Aging research is a promising and remarkably young field of contemporary science. Only in the last 50 years has the greater scientific community recognized life extension as a realistic goal worthy of serious pursuit. Yet even with several decades of interest in aging research behind us, only in the last decade has technology reached a sufficient level of sophistication to start thinking in concrete, realistic terms about radical human life extension. Accumulation of fundamental knowledge and technological advances promise to soon catapult aging research into the forefront of science and clinical practice.
The Demographics of Aging:
Aging is a degenerative process with increasingly wide-reaching social, economic, and political consequences. As the world’s aging population (60+) grows consistently at a rate of 2% per year, the individual costs of aging will continue to scale into tremendous challenges for public health and social welfare systems.
When talking about life extension, it is important to understand that an increased lifespan is not necessarily good unless it is accompanied by an increased healthspan. Without an increased healthspan, a longer lifespan means more time spent living with diseases, disability, dementia, and other age-related problems, decreasing quality of life and increasing dependency on social support systems.
These factors, among others, highlight the importance and urgency of research into aging and the development of longevity therapies to address the root causes behind the aging process.
Current Approaches to Lifespan Extension:
Current research into aging is almost exclusively focused on investigating age-related diseases and the development of pharmaceutical treatments for those diseases; however, this approach has a limited capacity for extending human life and preserving health, as it fails to address the underlying causes of those diseases.
We can confidently state that the modern healthcare system has reached a barrier, beyond which we cannot extend the human lifespan with our current technologies. To overcome this barrier, we will need more radical interventions, including techniques targeted at cell, tissue, and organ repair.
To develop these technologies, we will require a deeper understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms behind aging, which are still not fully understood. Our ability to identify nascent aging processes and influence their course at an early stage, before they begin to instigate larger changes, remains limited.
With this aim, many researchers and biotech companies are directing their resources towards the development of longevity drugs and geroprotectors, large-scale analysis of aging data, and pharmaceutical treatments. While all of these solutions promise to address certain facets of the aging problem and undeniably offer their own advantages, they are disjointed and lack the coordination needed to address aging holistically.
Simply put, a problem as complex and multicausal as aging calls for an equally complex and multifaceted solution.
The Centaura Approach:
This complexity and multicausality has motivated us at Centaura to take a different approach, studying the underlying mechanisms of aging itself in an attempt to address the problem holistically, at its origin. By understanding the mechanisms behind the aging process, we can develop radical technologies that target the specific biological processes that lead to aging. Rather than addressing symptoms of cognitive and physical decline after they’ve already begun, we will be able to slow down or even prevent degenerative processes before they begin.
We aim to define these degenerative mechanisms through cellular performance modeling and, alongside broad research, to develop therapies that will slow and eventually halt degenerative aging processes. By implementing machine learning to analyze millions of data points collected from every level of biological organization, we create a continuously evolving model that captures the full complexities of aging. The processes that constitute aging leave behind biochemical traces which allow them to be detected and monitored on a sub-cellular level, before they result in macro-scale physiological alterations.
Personalized Aging Profiles:
To apply this model to an individual, we assemble a comprehensive, personalized Aging Profile for each client. These profiles are constructed using data obtained through a deep examination of every level of biological organization — the genome, epigenome, transcriptome, proteome, and metabolome — all studied at single-cell resolution.
Using these data, we can diagnose the processes most crucial to the progression of aging in human populations, assess the propagation of these processes in each individual, and develop a system-by-system picture of how each body is aging. In contrast to biological age, which is an assumption about an individual’s physical condition relative to a population average, an Aging Profile is a detailed view of the processes that are taking place inside a single body.
On the basis of this highly thorough, personalized profile, therapeutic methods can be designed and implemented to counteract the particular degenerative processes affecting a given individual, significantly extending both lifespan and healthspan.
Gene Therapy: The Path Forward:
At Centaura, we have implemented a vast base of scholarship and experience to construct a specialized therapeutic program, drawing from the full range of possible therapeutic treatments for aging. Gene therapy will be the focus of this specialized program and the first implemented approach. Once we identify precisely which genes are the essential targets for reprogramming aging, gene therapy will prove to be the most effective tool at our disposal.
Each individual’s Aging Profile will provide us essential information on which genes should be targeted. It is likely that there will be a significant number of gene segments requiring adjustment, and that these genes will be distributed in complex and varying ways among individuals, as well as among tissues within one individual.
To meet the technical requirements of implementing such a complex gene therapy, at Centaura we are working on developing a novel approach to massive gene editing — the Human Artificial Chromosome.
This ambitious task is both time-and resource-consuming, but once developed, it will allow us to overcome the existing lifespan barrier and achieve a true breakthrough in the extension of human life.
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