Alzheimer’s Will Never Be Cured Until… (don’t laugh)…

…we defeat the biochemical mechanism of human aging. Have I lost you already? I ask this because, in my study of anti-aging there’s been one surprising revelation, and it is this: the only thing more impenetrable than the protective shroud that nature placed around her secret of aging, is the wall in everyone’s brains that cordons off this matter as an ‘inviolable secret’ that can never be understood, let alone counteracted.

Back in 2003, after reading some advancement in anti-aging research — perhaps that resveratrol seemed to have some age-defying effects — I made a web page that enumerated the many anti-aging advancements that seemed to be occurring. I was sure an unstoppable trend was accelerating. The page has languished since then with only occasional updates. But just recently, after reading the book The Telomerase Revolution, I have been intensively studying the scientific progress in anti-aging research. And that progress is staggering… if you’re paying attention and have an appetite for science.

I happen to have settled on one of the themes of that book and its related (hoped-for) therapy based on the notion called “cellular senescence.” Briefly, the idea is that cells get old, controlled by the tips of our DNA chromosomes getting shorter each time the cells divide. And each time the cells divide, the copying process — that otherwise rejuvenates our tissues by producing new, young cells— loses fidelity like the increasing blurriness of paper photocopies; copy from a copy successively, and after several generations it’s too fuzzy to even read. Although our DNA — amazingly — even has repair mechanisms to correct the fuzziness mistakes, the slop in the process eventually becomes too much for the automatic repair to keep up with. Then disease occurs… even if it’s just the “dis–ease” stuff of creaky joints, sagging skin, or the diminished flexibility of our eyes’ lenses causing far-sightedness.

I don’t want this to be a high-school science class, so let me just leave it to the audience as an extra-credit assignment if you want to read about the solution I believe in, Dr. Bill Andrews’ pursuit of telomerase (Google that)… to prevent the copying process from degrading. He thinks it’s a matter of finding a specific substance, with a specific effect on the chromosome ends. He’s already found some, but none strong enough. I believe that — contrary to our long-indoctrinate sense that aging is so nefarious that it must be incredibly complex, it is a single algorithm of our DNA programming. It does not make sense that our fixed, relatively narrow-windowed end of life would be implemented by a hodge-podge of factors. When the wall falls it is likely to be precipitous. It could be simpler than curing the common cold, because we are not programmed to eradicate the common cold… for the diversity of viruses desperate to exist. But we are literally and simply programmed to die, some few number of years after we reproduce. Get ready.

But exactly how does this relate to Alzheimer’s? An analogy: I wrote a book on repetitive strain injury. You know, carpal tunnel and all that. And by the end of the writing, the notion was clear that most of the medical world treats the symptoms, not the cause. In defense of doctors, they SHOULD attack symptoms because “that’s where it hurts” and they don’t often have control of the many root causes. But if you aren’t also addressing root causes, the problem just moves to the next weak spot; it’s a game of ‘Whac-A-Mole.’ And that is my premise with Alzheimer’s disease and cellular senescence. I propose — and I have precisely zero scientific credentials on which to build this theory — that Alzheimer’s and other diseases that are uniquely ‘diseases of aging’, will ONLY be cured by curing aging!

In his book, Fossel enumerates the diseases of aging, those that seem inevitable if you live long enough. Parkinson’s disease is up there. So is cancer. There are a handful of others. You don’t need me to picture that cancer affects far, far fewer young people… same for Parkinson’s. Apparently there are many Alzheimer’s drug trials that are attempting to prevent the build-up of ‘plaques’ in the brain, and the trials are a string of failures. If I’m right, there will be glimmers of hope as some symptomatic approaches show promise, then disappoint further down the line. This problem currently evidences itself in the well-intended but possibly doomed idea you hear in recent cancer-fighting advertisements, about “individualized cancer therapy…” formulating your unique cure to cancer. There’s nothing at all invalid about marshalling your body’s own defenses — absolutely promising — but solutions that are not shared among all are not solutions, just expensive palliatives.

So there you have it. And my message is purely selfish. I want to live forever. But I can’t do it if I can’t break down the real wall, the one that prevents you — virtually everyone in fact — from believing that anti-aging medicine is possible. And I figure that the best way to do it is to change the message from the quackery-tainted notion of anti-aging (a ‘brand’ so severe that scientists are afraid to participate even in the discussion) to one of whatever aging disease you or a loved one suffers.

And why exactly do I need to make converts? Isn’t there an unstoppable flow of get-rich-quick money inundating the likes of Dr. Andrews? No, quite the opposite. I’ll simplify the philosophizing, discounting even the short-term-edness problem of venture capital and just leave it at this: almost everyone is terrified of anti-aging.