walker attributes Williams’ lack of aging to what he calls decreased “developmental inertia.” Her body’s normal physiological changes and maturation haven’t occurred because of the genetic condition. Normally when people age, their bodies mature until age 20 or so, and then begin to erode, or succumb to developmental inertia.

»If we could identify the gene and then at young adulthood we could silence the expression of developmental inertia, find an off-switch,” said Walker, adding that “when you do that, there is perfect homeostasis and you are biologically immortal.«

In Gabby Williams’ case, her chronological age has little bearing on her outcome, although doctors cannot say with confidence how long they think she will live.

Who is scared of the Silver Tsunami?

Cartoon by Graeme MacKay

Cartoon by Graeme MacKay

One of the biggest mega trends impacting the world today is population aging. By 2020, for the first time in history, the number of people older than 65 will outnumber the number of children younger than 5 years of age. In the next 25 years, the number of people older than 65 will double. Today, the average yearly cost to the health-care system of someone aged 65-69 is roughly $6,700. For someone aged 80-84 the average cost is $15,000, and over 90 it is $26,000. As people live longer, there will be a sharp increase in the number of people with dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, 25% to 30% of people aged 85 and older have a high level of cognitive decline

Source: Canadian Institute for Health Information, National Health Expenditure Trends, 1975 to 2010, 1975 to 2010

Source: Canadian Institute for Health Information, National Health Expenditure Trends, 1975 to 2010, 1975 to 2010

Globally there are an estimated 47.5 million dementia sufferers, and the number is expected to increase to 75.6 million by 2030 and 135.5 million by 2050. That means also a doubling of the healthcare cost for the elderly. At the moment the global cost of Alzheimer’s and dementia is estimated to be $605 billion, which is equivalent to 1% of the entire world’s gross domestic product. Just think about the scale, and this is only one type of another dozen age-related degenerative diseases. 

This will not only overwhelm the health-care system, but render hundreds of thousands elderly and their families destitute. It's about time to act!

 
 

The demonization of overpopulation.

Overpopulation is a word that gives the simple fact of population growth a negative connotation. It implies that an increase in the number of people will harm our lives, it might be scarcity of resources, excessive population density or harm to the environment. But is that justified?

 
myth overpopulation.jpg
 

Today, there are more than 7.5 billion people on Earth. We are used to thinking that this is already too much, but is it so? Let’s see how much space on Earth we humans actually take up. In 2012, the team of the project “Per Square Mile”lead by Tim de Chant produced an infographic showing how big a city would have to be to house 7 billion people. The city limits changed depending on which real city it was modeled on and what the population density there was, but we can still get an idea of how much of our planet is really inhabited and how much  space we still have.

The United Nations estimate that population will increase to about 11 billion people, in the next 85 years. That means if all of humanity was concentrated in a land area with a population density similar to New York, it would at most occupy the size of 3 US states by 2100. 

Are we going to run out of food? Will there be enough supply for everyone?

New technologies provide solutions for the numerous environmental issues related to traditional farming. For instance, hydroponics offers around 11 times higher yields while requiring 10 times less water than conventional agriculture. The agriculture industry is increasing yearly in efficiency.

Follow the link below to see the full article and get more details

A new era of gene editing - CRISPR/Cas9

CRISPR/Cas9 is the term of a revolutionary application found in natural systems of bacteria, enabling us to modify very precisely specific genes from every living organism, even humans. Human diseases, caused by single or multiple gene mutations could be extinguished by modifying (`repairing`) the defect genes or normal genes can be easily mutated to understand their diverse effects.
There have been plenty of gene-editing methods before, but they were much more time-intensive and complicated. This method creates a new opportunity to elucidate the secrets of longevity and rejuvenation, with CRISPR/Cas9, it is possible modify longevity related genes and study their impact directly. We can change genes which are correlated to a short live-span. In long term,  these basic research will hopefully lead to genetic adjustments in humans to prolong our life via modifying genes which are responsible for longevity and homeostasis.

To find out more watch this great video from "Kurzgesagt" or read our a bit more scientific description.

 
 

Aging is fun!

                                                 Photo by Tony Luciani

                                                 Photo by Tony Luciani

First, let’s go over what will happen to us as we grow old. Sometime after age 50, depending on personal genetics and life history, our gums withdraw, we lose our hair, our saliva glands falter, and our teeth grow brittle and break off or fall out. Our skin gets thinner, less flexible; it sags, wrinkles, and is discolored by “liver spots.” Our bones lose density and strength and shrink in size as our joints swell. Our shoulders slump, our spines buckle and hump. Our muscles atrophy and waste away so we lose mobility as we grow progressively weaker. Our balance and hearing deteriorate. Our eyes dry and lose their ability to focus, so we’re more likely to fall, and our bones break more easily. We’re slower to heal and more vulnerable to infection as we do, if we do. Hormone levels change. Our memory fails, and most of us, almost all of us, will develop dementia if we live long enough. We’ve reached the golden years; taking away foreknowledge of them was Prometheus’ greatest gift to mankind.

Sounds like fun right, can‘t wait.

If not, see what YOU can do to help not ever having to experience all of it: Contribute

WHO committing to Healthy Ageing

Healthy Ageing.png

The World Health Organization has announced a global strategy and action plan on ageing and health, endorsed by UN member states at the World Health Assembly in Geneva earlier this year. Over the next decade their strategy focuses on five objectives:

  • commitment to action on Healthy Ageing in every country;
  • developing age-friendly environments;
  • aligning health systems to the needs of older populations;
  • developing sustainable and equitable systems for providing long-term care (home, communities, institutions); and
  • improving measurement, monitoring and research on Healthy Ageing.

This is one step in the right direction and putting more focus on the issue of ageing. However, their agenda is to make ageing not as agonizing as it is, which is a fight against the symptoms and not the source. Such a battle can never be won, but will just postpone the same end-effect. The term »healthy aging« is a paradox in itself, no healthy person is going to die just like that, you could call it as well »healthy dying«. The actual source of the problem needs to be tackled: Ageing

Scientists invent programming language to hack living cells

Researchers have developed a text-based programming language that can"rapidly design complex, DNA-encoded circuits that give new functions to living cells". This means that, through the power of programming, researchers could create DNA sequences for immediate use inside living things such as bacteria and viruses.

"It is literally a programming language for bacteria," said one of the researchers, Christopher Voigt. "You use a text-based language, just like you’re programming a computer. Then you take that text and you compile it and it turns it into a DNA sequence that you put into the cell, and the circuit runs inside the cell."

So far, the language is designed specifically for E. coli, but the team is working towards many more types of bacteria as well.

Biotechnology beating Moore's Law.

For many years, the National Human Genome Research Institute  has tracked the costs associated with DNA sequencing. Soon it will cost only a cent to sequence a whole human genome. Keep it up!

Moore's Law, which describes a long-term trend in the computer hardware industry that involves the doubling of 'compute power' every two years technology improvements that 'keep up' with Moore's Law are widely regarded to be doing exceedingly well, making it useful for comparison.