Advocate of Negligible Senescence
May 3, 2014
Methuselah Foundation created a stir in the research community by introducing the Methuselah Mouse Prize in 2003. The Mouse Prize was designed to directly accelerate the development of revolutionary new life extension therapies by awarding two cash prizes: one to the research team that broke the world record for the oldest-ever mouse; and one to the team that developed the most successful late-onset rejuvenation strategy.
Unlike other engineering prizes (for example, the X Prize for lunar exploration), an award of the Methuselah Mouse Prize is not the end of the matter. The winner establishes a record that others have to break.
Why mice? Mice are genetically similar to humans. They are small and inexpensive to maintain so studying large quantities is feasible. Their short lifespan, about three years, makes it possible to see if interventions result in longer, healthier lives—all in time to be of benefit to our own lives.
The Mouse Prize for longevity was first won by a team led by Dr. Andrzej Bartke of Southern Illinois University. The prize for rejuvenation first went to Dr. Stephen Spindler of the University of California.
Additionally, in 2009, the first Special Mprize Lifespan Achievement Award went to Dr. Z. Dave Sharp for the successful healthy life extension of already aged mice using a pharmaceutical, rapamycin.
Through programs like the Methuselah Mouse Prize, Methuselah Foundation has helped change the conversation on aging and longevity, lending credibility and prestige to areas of research that once were openly frowned upon.
Previous winners have already proven that healthy life can be extended; more wins are possible by researchers who can best previous winners’ performances, and each new winner pushes the outer limits of healthy life back even further.
How translatable the lesson of a Methuselah mouse will be to people is a matter of debate. The logic of disposable-soma theory applies to both species.
Private donations made since 2003 have bumped the prize value up to nearly $3.5 million, according to the latest update on the Methuselah Foundation website.
Don’t be misled by the size of the fund into thinking that a small donation will make no difference, because this is fundamentally a popular enterprise, a people’s prize, so the number of individual donors is really just as important as the total.
Searching for a cure for age-related ill health, a problem that kills more people than all other causes combined, is a moral imperative. The Advocate for Negligible Senescence publishes articles that discuss and educate the public about research to combat senescence. See the Advocate’s Facebook page.