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posted by n1 on Sunday May 07 2017, @09:35AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the olay-regenerist dept.

In 2013, Time magazine ran a cover story titled Google vs. Death about Calico, a then-new Google-run health venture focused on understanding aging — and how to beat it. "We should shoot for the things that are really, really important, so 10 or 20 years from now we have those things done," Google CEO Larry Page told Time.

But how exactly would Calico help humans live longer, healthier lives? How would it invest its vast $1.5 billion pool of money? Beyond sharing the company's ambitious mission — to better understand the biology of aging and treat aging as a disease — Page was vague.

I recently started poking around in Silicon Valley and talking to researchers who study aging and mortality, and discovered that four years after its launch, we still don't know what Calico is doing.

I asked everyone I could about Calico — and quickly learned that it's an impenetrable fortress. Among the little more than a dozen press releases Calico has put out, there were only broad descriptions of collaborations with outside labs and pharmaceutical companies — most of them focused on that overwhelmingly vague mission of researching aging and associated diseases. The media contacts there didn't so much as respond to multiple requests for interviews.

People who work at Calico, Calico's outside collaborators, and even folks who were no longer with the company, stonewalled me.

We should pause for a moment to note how strange this is. One of the biggest and most profitable companies in the world has taken an interest in aging research, with about as much funding as NIH's entire budget for aging research, yet it's remarkably opaque.

[...]

[David] Botstein [the Calico Chief Scientific Officer] says a "best case" scenario is that Calico will have something profound to offer the world in 10 years. That time line explains why the company declines media interviews. "There will be nothing to say for a very long time, except for some incremental scientific things. That is the problem."

But avoiding media hype does not require secrecy among scientific colleagues. If Calico's scientists were truly interested in pushing the boundaries of science, they might think about using some of the best practices that have been developed to that end: transparency, data sharing, and coordinating with other researchers so they don't go down redundant and wasteful paths.

-- submitted from IRC


Original Submission

Related Stories

Naked Mole Rats Show Few Signs of Aging 34 comments

Naked mole rats defy the biological law of aging

In the world of animal models, naked mole rats are the supermodels. They rarely get cancer, are resistant to some types of pain, and can survive up to 18 minutes without oxygen. But perhaps their greatest feat, a new paper suggests, is that they don't age.

The first study to analyze the life histories of thousands of naked mole rats has found that their risk of death doesn't go up as they grow older, as it does for every other known mammalian species. Although some scientists caution against any sweeping conclusions, many say the new data are important and striking.

"This is remarkably low mortality," says Caleb Finch, a biogerontologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles who was not involved in the new study. "At advanced ages, their mortality rate remains lower than any other mammal that has been documented."

Scientists have long noted that naked mole rats—burrowing rodents with wrinkled, pink skin and large protruding teeth that live in large, subterranean colonies—show few signs of aging and far surpass the life span expected of a rodent this size. Mice in captivity live at most 4 years; based on their size, naked mole rats would not be expected to live past 6 years. Instead, some live beyond 30 years, and even at that age breeding females stay fertile.

The scientists behind the research work at Calico, Google's biotechnology and anti-aging subsidiary.

Also at Calico and BGR.

Naked mole-rat mortality rates defy Gompertzian laws by not increasing with age (open, DOI: 10.7554/eLife.31157.001) (DX)

Related: Silicon Valley's Quest to Extend Life 'Well Beyond 120'
Google is Super Secretive About its Anti-Aging Research


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  • (Score: 2) by looorg on Sunday May 07 2017, @09:54AM (1 child)

    by looorg (578) on Sunday May 07 2017, @09:54AM (#505786)

    But avoiding media hype does not require secrecy among scientific colleagues. If Calico's scientists were truly interested in pushing the boundaries of science, they might think about using some of the best practices that have been developed to that end: transparency, data sharing, and coordinating with other researchers so they don't go down redundant and wasteful paths.

    I'm guessing rock-solid-draconian-NDA? Plus they don't really need the media hype as they don't need further or outside funding - their sugar daddy is Google (or Alphabet*) after all.

    (*) How odd, if you search Google for Alphabet then the company comes before Alphabet as in the letters/symbols. Is this digital-narcissism?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07 2017, @03:48PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07 2017, @03:48PM (#505869)

      Your idea of narcissism is probably the closest. 'we smart and everyone else dumb' is the battle cry of the valley. Never even noticing they stand upon backs of the work of millions before them for hundreds of years of math and science. I would bet cold hard cash these words were uttered in meetings 'we have really smart people we can XYZ'. Even though XYZ is probably totally unfeasible. Is aging 'curable'. Maybe, but not by a group that locks themselves in a building by themselves. Collaboration is key in that field. To properly do 'anti aging' they probably will need to understand our genome and how it interacts with everything and how it is damaged and how to put it back. Not just the rudimentary systems we have today. But how the code actually works and what it does. Right now we only have a 'sorta' idea something happens in particular areas and how the proteins fold out. We sorta understand a slight tiny bit of the how but not 'why'.

  • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Sunday May 07 2017, @10:09AM (8 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday May 07 2017, @10:09AM (#505789) Homepage Journal

    A lot of people are very concerned with over population already. I think most of them exaggerate the problem, but over population will be a problem. Mankind keeps fucking, and mankind keeps growing in numbers.

    Maybe after mankind leaves this one rock to which he is currently bound, longer lives would be good.

    Think about how crowded the world would be, right now, if EVERYONE born in 1917 were still alive. Think about how hard the younger generations would have to work to feed all those people. To change their Depends. To start another IV to keep the drooling idiots alive for another day.

    I'm not opposed to longevity, but we need to think about what it will mean. But, before we see life expectancies exceeding the century mark, we need to get off this little mudball, and find someplace to put all those people who just won't die off. Maybe the moon? Low gravity, so the old timers don't break their bones all the time from falling down. Or, just put them into a (very) high geosynchronous orbit? No gravity at all, so even fewer broken bones. Don't worry about the radiation, old timers aren't procreating any more anyway.

    --
    "I didn't lose to him!" - The Donald referring to Trippin' Joe
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07 2017, @11:50AM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07 2017, @11:50AM (#505805)

      I think most of them exaggerate the problem, but over population will be a problem

      Humans are pretty good at adapting to environmental pressures. So when overpopulation really becomes a problem, large scale colonisation of space is almost certainly suddenly going to look a lot more feasible than it does today.

      • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Sunday May 07 2017, @12:16PM (2 children)

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday May 07 2017, @12:16PM (#505810) Homepage Journal

        That is rather insightful - future population pressures will drive us to accept risks that we won't accept today.

        The question then, is how much damage we do to Earth's environment, before those pressures drive us out? A number of science fiction stories have asked that question, and offered as many answers. Ideally, I say we do no more harm to the earth - we bail now, while it still looks like a choice. Let's preserve what is here. That way, future generations can come back to visit. Future generations can come back for things that will be useful "out there". (Primarily, bio-material - maybe a colony's seeds have degraded, mutated, or whatever, so they can come back to our seed bank, and purchase some seeds.)

        IMO, we need to have been moving more than 30 years ago. The exploratory robot missions that we are doing today should have been started immediately after putting a man on the moon. We've been frozen with indecision for decades now. Among other things, we allowed ourselves to be distracted by that space plane, which really didn't give us our money's worth. I hated the idea of the shuttle when it was first floated, because congress and NASA made it clear that it was an "either/or" proposition. We either continue exploring, or we settle into near earth orbit to run experiments. All the while, the shuttles should have been a mere side show in the space exploration program.

        --
        "I didn't lose to him!" - The Donald referring to Trippin' Joe
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07 2017, @01:27PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07 2017, @01:27PM (#505822)

          The question then, is how much damage we do to Earth's environment, before those pressures drive us out?

          Runaway, you silly goose, you're a conservative! You should know better. It sounds like you've got hating the gays down in other posts. Now repeat after me. "Humans can't change the environment."

        • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday May 07 2017, @10:47PM

          by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Sunday May 07 2017, @10:47PM (#506033) Homepage

          " ...future population pressures will drive us to accept risks that we won't accept today. "

          Which will likely be some combination of war, eugenics, and genocide; if things really get that bad. As drastic as that is, it's still the path of least resistance to addressing overpopulation. Westerners are pretty good at self-regulation, but there are certain demographics who are so reckless they're 8-kids deep born straight into regions already defined by famine and violence.

    • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Sunday May 07 2017, @01:10PM (1 child)

      by bzipitidoo (4388) on Sunday May 07 2017, @01:10PM (#505818) Journal

      Overpopulation is a very old problem that Space isn't big enough to free life from. If it is not possible to travel ever increasing distances in the same amount of time, which seems highly likely, then life can always overfill all the space it can reach. Population can double over a fixed period of time, while the amount of 3D space that can be reached in that same time can only grow by the volume of a sphere, which is much, much less. How did life deal with overpopulation? The destructive routes of depleting all available resources and then collapsing, helplessly succumbing to starvation, or starting a war, seem not the best strategies to assure the survival of a species. Too easy for the collapse to be so ruinous that the species never recovers, and goes extinct. Or doom could have been assured just before the collapse, by literally "eating your seed corn" out of desperation. Observing how life handles it, one sees all kinds of self-regulating behavior. In many animals, the females will not produce offspring if conditions do not look favorable. For many but not all animals, there is of course the external restraint, predation.

