A theme on this blog is “there isn’t enough good information.” Anti-aging research is worse than most topics at this, perhaps even worse than nutrition. There are several reasons for this: time/money requirements of research, the FDA’s focus on pathology rather than health, and science as a whole disincentives the kind of replication you need to truly trust a result. But there’s a new organization, the Longevity Research Institute, aiming to fill this gap. (Full disclosure: I’m on the board).
To run a longevity experiment, you have three choices: research something with a short life cycle (limited applicability to humans), research something with a long life cycle but track biomarkers instead of actual lifespan (risks goodharting the biomarker while not affecting or even hurting lifespan), or wait. Even a mouse experiment can take four years for your subjects to die. And the more successful your treatment, the longer (and thus more expensive) the experiment.
This would make lifespan-increasing treatments more expensive, but that’s hardly the end of the world. What could be more worth paying for than life? Unfortunately, the FDA takes another view. To get FDA approval, a drug must show effectiveness treating a specific disease, and aging is not considered a disease. This has been challenged recently, with the TAME trial, but has been a fact of life for a very long time and there’s no guarantee TAME will win the fight.
Finally, science in general is bad at replication. Repeated studies are necessary to have any confidence in a treatment, but glory goes to the original discoverers of a treatment and their funders, not to replicator three of ten. So we end up with a list of promising treatments that no one can trust because no one has any incentive to test them again.
All together, this leads to a lot of low-hanging fruit in longevity research; there’s a ton of promising molecules out there that only need money to be tested. The Longevity Research Institute aims to pick that fruit. It has a very targeted mission: take compounds already shown promising in at least one trial and fund replication trials where you actually wait to see how long the mouse lives. That’s it. Yes, it should worry you that this isn’t already being done.
The LRI is run by Sarah Constantin, who writes the blog this blog wants to be when it grows up. You can see her past work in e.g. treatment-resistant depression, STD transmission, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Because there are very few fixed costs (Sarah’s salary, some legal consulting) and studies are so expensive, there’s lots of room for more funding. You can see the LRI’s roadmap here and an initial list of promising compounds here. LRI’s first trial, of the synthetic pineal peptide epitalon, launched just last month.
For more information, you can follow the blog or Facebook group. If you feel so moved, you can donate to LRI here. I’m happy to talk to anyone considering donating (elizabeth-at-this-domain-name), and for larger amounts Sarah herself is available.