Aubrey de Grey
Episode #7 of the course “Significant futurists and their ideas”
Raised in London by his artistic mother, Aubrey de Grey never knew his father. His mother encouraged him to pursue math and science, as those were her weakest areas, and de Grey eventually attended the University of Cambridge to study computer science. After working in the field of software engineering and development for a number of years, de Grey changed his life course when he took the appointment of developing the FlyBase genetic database. The new position challenged him to become intimate with the current dialogue on biology and genetics, and he educated himself with tutoring and self-guided research. After publishing his book The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging in 1999, the University of Cambridge awarded him a PhD in biology.
Aubrey de Grey was the first to theorize that aging occurred at a mitochondrial level as a process of small, measurable, controllable stages. When mitochondrial DNA replicates in a cell, every few hundred copies may contain an error when it is reproduced, causing the cell to perform its function less efficiently over time. At this incremental level, de Grey theorized, aging occurs, can be measured, and can be prevented. He identified several factors that contribute to these DNA replication errors and proposed that further research is needed to learn how to medically prevent these mitochondrial breakdowns and end or reverse human aging.
Operating from the position that technological and medical resources exist to perform this research, de Grey realizes that the funding is not in place to support efforts to prolong human physical and cognitive youth. He is currently the Chief Technology Officer at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), which strives to postpone age-associated disease through DNA therapy.
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