      But back to the main point. I agree that we do not appreciate what it would mean to "cure" aging. Let's suppose this is the most powerful possible cure which extends one's best years indefinitely, and not a mere extension of one's worst twilight years. I'd love to be able to personally celebrate my 200th birthday as physically fit as a 20 year old, no back ache, graying and thining hairs, failing eyesight, etc. But my 1000th birthday? Or my 10,000th? Seems very likely we would discover that such a cure, if possible, is a worse disease. Our oldest members, who have had the most time to amass power and wealth, might be able to maintain a tyrannically unchanging, static society. It could even bring evolution, for ourselves, to an end, or at least a stop for so long as the oldest can hang on.

      • (Score: 2) by deimtee on Sunday May 07 2017, @08:07PM

        by deimtee (3272) on Sunday May 07 2017, @08:07PM (#505966) Journal

        Our oldest members, who have had the most time to amass power and wealth, might be able to maintain a tyrannically unchanging, static society. It could even bring evolution, for ourselves, to an end, or at least a stop for so long as the oldest can hang on.

        I don't think it would work out like that. The difference in subtlety, strategy, and experience between a smart 20 year old and a smart 50 or 60 year old is huge, leading to the current old-men-run-the-world state. The difference between an 860 year old and a 900 year old is likely to be tiny.

        --
        No problem is insoluble, but at Ksp = 2.943×10−25 Mercury Sulphide comes close.
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday May 07 2017, @01:42PM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday May 07 2017, @01:42PM (#505826) Journal

      No, there will be no holding off. Curing aging = curing diseases. There is no support for not curing diseases, or at least there won't be until it's too late to be stopped.

      Broken bones and procreation? Obviously, an anti-aging regimen is going to include restoration of bone strength, and probably fertility [newscientist.com]. Although fertility is much easier than anti-aging. The signs are very clear: you can create a baby from scratch. You know, literally scratching a few skin cells and using DNA to create synthetic embryos, which can be developed in artificial wombs.

      Fertile Mouse Eggs Created Using Stem Cells [soylentnews.org]
      Mice Created from Artificially Developed Embryos [soylentnews.org]
      Book-Sized Device Can Replicate a Woman's Reproductive Cycle [soylentnews.org]
      Fetal Lambs Grown for 4 Weeks in Artificial Womb [soylentnews.org]

      Any effects of anti-aging on overpopulation will take at least 50 years to kick in from today, including the time it takes to develop them, disseminate them widely, and then have people living a couple more decades than usual. Because anti-aging is preventative/regenerative health care, it will have a massive impact on entitlements like Medicare. No more expensive end-of-life care, and less hospital visits. That necessitates a cure for cancer, which is linked to anti-aging anyway (since part of aging is the accumulation of DNA mutations, and one anti-aging solution is nanobots, which would be ideal for destroying cancer cells).

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Sunday May 07 2017, @08:09PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Sunday May 07 2017, @08:09PM (#505967)

      I'm not opposed to longevity

      Note that they're talking about anti-aging, so people live better lives. Then other folk (not just you) mis-interpret that as living longer which in 2017 means living cruddier more expensive more painful lives (WRT your depends and IV comments). Which is in direct contradiction to the original "anti-aging" claim.

      I'm told I have young looking skin because I haven't spend decades suntanning. An argument of "why would I want to live to my current age suffering thru leathery skin" is not much of an argument to me because I have the skin of a teenage girl. Hanging up in my closet right over there. Boy did she fight but I acquired it in the end. Just kidding. But not kidding about having young person skin. Because I don't tan. People my age are supposed to start developing bad skin but not me, I got no F to give about that.

      Its interesting just a couple weeks after Easter to contemplate looking at old people at church. There's folks in their 80s who look younger than folks in their 50s. Usually its not random. The people who don't smoke usually don't have emphysema starting in their 40s, the folks who eat better food seem to keep under 400 pounds a lot easier, etc.

      The other snarky way to read Google's efforts is Fing around on the internet for a total of 5 years per lifetime means cutting that crap out as much as possible by more intelligent searching or just not using G+ or whatever is basically giving you extra years of quality life.

  • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Sunday May 07 2017, @10:14AM (7 children)

    by aristarchus (2645) on Sunday May 07 2017, @10:14AM (#505790) Journal

    As I have said before, being someone who is 2400 years old, what is up with this? All these tech robber barons, once they make mega-shitloads of money, immediately start funding research on not dying. Why? Do they not realize what it is like to live for millennia, let alone be immortal? And of course, Google is not the worst. Look into Peter Thiel's investments, and interest in "young blood" vampirism. And for those of you old enough to remember, Rockefeller was into the first milk of new mothers, colostrum, in an attempt to cheat death. But science? Medical research? I suggest everyone re-watch Jupiter Rising again.

    discovered that four years after its launch, we still don't know what Calico is doing.

    Don't worry, they probably don't, either.

