The Lure of Self-Experimentation (in Longevity and Aging)

This article below is about the more general use of self experimentation by scientists. But, I suspect it applies strongly in the longevity / aging field. It seems to me that there will always be a fairly strong ethos of self experimentation in the longevity community for a number of reasons, such as:

  1. Longevity research is slow, and many people don’t have the patience (or years of lifetime) to wait for perfect data that would ideally come from human randomized control clinical trials from these drugs like rapamycin.
  2. The FDA doesn’t recognized aging as a treatable condition, so no aging clinical trials, and no good randomized, placebo controlled studies in humans for aging.
  3. Many longevity drugs are generic, so there is no financial incentive to do clinical trials for age-related diseases.
  4. Traditional medical field focuses on “sick care” not prevention. So if you want to focus on prevention, you’re largely on your own, or you are forced into non-traditional medical care systems that do focus on prevention.
  5. Cost: most people can’t afford the cost of longevity medications and therapies that are not covered by insurance, so as a simple cost saving mechanism many people will be forced into self-experimentation and non-traditional channels for longevity drugs and therapies.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree?

Self-experimentation is likely as old as science itself. And while modern institutional review boards pride themselves on stamping out unethical experiments, they haven’t tamped down the curiosity that drives these fearless few. Historically, self-experiments have driven breakthroughs but have also caused injuries and more than a few deaths. Scientists have self-experimented to avoid red tape, to satisfy their curiosity, to speed their experiments, and out of sheer frustration.


I agree with a lot of it. I think something a lot of people on the site forget is that animal models are not great translators to humans, they are more exploratory into mechanistic pathways and its easier to do it in less complex organisms along with it taking less time( I think we should have a topic dedicated to the issues with animal models in studies(or translational studies in general), as I think it would be informative for a lot of individuals) . I also think people do not realize, that just because we see a effect on a particular pathway, we have no idea any other upstream/downstream effects that could occur or even compound with manipulation of that particular pathway. Biology is very complex, so I understand why the science takes a long time and why FDA probably doesn’t focus on aging(although I think they should).


Too bad they didn’t mention any rapamycin self-experimenters.

“We can’t wait” is the basic reason for self-experimentation. Whether not waiting for a cure for a chronic disease or the the universal disease of aging, there is no time like the present for getting started, especially when considering the possibility of longevity escape velocity.

And even if we could wait, why would we if the risk is minimal and the payoff is a better life now?

Finally, there is some excitement in self-experimentation, reminding me a bit of the biological performance art in David Cronenberg’s latest sick movie, Crimes of the Future.


Thanks for the reality check. Most or at least many of us here are laymen so don’t have the deep appreciation for the complexity of biology. I frequently hear from Matt Kaeberlein and other scientists that “yes it looks that way, but we really don’t know and biology is complex”… and probably this is why when you ask the longevity scientists what their longevity regimen is, it typically doesn’t include “Any” supplements at all.

But having read enough books about the scientific process, and science in general, I know that very few things (certainly in biology) are known with certainty. I mean math and physics has much more clear answers. But a lot of biology is highly conditional and as you say complex.

I think there is a grey area that needs to be less “do no harm” and more “balanced risk based assessments” … for example the scenarios where already FDA approved drugs are shown to have longevity benefits. Obviously rapamycin is a prime example, but there will be many more. I think the decision matrix / algorithm for identifying the risks (at a personal level) for use / or not use needs to be refined a lot in this type of situation so that people can more easily make decisions themselves, given the general lack of support in this area in the medical community.


A good analogist to longevity experimentation is the rogue use of Steroids for weightlifting and sports performance. Those experiments have gone on a long time (even prior to the 1970s). Horse and dog racing were used as the basis and experiments bled over. The world and scientific community has learned a tremendous amount about steroids and the impact on the body from the ‘testing’ this group has done. Some good, some bad. I think the same will result from the longevity biohackers and perhaps because the target market is larger the learnings will be even more powerful.


I am myself quite surprised at the benefits of my experimentation.


Yes, there is! Good point.

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RapAdmin, I agree with all of your points. For me, it’s a matter of now or never. I can’t wait on the FDA, my doctor, or traditional medicine to eventually get around to focusing on what is important to seniors in the last 3rd of their lives: health first, longevity second. So, I (like many) try to do reasonable research and take chances on things that may work without having too many potential downsides. I have no friends who take my approach. All of them, instead, simply do as their doctor suggests without further questioning or research on their own. But, I have always been motivated to seek the best solution.