The esoteric new company is said to be developing novel bio-rejuvenation technology that, if successful, could help consumers defy human life expectancy.
Everything we know about Altos Labs so far
Altos Labs has yet to make an official statement, so everything we know about them and their objectives comes from a recent report published in MIT’s technology review.
According to the article, the start-up has already attracted funding from
founder and executive chairman of Amazon Jeff Bezos, Russian-Israeli entrepreneur (and physicist) Yuri Milner, and his wife Julia.
Milner reportedly held a two-day conference at his private estate in the Los Altos Hills to discuss practical ways to make science fiction a reality.
It’s not surprising that Milner, who made a career providing capital to
mathematicians, biologists, and authors of radical innovations in technology and science crossed paths with Bezos, an entrepreneur who is something like an amalgamation of Bruce Wayne and Mr. Burns from the Simpsons.
“Bezos is said to have a fairly long-standing interest in longevity research, and he previously invested in an anti-aging company called Unity Biotechnology. Rumors of the billionaire making a seismic-sized splash into the field have swirled for months,” MIT reports.
Their combined wealth appears to be trained on a supergroup of pioneering academicians determined to dramatically prolong human life.
So far this team is said to include Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte; a Spanish biologist at the Salk Institute, in La Jolla, CA; Steve Horvath,
German–American aging researcher, geneticist, and biostatistician at UCLA; and Shinya Yamanaka, who received a the Nobel Prize for discovering genetic reprogramming.
Yamanaka will reportedly join Altos Labs as an unpaid senior scientist in addition to chairing the company’s scientific advisory board.
Each of these men has gained notoriety for pioneering research in longevity science.
The science behind anti-aging
It may be that the secret to prolonged life isn’t a secret at all, but a formula that addresses the most common causes of mortality on a genetic level.
When scientists talk about “the pace of aging,” they’re referring to the rate of multi-organ-system decline that occurs more and more vigorously as we get older. The present research has unofficially identified the age 150 as the most optimistic projection for human life. The oldest human who ever lived hit the ripe old age of 122.
“When omitting things that usually kill us, our body’s capacity to restore equilibrium to its myriad structural and metabolic systems after disruptions still fades with time,” Scientific American reports.
“And even if we make it through life with few stressors, this incremental decline sets the maximum life span for humans at somewhere between 120 and 150 years.”
Reaching these ages requires clinicians to keep the human body operating at peak youth: living healthier for longer as opposed to merely living longer.
“Death is not the only thing that matters. Other things, like quality of life, start mattering more and more as people experience the loss of them,” says
Heather Whitson, director of the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development.
“The question is: Can we extend life without also extending the proportion of time that people go through a frail state?”
A recent report conducted by a team of Harvard Researchers determined that physiological systems important to our over-all health begin to decline between the ages of 35 and 40.
We begin to lose some of our resiliency with respect to disease and physical trauma around this time. The same study found blood to be a very influential component of this equation.
In a recent study published in the journal Aging, researchers were able to rejuvenate three germ layer tissues in mouse models after exchanging old blood plasma with a mixture of saline and albumin.
How we can live healthy for as long as possible
There are things we can do on our end, today, to mimic the results reached in labs on a smaller scale.
The Mediterranean diet, for instance, is part of the regimen observed by populations who occupy the blue zones of the world — which are regions associated with longevity. Not surprisingly, the search for the fountain of youth usually includes dietary recommendations.
“In the era of evidence-based medicine, the Mediterranean diet represents the gold standard in preventive medicine, probably due to the harmonic combination of many elements with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which overwhelm any single nutrient or food item,” The authors of a recent study write.
The journal of Experimental Gerontology, reports that Sardinia, a mountainous Italian island located in the heart of the Mediterranean sea, houses the highest concentration of male centenarians in the entire world.
“A true Mediterranean diet is based on the region’s traditional fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seafood, olive oil, and dairy—with perhaps a glass or two of red wine. That’s how the inhabitants of Crete, Greece, and southern Italy ate circa 1960, when their rates of chronic disease were among the lowest in the world and their life expectancy among the highest, despite having only limited medical services,” the paper’s authors’ Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Robert Segal.
Although Altos labs are primarily focused on bio-genetics, their research subsumes all aspects of extending life. With promising previously conducted research on the subject and the inexhaustible wealth of the financiers at their disposal, they just might achieve the impossible.
“The philosophy of Altos Labs is to do curiosity-driven research. This is what I know how to do and love to do,” says Manuel Serrano of the Institute of Biomedical Research in Barcelona, Spain, who plans to move to Cambridge, UK, to join an Altos facility there. “In this case, through a private company, we have the freedom to be bold and explore. In this way, it will rejuvenate me.”
Critics have highlighted several key challenges involved with making longevity science viable in any of our lifetimes. Still, Serrano has maintained his optimism: “I imagine that if it can be done in a mouse, it can be done in humans. It will be more difficult, but I think there will be anti-aging therapies in the relatively near future, in 10, 20, or 30 years. I doubt that will make us immortal, but we’re heading in that direction.”