Lifespans of 120 to 150 years are predicted to become commonplace and may be seen as early as 2029. Silicon Valley giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Paypal, are investing heavily in life extension start-ups such as Human Longevity Inc, Elysium Health and Synthetic Genomics in pursuit of ‘the fountain of youth.’
So, what is the anti-aging/life-extension sector and how is it segmented?
Good question, and hard to find anything truly established, so here’s a starter:
It was reported that the global anti-aging market was worth $250 billion in 2016 and estimated to be growing at a compound annual growth rate of 5.8%, to reach $331.41 billion by 2021. … we’re not talking creams and anti-wrinkle treatments here! The process of aging is defined as a cycle of different internal and external influences on the biochemical procedures in the body which degenerate over time, affecting the well being, wellness and physical appearance of an aging person. Anti-aging involves the use of medication, procedures or therapies to slow down, or indeed stop, the aging process.
The generations most impacted by anti-aging solutions are Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y – these are the people with the greatest influence over the market and who are most likely to enjoy the fruits of current research and innovations.
Regarding anti-aging products, the market is currently saturated by physical appearance-led solutions. However, quick fixes and cover-ups are no longer the primary focus of anti-aging research – research and investors are now looking inward to the very process of aging to find biological and technological solutions that offer more permanent longevity.
“Biology is a software process. Our bodies are made up of trillions of cells, each governed by this process. You and I are walking around with outdated software running in our bodies, which evolved in a very different era.” Ray Kurzweil
Decades of research by the Sens Research Foundation has proven that there are no more than seven major classes of cellular and molecular damage that cause aging. Research has brought about regenerative solutions that remove, repair, replace, or render harmless the damage that has accumulated in our tissues over time.
By reconstructing the living machinery of our tissues, these rejuvenation biotechnologies will restore the normal functioning of the body’s cells and essential biomolecules, returning aging tissues to health and youth. For each significant class of aging damage, a regeneration strategy either already exists as a prototype or is foreseeable from existing scientific developments.
So as the investment community and big business accelerate blockchain from disruptive into a mainstream technology is the anti-aging sector the next big thing?
UK-based anti-aging fund Juvenescence has been set-up to invest in a range of companies all working towards anti-aging therapies. California-based AgeX is using stem cell technology to regenerate human tissues that are failing through age-related degenerative disease. While Pittsburgh-based organization LyGenesis is developing solutions using the patient’s lymph nodes as a bioreactor to grow a replacement organ; it is focusing first on liver regeneration for people with end-stage hepatic disease, and future targets include the thymus, pancreas, and kidney.
Research into 3D printing organ tissues has resulted in functioning human tissue created within a laboratory. Current prototypes are being used in medical research, with a view to paving the way to ‘printing’ human organs in the future and using ‘human’ tissue to perform safer and more accurate clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies.
There is research into anti-aging drugs which mimic cell function to reduce or reverse the effects of aging. The metabolite NAD+, which is naturally present in every cell of our body, has a vital role as a regulator in protein-to-protein interactions that control DNA repair. Testing of this has resulted in cells showing a proven ability to repair DNA damage caused by aging, and as a result, cells are indistinguishable from their younger counterparts.
Conversely, instead of mimicking cell behavior, senolytics are being used to precisely and efficiently kill senescent cells (SNCs) which are cells that have stopped dividing but are resistant to apoptosis. On top of their normal and beneficial biological processes, SNCs and factors released in the SNC secretome have been linked to aging and age-related diseases.
Another dimension to anti-aging is the idea of nanobots – miniaturized robots as small as an atom or electron – which may one day be able to integrate with our brain matter allowing us to merge with computers and the cloud to achieve Ray Kurzweil’s theory of ‘singularity.’
By 2029, Kurzweil predicts that computers will have human-level intelligence. Therefore, if we put this computing technology inside our brains in the form of nanobots, by connecting them to the cloud, we expand who we are. He predicts that singularity will be achieved in 2045 —when humans will multiply intelligence a billion fold, by merging with the intelligence we have created.
How this contributes to anti-aging technology is more conceptual: the idea that we can upload our knowledge and our memories into the cloud suggests that one day we may be able to experience lost loved ones in an automated artificial state that reflects their personality, memories, and characteristics using the information that has been shared.
Increasing demand for anti-aging products and technical advancement in anti-aging services are the factors that drive the growth of the lucrative anti-aging market, particularly in an age where the phenomenon of ‘practical immortality’ is a recognized possibility.
“Our technology, our machines, is part of our humanity. We created them to extend ourselves, and that is what is unique about human beings.” Ray Kurzweil