Skip to main content

tv   Earth Focus  LINKTV  October 12, 2022 6:00pm-6:31pm PDT

6:00 pm
óróxór[r to human immortality looks like. to battle aging, people receive customiz fountain of youth treatments. dna repair, cellular rejuvenation, hormone replacement. the realistic prospect of healthy eternal life is fundamentally reshaping society. - this i wanna try. - today scientists are blazing a trail to this very future. - we are at war with death. - [maren] i wanna know what breakthroughs are being made. - we can build an organ that matches your body.
6:01 pm
- this cocktail seems to reverse aging. - [maren] that we forge the future to. - so complex. - [maren] human immortality. (upbeat music) my name is maren hunsberger. i'm a microbiologist and i'm fascinated by how the future inspires the progress of science and technology but i'm critical of sensational science headlines that promise immortality.
6:02 pm
still, all of these stories have prompted me to ask, how quickly am i aging? to find out, i recently took a blood test. i mailed it off annow the results have just come in. i, in like real life, am 26 and we're about to see what this biological aging test says i am. so my biological age, according to this test is 40. learning my body has aged 14 years faster than expected is not the result i was hoping for, but it makes sense. my life partner was recently diagnosed with cancer, and i guess that stress has clearly taken a toll. while i have some doubts about the accuracy of this particular test, i am concerned that stress could further affect my health in the future. so i wanna find out, is it scientifically possible to slow or even stop the aging process all together?
6:03 pm
if so, what will our lives be like in the future? well, we're in vegas. to find out i'm attending raadfest whe a group of experts are gathering to put an end to old age. this event bills itself as the woodstock of a radical life extension. - we wanna create a mass movement to save lives. - [maren] i'm immediately struck by the extremely bold claims of healing and even immortality. - we're into marvelous. we're into immortality. that's what we're about. you're doing pretty good and life is great. you're gonna wanna keep on going. so what do you think? - festival director, james strole, calls himself an anti-death activist. - i wanna live indefinite lifespans, that's what i'm after, i wanna live forever. that's my goal okay.
6:04 pm
i personally think it's better to go for it and lose and not try at all right. - sure. what perceptions about aging and death in the public are you hoping to change? like what would you want people to take away from it? - well, yeah, most people are pretty much, i'll use the term programmed, that death is inevitable and we want to change that paradigm. we see aging as a disease, a curable disease, and we are at war with death. - the idea that aging might be cured like a disease is relatively new, but this yearning for eternal youth es back ousands years. cleopatra supposedly bathed in sour donkeys milk to make her skin appear more youthful and since then peoplhave tried using everything from raw meat to guinea pig testicles and even menstrual blood to combat the aging process. blood appears to be a recurring theme in this quest for immortality. some ultra wealthy patients are tryg a controversial new erapy.
6:05 pm
they're receiving transfusions of blood products taken from teenagers in the hopes of rewinding their biological clocks. so far this process has yielded no measurable benefits. there are dozens of therapies available the raadfest marketplace. i'm wondering, are their claims based on sound science? ooh, this i wanna try. this procedure claims to boost a person's energy at the cellular level while reducing stress and anxiety. how does the red lht rejuvenate my mitochondria? - a lot of the research looks at decreasing inflammation improving the blood flow. - [maren] this treatment is supposed to boost the immune system. - these machines are hydrogen inhalation devices. - and what's the hydrogen supposed to do. - so it's basically a master antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. - [maren] this device promises to relieve pain throughout the entire body.
