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Peter Thiel on Longevity Research and the Defeat of Aging – Article by Reason

Peter Thiel on Longevity Research and the Defeat of Aging – Article by Reason

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
April 4, 2015
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It has always been the case that the cause of serious rejuvenation research needs more well-regarded individuals to stand up and talk in public about the road ahead, the prospects for success, and the righteousness of the goal. Just lay out the situation as it is, no need for salesmanship: it is simply the need for this to be a topic not left on the edge of polite society. Aging is by far the greatest cause of suffering and death in the world, and we should all be doing more than we are to help bring an end to all of that pain, disease, and loss. For that to happen, the vast majority of people who never think about aging and rarely think about medical research need to give the topic at least as much thought and approval as presently goes towards the cancer research community.

We find ourselves in a peculiar time. Technological barriers to the successful treatment of aging are next to non-existent; progress is falling out of the woodwork even at low levels of funding and interest; this is an age of revolutionary gains in the tools of biotechnology, and that drives the pace of medicine while the cost of meaningful research plummets. This isn’t a space race situation in which the brute force of vast expenditure was used to wrest a chunk of the 21st century into the 20th and land men on the moon. If following the SENS program aimed at repair of the causes of aging, the cost of implementing the first prototype, working rejuvenation treatments in old mice would by current estimates be only 1-2% of the Apollo Program budget. There was vast popular approval for the space race to match the vast expense. The path to human rejuvenation is in exactly the opposite situation: there is very little support for the goal of treating aging as medical condition, but the costs of doing so successfully are so small that given even a minority of the public in favor those funds would be raised.

This is why advocacy is so very important. This is why people with large soapboxes can help greatly simply by talking on the topic. Investor and philanthropist Peter Thiel has been supporting scientific programs such as SENS and related areas in biotechnology for a decade now, but I notice that he is more vocal and direct in public about this cause now that other organizations such as Google Ventures are making large investments. This is all good; we need a sea change in the level of public support for rejuvenation research, and their understanding of the prospects for the future. Aging is far from set in stone, and a range of the biotechnologies needed to treat aging and bring it under medical control are on the verge of breaking out into commercial development, or just a few years away from that point. All it takes to turn the stream into a rapids is a little more rain.

Peter Thiel’s quest to find the key to eternal life – Washington Post

Quote:

WP: Why aging?

Thiel: I’ve always had this really strong sense that death was a terrible, terrible thing. I think that’s somewhat unusual. Most people end up compartmentalizing, and they are in some weird mode of denial and acceptance about death, but they both have the result of making you very passive. I prefer to fight it. Almost every major disease is linked to aging. One in a thousand get cancer after age 30. Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971, and there has been frustratingly slow progress. One-third of people age 85 and older have Alzheimer’s or dementia, and we’re not even motivated to start a war on Alzheimer’s. At the end of the day, we need to do more.

WP: All your philanthropic projects are founded on the idea that there’s something wrong with the way the current system works. What are the challenges you see in biomedical research?

Thiel: I worry the FDA is too restrictive. Pharmaceutical companies are way too bureaucratic. A tiny fraction of a fraction of a fraction of NIH [National Institutes of Health] spending goes to genuine anti-aging research. The whole thing gets treated like a lottery ticket. Part of the problem is that aging research doesn’t always lend itself to being a great for-profit business, but it’s a very important area for a philanthropic investment. NIH grant-making decisions end up being consensus-oriented, focused on doing things that a peer review committee thinks makes sense. So you end up with a very conservative bias in terms of what gets done. [On the other hand,] the original DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] was phenomenally successful. You had a guy running it, and he just gave out the money. It was more focused on substance and less on the grant-writing process. That’s the direction we should go. I worry that right now, we have people who are very nimble in the art of writing grants who have squeezed out the more creative.

WP: You’re currently funding Cynthia Kenyon, Aubrey de Grey and a number of other researchers on anti-aging. What was it about these individuals and their work that got your attention?

Thiel: They think far outside the conventional wisdom and are far more optimistic about what can be done. I think that’s important to motivate the research.

WP: How long is long enough? Is there an optimal human life span?

Thiel: I believe if we could enable people to live forever, we should do that. I think this is absolute. There are many people who stop trying because they think they don’t have enough time. Because they are 85. But that 85-year-old could have gotten four PhDs from 65 to 85, but he didn’t do it because he didn’t think he had enough time. If it’s natural for your teeth to start falling out, then you shouldn’t get cavities replaced? In the 19th century, people made the argument that it was natural for childbirth to be painful for women and therefore you shouldn’t have pain medication. I think the nature argument tends to go very wrong. . . . I think it is against human nature not to fight death.

