Events - 08.05.2014 - 00:00 

Immortality comes to Symposium

Challenging the pre-conceived notions that we have towards disease, lifespan and human life as we know it, the Chief Science Officer of the SENS Research Foundation brings his view of human expectation to the St. Gallen Symposium.


9 May 2014. In an investigative interview which took place during the opening plenary session at the 44th Annual St. Gallen Symposum, guests and dignitaries were introduced to Aubrey de Grey, a theoretician in the field of gerontology, the study of the social, psychological and biological aspects of aging. The panel discussion was led by Stephen Sackur, host of the BBC’s news programme HARDtalk

In describing his work, de Grey stated that, “we are working to develop medicines that would bring aging under true medical control. We are working along the lines… that would essentially bring regenerative medicine to the problems of aging, rather than trying to tackle the diseases of aging one at a time.”

Sackur seemed willing to buy into de Grey’s premise but was having a tough time accepting it, even though he admitted that he was a stakeholder in the reversing of aging theory, since he himself has just turned 50. Sackur flat out asked de Grey if he thought aging was a disease and if science could help us essentially avoid the natural process of dying. “It certainly not avoidable yet,” stated de Grey, “but I do believe that we are in striking distance of developing medical technology that can make that a reality, yes.”  

Every machine that does damage to itself should, in theory be able to be maintained so that it could run at optimum levels, like an old but well maintained car, stated de Grey. Sackur pointed out that he thought there was a big difference between a car and an organism, primarily because you can change the motor of a car but you can’t just go out and replace the someone’s brain.

Noting that he was bringing up a good point, de Grey said that perhaps you can’t replace an entire brain, “but you can replace brain cells, and that is completely different.”

Sackur engaged the audience and used them to take a simple straw poll. An overwhelming majority found that it wasn’t an attractive proposition to live forever, or at least for much longer than what we are now used to now. This revelation wasn’t surprising to de Grey. He believes this view is prevalent because there a misconception of the underlining principles involved and asked the audience if or at what age they wanted to get Alzheimer’s Disease. He said the misconception comes in when you say you don’t want Alzheimers, or cancer, or cardiovascular disease… but that these illnesses are a part and parcel of aging. “You can’t have one without the other. We are not going to get rid of the diseases and disabilities of old age without getting rid of aging. Get over it.”

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