Weekly reads: oocytes from males, David Sinclair longevity inc, diabetes, He Jiankui

A team led by Harvard professor David Sinclair had a recent Cell paper on reprogramming to fight aging that I reviewed here on The Niche. I thought the paper was exciting and important. Note that in vivo reprogramming was first done more than a decade ago. Sinclair did have a novel fast-forward aging method and overall the data were impressive.

David Sinclair
Harvard Professor David Sinclair has published some exciting anti-aging research but has promoted some unproven ideas about longevity too.

However, David Sinclair has also promoted some anti-aging stuff that seems very questionable to me. For example, he tweeted about full-body MRI. He also made what I would call overexuberant statements about longevity and curing human diseases in that tweet. See it pasted below. I had some questions for him on it too but got no reply.

Pushback on longevity claims

What are the issues here?

Regular full-body MRIs could be a recipe for more trouble than benefit. The risks include wasted healthcare dollars and finding irrelevant things. Such findings may lead to unnecessary further testing and harms. Then there’s age estimation by MRI, which seems highly questionable to me too.

Tim Caulfield, whom I included in my tweet noting Sinclair’s tweet, made some great points in the thread so I recommend reading that.

David Sinclair’s book on longevity has also faced criticism, including from another researcher who is pitching anti-aging products so not sure what to make of that. Anybody read Sinclair’s book and have thoughts? Note that he has roles in dozens of companies.

KHN has a worthwhile piece on some of Sinclair’s anti-aging efforts including a role for a time with Shaklee.

He Jiankui won’t go away

And speaking of marketing kind of efforts, He Jiankui is keeping up his effort at a comeback and self-promotion.

He’s now on Twitter and says he’s setting up a foundation.


Okay, on to some notable reading material from the past week or so.

Recommended reads

  • Creating the next cell therapies for diabetes, Eric Bender. This provides some detailed background on cell therapies being studied for diabetes.
  • Generation of functional oocytes from male mice in vitro, Nature. There has been extensive work on in vitro gamete production from mice over the years. I still have big doubts about applicability to humans if people want to address things like infertility. You’d absolutely have to create pregnancies from in vitro human oocytes and have them be implanted before you could know if it was safe. Then once you’re at that point and if you find it isn’t safe, what do you do? Terminate the pregnancies? Or what if you thought the pregnancies seemed to be going well and let them go to term, but the babies were born with serious health problems?
  • The doctors selling bogus treatments to people facing blindness, BBC. This is about MD Stem Cells and Drs. Jeffrey Weiss and Stephen Levy. I’ve written extensively about this in my opinion stem cell clinic-like operation that is running pay-for-play studies. There are some serious concerns here and the BBC nicely covers the situation. Check out posts here on The Niche too for more background. Some patients have reported vision loss after participating.
  • Limitations of gene editing assessments in human preimplantation embryosNat Comm. As other labs have reported, gene editing of embryos produces heterogeneous and often negative chromosomal changes. These are also difficult to rigorously follow with current assays so there’s some degree of flying blind, which is particularly worrisome in the context of reproductive uses. As with the oocyte stuff above, going down a human reproductive route here too would be full of risks and unknowns.

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