6:06 pm
- so this is the avacen. what this does is it infuses heat throughout your circulatory system. - just by delivering heat to my hand? - yes and they also have done research in the diabetes arena, cardiovascular and also autism. - the spiel that they have contains a lot of scientific words peppered in there, which are legitimate scientific words that refer to a real phenomenon, but it plays into this idea of anything that sounds sciencey is true and that you should believe it and trust it, but that does not mean that their product is going to make you live longer. though i'm sympathetic to the antiaging cause for very personal reasons, from a scientific point of view, i don't think that anything on splay here will lead us down the path to immortality in the future. to find a more realistic path, i'm at the massachusetts institute of technology to meet a pioneer in longevity research,
6:07 pm
dr. leonard guarente. he's taking on a big problem that most everyone will eventually face. - as you get older, you lose muscle mass and you gain fat mass. - okay. - and both of those things are bad. - sure. lenny is a firm believer in the power of exercise to keep our bodies healthier for longer. - by impacting aging, you can not only improve health, but help mitigate diseases. - [maren] at his cutting edge lab, his team identified the first longevity gene and this breakthrough opened the door to the possibility that we might one day control the aging process in the human organisms. - i think the best case scenario is attempting really to maintain what we call health span. if people live healthier lives for as long as possible and really compress morbidity to a very short period at the end of life, that's my al.
6:08 pm
- instead of slowly declining in our sixties, plagued by things like heart disease, dementia and cancer, lenny thinks we could live until 90 and then make a fast and relatively peaceful decline into death. to make this a reality, lenny is combating the aging process at the cellular level. so i'd love to walk through the molecular cellular basis of aging and what's happening in our cells as we age. - okay. - yeah. - let me draw a cell. - okay. - so there's the cell. mitochondria, they produce the energy. this will be the nucleus here. chromosome and the dna. - [maren] dna contains all of the information for maintaining cells and building new ones and those cells are busy dividing, buhere's the problem for achieving immortality. cells have a kind of internal time limit. after about 50 replications, they can't divide anymore.
6:09 pm
this roadblock is known as the hayflick limit. on top of that, as a person's cells divide, they also accumulate damage and release toxic waste side products. as these toxins build up over time, the affected cells gradually lose their ability to function. this ithe aging process at cellular level. - that's the important thing about living critters, is we do have things break down, but we also have the ability to repair damage. - sure - in principle, e goal would be to boost the ability to repair the damage. - to capitalize on this process of regeneration, lenny and his team targeted a gene in live roundworms called sir-2. sir-2 genes create proteins called sirtuins. these sirtuins coordinate the cells response to stress, including repairing dna damage, which can slow the aging process.
6:10 pm
oh my god. - [lenny] they're alive, they should be moving. - yeah, oh yeah, they're moving around. they look like little threads. - so we first looked at the round worms and we found that, yes, the worms sir-2 gene was involved in aging. and so by extension then, we think this is gonna berue univsally and the's tremendous amount of evidence now that shows that these sirtuins regulate aging. - [men] by inserting extra copies of the sir-2 gene into the worm, lenny and his colleagues can interrupt the aging process and increase the lifespan of a worm by 50%. that's the equivalent of increasing the global average human lifespan from 72 to 108. - what we know about sirtuins is that we can intervene and make people healthy for a decade longer than they are now. - [maren] lenny has found a fascinating connection between these genes and the body's natural survival mechanisms
6:11 pm
and it upturns many of our assumptions. studies of mice and rhesus monkeys suggest that the production of sirtuins increases in times of stress, including when food is scarce. - animals on a very low calorie et age more slowly - that's so insane to me. - that means you can identify compounds that increase the activity of sirtuins, that mimic what calorie restriction would normally do. - right, so you don't actually have to calorie restrict. - exactly. - this process gives all the health benefits of a low calorie diet without going hungry. lenny wants to apply this discovery to everyone. he is now testing a new dietary supplement to increase the activity of sirtuins in humans. so that's one of those rare moments where, in an insta, you have something that you know is gonna be big. - that was kind of, i believe was the aha moment. that's really the only time i've ever experienced something like that. - wow. by pushing the limits at the cellular level,
6:12 pm
lenny's research could forge a future path toward human immortality. - [announcer] in the future, a high tech procedure, optimizes health spans. the treatment stimulates longevity genes and mimics food body calorie restriction. this regular toxin cleanse and cellular rejuvenation extends lifelong health to averages well past 125. - [maren] even if scientists can slow aging like this, how will it actually feel physically to grow this old? over at the mit age lab, samantha brady is exploring the impact of extended longevity on the function of the human body. - we are in this unprecedented time of longevity. back in the 19 hundreds, average lifespan for people was out late forties. - seriously. - so that's crazy to think about. - i did not know that. everyone is living longer lives thanks to advances
6:13 pm
like greater access to clean water, antibiotics, and vaccines. - now we have about a 30 year bonus. - [maren] but it's not all rosy. sam helped develop a suit that well, simulates what my body might feel like at upwards of 70. - so we're gonna start with this weighted vest. - okay. - this is one of the pieces that's gonna help simulate what muscle loss might feel like. - okay, okay. - we'll just strap you in. - this suit mimics the shortening of our ligaments. oh my god they're heavy. spinal compression and the loss of balance that occurs as the years go by. - [samantha] let's pop the goggles on. - [maren] it also simulates loss of vision and hearing. - [samantha] you are now agnes. - transformation complete. i definitely feel like a different person. i always imagine myself enjoying my life as i get older. - give it a shot. - that's about as far as i can go. but it's pretty hard to do anything in this suit.
