May 31, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Has anti-aging finally come of age with Google’s Calico?

Can Google’s new anti-aging company, Calico, have you Googling at age 140?

Don’t sell your burial plot just yet.

Stem Cells Aging

The idea of anti-aging has been around for a very long time and efforts to combat aging have spanned millennia largely without any success so Calico (apparently short for California Life Company, which sounds more like an insurance company to me) faces long odds. Note too that Calico cats are not known for any particular predisposition to long life. Hmmm.

At the same time, Calico means business and has hired some truly stellar talent in the research world including CEO Arthur Levinson, Cynthia Kenyon, David Botstein, Hal Harron, and Robert Cohen.

This is not a group you say “impossible” to lightly even on a topic as tough as anti-aging.

Still I don’t see any particularly clear pathway forward toward significant extension of human life expectancy.

Perhaps they have a more creative vision? We’ll see. I hope so!

Oddly enough a best as I can tell, Calico has no website at the present time. What the heck?

I’m currently reading a great book by author Stephen S. Hall called “Merchants of Immortality“. I’d highly recommend that the Calico crew read it if they haven’t already. BTW, the subtitle is an apt warning of sorts: “Chasing the Dream of Human Life Extension”.

The book features many companies and scientists who have been interested in anti-aging including BioTime CEO, Michael West, who founded the company Geron at least in part with the vision to battle aging.

Of course any discussion of aging should also feature stem cells. So another book that I recommend to Calico folks is my new book, Stem Cells: An Insider’s Guide.

In it, I propose a new theory of aging in which the number of healthy stem cells that we each possess directly correlates with our biological age. I also propose the notion that for many people their death certificates should read for the cause of death “ran out of stem cells”. In my book I have many illustrations including a great one on aging conceived by me and created by scientific illustrator Taylor Seamount (see image above).

The tricky part about human life extension and anti-aging is that I’m not convinced that we (A) know what aging really means and (B) have the tools to do anything meaningful about it.

One must also factor in quality of life as well.

I hope that Calico changes our whole concept of aging and extends healthy life years for us all, but I have to admit I’m skeptical. The Fountain of Youth has proven elusive and most gains in human life expectancy have been indirect consequences of better nutrition and anti-infectious disease efforts.

If you are very interested in anti-aging, you might consider going to the A4M anti-aging conference in mid-December in Vegas. Should be quite the show.

You can roll the dice literally for cash and perhaps figuratively on living longer. You might bump into Google CEO Larry Page (a young 40 years old), former Cali Guv Schwarzenegger, Suzanne Somers, and other celebs who are preoccupied with anti-aging stuff.

Damn, I don’t see Dr. Oz on the agenda…. If you guys go I’d love to know your impressions.

A version of this piece was first published on Huffington Post.

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