Aubrey de Grey, British researcher on aging, challenges the most basic assumption on mankind - that aging is inevitable. He argues that aging is a disease - curable if it's approached as 'an engineering problem'. He wants to identify every component that cause human tissue to age, and remedy each of them - forestalling disease and eventually death. He calls the approach Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS).
In July 2005, the MIT Technology Review offered a $20,000 prize to any molecular biologist who could demonstrate that 'SENS is so wrong that it is unworthy of learned debate'. According to MIT's judges, SENS is in a middle ground of yet-to-be-tested ideas that perhaps 'don't compel the assent of many knowledgeable scientists', but are 'not demonstrably wrong'.
19:35: Aubrey de Grey (Cambridge & Berkeley University): 'Rejuvenation biotechnology: why age will no longer mean aging'
20:10: Artistic perspective on aging by Jorge Leon (artist and film maker)
20:30: 'Regenerative Medicine' by Claudia Spits (VUB)
20:45: A legal perspective on longevity by Julian Cockbain (Bioethics Institute Ghent)
Claudia Spits was born in Spain to a Dutch family that settled in a small beach town back in the sixties. She completed a Masters degree in Biology at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, and after obtaining a highly competitive grant, engaged in a PhD at the same university. During her spare time, she started a bachelor degree in computer science, which despite not having been completed provides her now with a good insight on algorithm design and programming. The slow progress of her PhD enticed her to wrap it up into a master thesis, and move to Brussels, to start a new PhD at the VUB, which she defended in 2006. She decided to stay in Brussels for a post-doc, instead of returning to Spain. The human embryonic stem cell laboratory was just kicking off at the VUB and she decided to join the group after obtaining a post-doctoral fellowship of the FWO-Vlaanderen.
Today, she holds a faculty position and supervises a growing and very international team of researchers focusing on genome integrity and its consequences in human pluripotent cells. A recurrent theme in her work is the use of new technologies in applications they were not originally intended for, often pushing them to their physical and technical limits, and on rather unique samples. Her work has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including Nature Biotechnology and Nature Communications.
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