Friday, March 28, 2008

Aubrey de White

We have discussed the ideas of Aubrey de Grey quite a bit on the bayblab previously. Basically he is a former artificial intelligence researcher turned theoretical biologist who believes that aging itself can be slowed down or stopped using near future technology. In fact he has suggested that we may be in the presence of people who will be immortal, ie people for whom this kind of technology will be available to them before they die.
It is easy to dismiss Aubrey due to his lack of experimental biology experience and his likeness to Gandalf the Grey. His ascendancy to Aubrey de White seems unlikely, however, I was fairly impressed with an actual in depth interview with Aubrey on "Futures in Biotech". He has a more broad understanding that I initially gave him credit for. I think I will read his book "Ending Aging".
Some of the research that the Methuselah Foundation is funding he speaks of.
An example is trying to make proteins that are coded for in mitochondrial DNA function but be less hydrophobic. Proteins that are encoded in mitochondria are apparently more hydrophobic. The mitochondria has maintained these proteins in it's small genome because they can not be translated and transported to the mitochondria, like many other mitochondrial proteins. These proteins are too hydrophobic to be unwound and then placed into the mitochondria so the mitochondria encodes for them itself. By engineering these proteins to be less hydrophobic they could be encoded in the nuclear DNA and transported to the mitochondria. This would protect these genes from the high mutation rates found in mitochondrial DNA. Great stuff. I can't imagine how they would actually get this to work but Aubrey is ambitious.
Anyways if you aren't going to read the book at least listen to the podcast interview with Aubrey. The interviewer is not quite as good as the newest bayblab podcast where we interview a dentistry student, and it's over an hour long, but overall I though it was quite good.


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