6:14 pm
yeah, that's rough. i can get my knees a couple of inches off the floor and that's it. now, i'm worried that as i age, i won't be able to do the things i love anymore. - so it looks like this is pretty tiring already with just couple moves that you did. - totally exhausted. and i keep thinking about the results from my biological aging test, which mean this could be a reality for me sooner than expected. it's actually pretty terrifying. can't wait till i can take it off. and then imagining, like, there are some people who can't take it off. this is clearly not how people wanna feel when they're a hundred, 150 or ever. the decline of muscles and the skeletal system is just the tip of the iceberg. as cells stop dividing they accumulate damage, which ultimately can cause ssue and organs to fail. in the heart, this means valves and the muscle itself
6:15 pm
can become thicker and stiffen reducing blood flow. incredibly, heart disease is actually the number one cause of death around the world. and to combat organ failure like this, scientists are working around the clock to find unique solutions. i'm in houston, texas to meet a scientist who could revolutionize the way we source organs for transplants. she's often been called the dr. frankenstein of this area. and so i am bringing her a little gift. dr. doris taylor is growing hearts in her lab and she's closer than ever to making lab grown organ transplants for humans a reality. i have a gift for you. - well, i don't normally get a heart as a gift. how cool is that? we call these our ghost hearts.
6:16 pm
- ghost hearts. it's amazing to see the engineered organs up close. - this is a rabbit heart. - okay. - and it's about the size of a pediatric newborn human heart. - oh, wow. doris, can you tell me how you got into a field like this? - i wanted to make a difference in the world. my twin brother was sick his entire life. and then when i was six, my dad died. it motivates me when i think about that feeling of helplessness to wanna make a difference in the les of people with disease. - [maren] because people are living longer with heart disease. many people develop heart failure. the only definitive cure for heart failure is a heart transplant. - every 10 minutes, a new person goes on the organ transplant waiting list. so clearly people don't get the organs they need.
6:17 pm
we can change that. we can build an organ that matches your body and you can live longer and live healthier. - [maren] the first step doris takes in building a new heart is to strip the tissue cells from an animal heart using a wash of detergents. what remains is effectively, the protein scfolding of the heart. - if you look at this, this is the pig heart that we've washed all the blood out of. - it's so complex. - it's beautiful. - it is, it is. - it's beautiful. it's humbling. you're holding an organ. - [maren] the next step is to grow a new human heart on top of this animals scaffolding. doris does this by recellularizing the organ with human stem cells. - stem cells are cells that are found in every organ or tissue. we all have stem cells. they're cells that respond to their environment
6:18 pm
and become like the cells that surround them. - [maren] certain types of stem cells can transform into any kind of cell, from blood to liver to heart. key to the process, these stem cells replicate much more than regular cells. this allows them to grow and cover the heart scaffolding very quickly. - this is one of the rabbit hearts that we've put cells in. - oh my gosh. it's in there. - you can see that we're getting electrical activity here from this. - so this is like an ekg for that heart in there. the ekg machine, or electrocardiogram, measures the electrical activity of a beating heart. so one thing is clear, it's alive. i can see it moving. doris believes that her technique for implanting of hearts could be used
6:19 pm
to grow other organs as well. - but i truly believe if we can go to mars, we're going to mars in the lab. we got the rocket ship, the scaffold. we've put the astronauts on board, the cells. and now we just gotta prove it's safe. - you guys are getting there. - yeah. - [maren] and within a decade, she thinks she'll be able to surgically implant lab grown organs like these for people in need. i find this hugely moving. - i had a patient say, you're not building organs, you're building hope. - [maren] this is a path to the future i think we can all hope fo - [announcer] in the future, body part farms exist in most hospitals on earth. organs and limbs can be 3d printed to order. but for emergencies, prefabricated organs are available in all blood types
6:20 pm
and body sizes. with the assistance of robotic surgeons, body parts can be replaced in under eight minutes. sere accidts and injuries are no longer fatal. - in my quest to unravel the mystery of the aging process, i'm finding that, like me, many scientists are doing this for personal reasons. earlier this year, my partner was diagnosed with burkitt's lymphoma and it's the fastest growing human cancer. we just had to think so much more about the end of our lives in a way that you don't have to usually until you're well into the later part of your life. to find a pathway that will lead us toward longer and healthier lives, researchers are going deep into the jungle and the bottom of ocean.