WP: Assuming the breakthrough in eternal life doesn’t come in our lifetime, what do you hope to have achieved through your philanthropy before you die? What would you like to be remembered for?

Thiel: I think if we made some real progress on the aging thing, I think that would be an incredible legacy to have. I have been fortunate with my business successes, so I would like to encourage, coordinate and help finance the many great scientists and entrepreneurs that will help bring about the technological future. It’s sort of not important for me to get credit for the specific discoveries, but if I can act as a supporter, mentor and financier, I think that feels like the right thing.

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries. 
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This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.

Maybe the Hardest Nut for a New Scientist to Crack: Finding a Job – Article by Bryan Gaensler

Maybe the Hardest Nut for a New Scientist to Crack: Finding a Job – Article by Bryan Gaensler

The New Renaissance Hat
Bryan Gaensler
March 29, 2015
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The typical biography of a scientist might look something like this.

At a young age, a boy or girl discovers a love for science. Their dream is to become perhaps a geologist, a chemist, or a marine biologist.

At school they work hard at math and science, and they supplement this with everything else they can get their hands on: books, documentaries, public talks and visits to museums. They take all the right courses at college and then embark on a PhD in their chosen field.

After many years of hard effort (including chunks of time racked with doubt and frustration), they complete a solid body of work that contains some genuinely new discoveries. They’ve had the chance to meet some of the big names they read about as a kid, and now actually know some of them on a first-name basis.

The day a young graduate receives his or her science diploma is the most thrilling and satisfying day of their life. They are finally, officially, a scientist.

But there’s one thing that all those years of study and research has not prepared them for: the job market.

Scientist_Telescope
There must be a job out there somewhere…. Michael Salerno, CC BY-NC-SA

Pounding the pavement as a scientist

No matter what your profession, job hunting is not fun. But for scientists and other researchers, it’s a weird world of intense competition, painfully long time scales, and uncertain outcomes.

The strangest thing about a scientific career is that the application deadlines are often ridiculously early. Hoping to find a university position starting in September? If you wait until February or March to begin your job search, you’ve likely left it way too late. The application deadlines for some of the juiciest positions were way back in November and December.

Because of this advanced schedule, only the things that someone accomplishes a year or more before actually needing a new job will matter for their career prospects. Any amazing discoveries made after the application deadline are largely irrelevant.

The problem is that this is not always how science works.

For many important research topics, all the headline results emerge only at the very end. Students whose research is part of a massive longitudinal study or who are members of a big project team suddenly find themselves at a huge disadvantage, because they often can’t provide instant evidence of the quality of their work a whole year before needing a job.

The other daunting thing is the intensity of the competition. For most specialized scientific topics, there are far more PhD degrees than job postings: across all of science, doctoral degrees outnumber faculty positions by a ratio of 12 to one. An advertisement for a fellowship or junior faculty position will routinely draw hundreds of applications, and only 1%-2% of graduates will eventually land a coveted professorship.

How to proceed, when the odds are so stacked against you? Inevitably, the only way to counter the competition is to apply for lots of positions. A budding scientist is expected to apply for a dozen or more jobs, spread all over the world.

This situation immediately creates some challenges and problems.

By increasing the quantity of applications, the quality suffers. In an ideal world, an applicant will provide a carefully wrought narrative, weaving a story as to how their skills and background perfectly dovetail with the interest of the department they hope will hire them. But there’s no time for that. Instead one typically sends out a generic CV and research plan, and then essentially just hopes for the best.

The process is also incredibly inefficient. Professors all over write endless careful letters of recommendation, most of which have little bearing on the outcome. Selection panels spend hundreds of hours reading huge piles of applications, but can only afford a scant 10-15 minutes considering the merits of each candidate.

What’s more, not everyone can freely pursue jobs anywhere the market will take them. Young children, aging parents and other personal circumstances result in a large pool of outstanding scientists with strong geographic constraints, and hence limited options.

Overall, the harsh reality is that many applicants will simply not get any offers. A lifelong dream of being a scientist, combined with an advanced postgraduate degree, is tragically not a guarantee of a scientific career.

Good scientists should be able to find jobs

The frustration, disappointment and disillusionment grow every year. Things need to change.

First, employers need to make much more of an effort to tell applicants what sort of scientist they are looking for. Instead of reducing the job searching process to the scientific equivalent of speed dating, advertisements need to set out a clear and detailed set of selection criteria, with lots of context and background on the role and working environment. By properly telling the community what they’re looking for, labs and research institutes can focus their time on candidates with useful qualifications, and applicants can focus their energy on only those jobs for which they have a realistic chance.

Second, we need to create flexible career paths. Part-time positions, “two body” hires for couples with both members in academia, and accommodation of career interruptions need to become de rigueur, rather than whispered legends we’ve all only ever heard about second- or third-hand.

