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In March 2005, we published “Do You Want to Live Forever?,” a cover story by renowned physician and writer Sherwin Nuland that took a deeply skeptical view of the claims of Aubrey de Grey, a theoretical biologist at the University of Cambridge who believes that human aging can be “fixed.” The story elicited outrage not just from de Grey’s many partisans, but also from many working biogerontologists who told us we were nuts to waste ink criticizing de Grey’s theories. What follows is a letter to de Grey by Richard Miller, a professor of pathology at the University of Michigan and a well-known biogerontologist. Tomorrow, we’ll post de Grey’s response to his letter. – Editors.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Jason Pontin
Editor in chief and publisher, Technology Review

Dear Jason:

My colleagues have called to my attention the excited fascination with which Technology Review has been treating Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s program to conquer aging. As you know, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) program delineates seven problems that from Dr. de Grey’s perspective are the key components of aging, and suggests that they can be solved by a combination of stem-cell therapy, senescence-marker tagged toxins, allotypic mt-coded proteins, IL-7, total telomerase deletion, genetically engineered hormone-secreting muscle cells, and phenacyldimethylthiazolium chloride.

De Grey has challenged gerontologists to debate the merits of the SENS program, and has expressed his opinion that we are now at or near a historical “cusp”; those born after the cusp will be able to stay alive and youthful by adherence to the SENS strategy.

Although de Grey’s assertions have enjoyed wide circulation in the lay press, at scientific meetings, and in your own journal, it is fair to say that many experienced gerontologists still remain somewhat skeptical about his claims.

Nonetheless, his success in developing such a well-regarded plan to solve the aging problem has prompted me to ask for his help on a similarly complex technological challenge. Alas, I have lost Aubrey’s phone number, and so I was hoping that Technology Review might be willing to publish this open letter to him, along with these introductory remarks, as a public service to those of us who look forward to hearing his insights into problems of this kind.

Best regards,
Richard Miller, MD, PhD, Professor of Pathology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI


Dear Aubrey:

I saw you on TV the other day, and was hoping that now that the aging problem has been solved, you might have time to help me in my publicity campaign to solve a similar engineering challenge, one that has been too long ignored by the ultra-conservative, fraidy-cat mainstream scientific community: the problem of producing flying pigs.

A theoretical analysis of the problem, using the fastest available modern computers, shows that there are a mere seven reasons why pigs cannot, at present, fly:

1. They do not have wings.

2. They are too heavy to get off the ground.

3. The so-called “law” of gravity.

4. They cannot climb trees.

5. Hair, instead of feathers.

6. They do not wish to fly.

7. They do not tweet.

Although I have been too busy in my day-job to find time to work in a laboratory, I have been able to show clearly that these problems can be solved, using an approach I call Plan for Engineered Porcine Aviation, or PEPA.

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Tagged: Biomedicine

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