6:21 pm
there, scientists have found that bowhead whales and blue moon sharks can live well over 200 years while killer whales live no more than 50. what makes some creatures live longer than others? to find out, i'm at an aquarium in las vegas to talk with the legendary gerontologist, aubrey de gray, about another long lived sea creature, the lobster. - the big thing that's special about lobsters is that they live a really long time. there are now reports of lobsters having lived longer than any human has lived, which is 122 years. - [maren] incredibly, this crustacean doesn't age, at least not in the way humans do. - the other thing that lobsters have, the really big thing thehave, is they grow and grow and grow as long as they live. - unlike humans, a lobster's cells never stop dividing. so this creature never stops growing. they may die due to predation or disease, but not old age.
6:22 pm
why does the lobster live so long? the answer can be found in something called telomeres. humans also have telomeres. telomeres are repeating sequences of dna at the ends of chromosomes. if chromosomes were shoelaces, then telomeres would be the little protective caps at the tip. these caps protect dna during cell division. but as our cells divide throughout our lifetime, these telomeres gradually shorten. when the telomeres become too short, the cell stops dividing and eventually dies. however, the is an zyme calletelomerase that helps maintain these protective caps. incredibly lobster telomeres do not appear to get shorter over time. many believe this protective enzyme is the secret to their long lifespan.
6:23 pm
scientists are currently devising telomerase treatments to try and produce the same life extending effect in humans. what do you think a child born today, how long could they possibly live? - so really there is no limit to how long someone can live. - aubrey tells me that a child born today could benefit from constant scientific breakthroughs. a treatment at 80 years old might allow them to live to hundred and 30 and future treatments could allow them to extend their lives potentially for forever. - that means that the only limit to longevity is causes of death that do not have to do with how long ago one was born. you know, being hit by trucks. - [maren] bolstering telomeres isn't the only way to extend human life at the cellular level. at his lab in california, aubrey is advancing the science of anti-aging in another area. he believes that a lot of the problems associated with aging
6:24 pm
happen when cells become what's called senescent. they don't divide anymore, but they don't go away either. - some people call them zomb cells, you know, essentially undead. they're secreting nasty chemicals that are toxic to their neighbors and so on, but they're not dying. - so one of the most key developments in your opinion, you think, is in essence getting lls to be better at taking their own trash out. - oh yeah. - [maren] using gene therapies, aubrey believes removing these zombie like senescent cells will radically extend our lives. - it turns out that we were able to exploit some really great technology that was developed for a completely different reason. the technology of what's called bioremediation, which is used in environmental dentamination. - so clean up pollutants. - that's right. - [maren] they eat up the oil or the chemical or whatever it may be. - so we do the same thing. we identify bacteria that are able to break down the thing that we're interested in. we identify the genes that they have that allow them to have this capacity and we put those genes into our own cells.
