It was a cold, dreary morning when I arrived at the Buck Institute this morning.
But Eric Verdin, President of the Buck, started the day off right, with … rapamycin!
and other compounds that are showing great promise as longevity drugs and therapies (see slide image below).
Note: Matt Kaeberlein mentioned to me that these other drugs/approaches to longevity in Eric’s slide below are deceptive because the percent lifespan improvement is based on short-lived controls (mice that didn’t live so long) so have an unrealistic life extension number… so take the lifespan extension numbers with a grain of salt. In otherwords, the data from the dozens of studies on lifespan increases with rapamycin are much more reliable than the few studies that are the basis of the life-extension estimates of the other drugs/therapies listed in the slide.
Eric Verdin then continued on with a presentation focused on a new epigenetic clock that they’ve developed at the Buck, to help address an issue they believe exists with the current epigenetic clocks. The issue is that today’s epigenetic clocks are (mostly) based on blood tests, and there are many different types of cells in blood (each with their own different cycle times and “age”). This means that when today’s aging clocks measure epigenetic age based on the epigenome of all these different cells in the blood you will get variation based on the age of the cells, but it will be modified by the relative distribution or total number of (ratio) of the different cell types in the blood, which can change dramatically depending upon what is happening in the body (e.g. if its fighting off an infection, etc.).
So at the Buck Institute, they’ve developed a new clock that they believe addresses this issue.
Note: I think the presentation Eric Verdin did at the Longevity Summit is the same presentation he gave a few months ago at the Rejuvenation Startup Conference, and that video is online here: Eric Verdin at Rejuvenation Startup, Biological Clocks Presentation.
Next Morgan Levine did her presentation on Epigenetic clocks (and from the look of the slides, it seems Altos labs has a better graphics department than the Buck).
One of the key points she made early on in her presentation is that biological aging is really just a concept; in fact there is no single, unchanging concept of “biological aging” so we will never have a completely accurate measure of it. All we can hope to accomplish is to get a workable approximation of this concept.
She covered some of the new work they are doing at Altos to get more accurate biological clocks and the results of the tests on these new adjustments to the clocks.
And she ended the presentation with the observation that, in terms of interpreting a clock change:
- The causality and mechanism are still unknown
- Its likely not the same as the change you might see in a car odometer - we aren’t measuring something as concrete as a “mile”
- Clinical trials need to be done to map the change in epigenetic ages, to changes in function
- There is still much work to “decode” the epigenetic clocks so that we understand exactly what they are measuring.