    There is an old Taoist story. Some Taoist alchemists but cinnabar into a furnace, and produced the Elixir of Immortality! Silvery liquid metal! They drank it, and all promptly died. Chuangzi's comment was, "Some Elixir of Immortality!" Of course, this was the same therapy that was tried on Huang-di, the First, and Last, Emperor of the Ch'in Dynasty. If only the Robber Barons of Silicon Valley should be so lucky.

    --
    A pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07 2017, @01:34PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07 2017, @01:34PM (#505824)

      I suggest everyone re-watch Jupiter Rising again.

      Oh dear god no! I've always known you had a cruel streak, but isn't that a bit much???

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07 2017, @03:39PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07 2017, @03:39PM (#505863)

        Oh dear god no! I've always known you had a cruel streak, but isn't that a bit much???
        The movie suffered from the same problem as their last few movies. They need a good editor willing to chop out 30-40 mins of boring stuff. There is good stuff in there.

        Someone once asked an editor of horror films how they could stand working on such scary stuff. She said 'its not really scary until *I* am done with it'. Basically she made it a better movie usually. Movies can die on the editing floor. See Star Wars 1-3.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday May 07 2017, @02:10PM (2 children)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday May 07 2017, @02:10PM (#505836) Journal

      Silicon Valley Vampires (SVVs) can do whatever they want with their money. If people have a problem with that, they should vote for representatives that don't lower taxes on the rich. Unfortunately, 8 Republican seats are up for grabs in 2018 [wikipedia.org], while 23 Democratic seats and 2 Democratic-leaning independents are up. So in the short term, SVVs will experience lower taxes and less regulations until at least 2021.

      Do they not realize what it is like to live for millennia, let alone be immortal?

      If life is suffering, why not suffer forever?

      There is hope for immortals. It's called suicide. But philosophers should not get to make that choice for people.

      Don't worry, they probably don't, either.

      Aubrey de Grey called Google/Calico's bluff years ago [technologyreview.com]. We'll know they are serious once they hire him. But it is fine if they are in no hurry to produce results and are just conducting basic research, although Google divisions without a useful product don't tend to last very long.

      Young blood infusions are just another example of rich early adopters jumping on a scam backed by incomplete science [technologyreview.com]. This should be viewed as a positive, since it takes money away from the overendowmented rich and gives it to people more likely to invest or spend it. Real anti-aging therapies will likely use reprogrammed cells or nanobots, not the blood of the innocents (who can conveniently be used as dried husk sex slaves by the elites).

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 2) by SunTzuWarmaster on Sunday May 07 2017, @03:44PM (1 child)

        by SunTzuWarmaster (3971) on Sunday May 07 2017, @03:44PM (#505866)
        Obviously this entire article is speculation, and the comments section is just as good! That said, I think that you hit it here:
        "But it is fine if they are in no hurry to produce results and are just conducting basic research, although Google divisions without a useful product don't tend to last very long."

        They aren't a Google division (specifically a venture division with less pressure). The anti-aging research is infantile at best, so they are probably conducting basic research. They likely feel no pressure to publish their basic research (business edge) results. Sharing/Reporting will only get 1) attention, and 2) debate, and will take their scientists off the work. The patent system for biology research is garbage (and not particularly defendable). It seems real possible that they simply decided to lock everything up behind NDAs until they had a product, or at least something to sell to others.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07 2017, @08:51PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07 2017, @08:51PM (#505978)

          Good, then add Kurzweil's 2012 appointment to Goog to the list, because thos is exactly what I assumed he'd been hired for.

    • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Sunday May 07 2017, @06:03PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Sunday May 07 2017, @06:03PM (#505932)

      Why do they want to become immortal? Because it takes a really long time to insult the universe, one person at a time, in alphabetical order!

      --
      The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Sunday May 07 2017, @07:54PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Sunday May 07 2017, @07:54PM (#505962)

      Do they not realize what it is like to live for millennia, let alone be immortal?

      In the old days education at least partially existed to give royalty something interesting to think about for the rest of their lives.

      So the old trope of living forever was pro- higher- education-al propaganda.

      Everyone knows the village idiot bubba type who retired at 65 and was dead at 65.1 because he was dead mentally around age 12 or so, therefore with nothing better to do he held down the couch and did boredom eating (drinking) and didn't make it more than a month.

      Like a lot of people I have the personality profile and academic interests to quite well entertained if I lived for millennia.

  • (Score: 2) by butthurt on Sunday May 07 2017, @10:42AM

    by butthurt (6141) on Sunday May 07 2017, @10:42AM (#505797) Journal

    Extend it today with this one weird trick! Women, add 10.1 years!

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2016.4226 [doi.org]

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07 2017, @08:06PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07 2017, @08:06PM (#505965)

    Robert Heinlein solved this problem decades ago. Just encourage the descendants of long-lived people to meet and mate. Add time. Results to follow.

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