6:25 pm
- [maren] by inserting these new bacterial genes, our bodies might be able to eliminate these zombie senescent cells. - most people didn't take me seously atll at fit. - interesting. - but now this is a totally mainstream idea. - while some remain skeptical of aubrey's approach, a handful of biotech companies are also taking aim at senescent cells. i've never thought of aging and death as anything but inevitable so to think of that not happening, i think really upends my worldview. - [announcer] in the future, a revoluonary new treatment to destroyombie cells is extending human life across the planet. while resting in an oxygen filled chamber, individuals are injected with thousands of miniature robots, smaller than red blood cells. this army of nanobots scour the body to hunt down and destroy every last toxic senescent cell.
6:26 pm
one treatment every year starting at age 20 extends most human lives by 50%. - [maren] living to 200 years of ager more maseem like science fiction and the big challenge in making it science fact lies in getting these practices to work, not just in lab animals, but in humans. in indiana, one community has already made steps toward hacking the aging code without even knowing it. dr. doug vaughan of northwestern university has identified a unique and isolated group of people, many of whom are living dramatically longer than average lives and it's not who you might expect. - there is a large old order amish community here that settled this region in thearly 18 hundreds. - from switzerland right? - from switzerland, yeah. they're living a lifestyle that's very, very homogenous.
6:27 pm
- [maren] the amish avoid modern technology and farm using the same traditional tools as their ancestors. - we brought 200 members of the community into this center. and over two days extensively studied them, did all kinds of things to measure their biological age as opposed to their chronological age. took blood samples, measured their blood pressure, measured their telomere length. - [maren] for doug, the results are astonishing. - and at multiple levels, it looks like some are protected from aging. their telomeres are longer, about 10% longer. they also have a more juvenile cardiovascular system. they're completely protected from diabetes, which is rather remarkable. that might have been the most striking finding in our studies because insulin is thoughto be a driver of aging and aging like pathologies. - what is their secret to a long life? is it family history? the amish lifestyle? one member of the amish community, neville,
6:28 pm
has agreed to talk to me, but for cultural reasons, he's asked that we don't show his face. so it seems peaceful too and restful. - yeah, it does get stressful some days, trust me. this is my horse. her name is bea. - [maren] hi bea. - [neville] and she's our source of transportation. - his family's lifespans are especially impressive when measured up to the average global span, which is 72. i understand you had some long lived family members back in your family tree. who were they? - one was my great-grandfather. he lived to be 92 years old. - wow. - and my grandmother lived to be 86. - wow. - my great-grandfather had some brothers that lived to be over a hundred. - wow. - yeah. - [maren] i can only wonder why this is the case. can you tell me a little more about your lifestyle? - we like to keep it simple. try to be as self-sufficient as possible. try to raise our own food from the garden.
6:29 pm
we're just people like you are you know, so i kind of think that it just depends on the, what cards get dealt to your hand. - [maren] and it turns out neville is right. some in this community have won the genetic lottery. doug's research is revealing what that is. - good afternoon. i'm dr. vaughn. - [maren] the first clues to the amish community's longevity recently surfaced when a member with a pticular blood disorder visited a modern clinic. - do you have y family members that have that bleeding problem that's present in some of the community around here? - my dad, i think he's a carrier, but none of us bleed. - this bleeding disorder is the result of a genetic variation that isn't found anywhere else in the world. - the original founder of the mutation married into the community in the early 18 hundreds. - wow. - he had 15 children and 148 grandchildren in the mid 18 hundreds. - wow.
6:30 pm
- do the math. - [maren] the genetic variation in this amish community occurs in a particular gene that creates a protein called pai-1. among other things, the pai-1 protein controls the bodies senescent, or zombie cells. doug's research reveals that those in the community with a single copy of the gene mutation produce more pai-1 proteins than those with the bleeding disorder, but less than the general population. and they live dramatically longer lives. why, it turns out it's all about balance. - pai-1 contributes to a variety of different disease processes. it's not good to have a lot of pai-1. it's not good to have no pai-1. it's good to be in the goldilocks zone and have somewhere in the middle. - [maren] doug wants to hack the aging code by developing medication that essentially mimics this mutation and regulates the pai-1 protein. - i have a collaborator now in japan


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on