And finally, a specialist science degree needs to move beyond the expectation that it offers training only in one particular type of science.

A good scientist graduates with passion, vision and brilliance, and also with persistence, organization, rigor, eloquence and clarity. A scientist can incisively separate out truth from falsehoods, and can solve complicated problems with precious little starting information. These are highly desired attributes. The scientific community needs not just accept but celebrate that the skills and values we cherish are the paths to a wide range of stimulating and satisfying careers – both in and out of academia.

Bryan Gaensler is an award-winning astronomer and passionate science communicator, who is internationally recognised for his groundbreaking work on dying stars, interstellar magnets and cosmic explosions. A former Young Australian of the Year, NASA Hubble Fellow, Harvard professor and Australian Laureate Fellow, Gaensler is currently the Director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. He gave the 2001 Australia Day Address to the nation, was awarded the 2011 Pawsey Medal for outstanding research by a physicist aged under 40, and in 2013 was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. His best-selling popular science book Extreme Cosmos was published worldwide in 2012, and has subsequently been translated into four other languages.

This article is republished pursuant to a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives license. It was originally published by The Conversation.

James Blish’s “At Death’s End”: An Early View of the Prospects for Indefinite Life Extension – Article by G. Stolyarov II

James Blish’s “At Death’s End”: An Early View of the Prospects for Indefinite Life Extension – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
March 14, 2015
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At-Deaths-End-ASF-May-1954-900

                “At Death’s End”, written by James Blish (1921-1975), was published in the May 1954 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. Surprisingly, this short story is still only accessible in hard copy, within the original Astounding Science Fiction edition. Apart from a brief review by Robert W. Franson, who introduced me to this work, there is today surprisingly little literary analysis devoted to “At Death’s End” – even though it offers a fascinating glimpse into how a science-fiction writer from an earlier era perceived the prospects for indefinite human longevity, from the vantage point of the scientific knowledge available at the time. The world portrayed by Blish is, in some respects, surprisingly like our own. In others, however, it overlooks the complexity of the treatments that would be necessary to achieve actual radical life extension.

                The future (shortly after 2000) that Blish depicts is one where national governments are obsessed with “security” and “defense” – much like the United States today. It appears that the Cold War is still underway in this world (and it could be said that it has been resurrected in ours as well); however, space travel and space colonies are also prominent. The protagonist, Colonel Paige Russell, is himself a spacefarer who begins the story by journeying to the headquarters of pharmaceutical firm Jno. Pfitzner & Sons, Inc., to bring back soil samples from Ganymede and Callisto. In the midst of a society where an entrenched military-industrial complex has taken hold (even to the point of top positions – such as head of the FBI – becoming hereditary), a fundamentalist religious revival has also emerged, though the religionists often use machines to preach in their stead. This development, too, bears striking similarities to the rise of televangelism and the fundamentalist “religious right” in the United States during the late 1970s and 1980s. The overall society depicted by Blish is more permeated with religion than our own, as the alternative to the preachy fundamentalist religiosity of the Believers is portrayed as being a more subdued but still inextricable personal faith. Paige claims,

I’ve no religion of my own, but I think that when the experts talk about ‘faith’ they mean something different than the shouting kind, the kind the Believers have. […] Real faith is so much a part of the world you live in that you seldom notice it, and it isn’t always religious in the formal sense. Mathematics is based on faith, for instance, for those who know it. (17-18)

Even many religious individuals today would disagree with the notion that mathematics is based on faith – and certainly the many atheists and agnostics who are fond of mathematics and of the scientific method would rightly recognize that these logic-based and evidence-based approaches are as far from faith as one can get. And yet Blish intends Paige’s position to be the level-headed, sensible, rational one, compared to the alternative – showing that Blish did not foresee the extent to which skepticism of religious faith would become a widespread, though still a minority, position.

                Blish’s extrapolation of medical progress is remarkably prescient in certain respects. Paige learns of the history of medicine from Anne Abbott, the daughter of Pfitzner’s leading researcher:

In between 1940 and 1960, a big change came in in Western medicine. Before 1940 – in the early part of the century – the infectious diseases were major killers. By 1960 they were all but knocked out of the running. […] In the 1950s, for instance, malaria was the world’s greatest killer. Now it’s as rare as diphtheria. We still have both diseases with us – but how long has it been since you heard of a case of either? […] Life insurance companies, and other people who kept records, began to be alarmed at the way the degenerative diseases were coming to the fore. Those are such ailments as hardening of the arteries, coronary heart disease, the rheumatic diseases, and almost all the many forms of cancer – diseases where one or another body mechanism suddenly goes haywire, without any visible cause. (20-21)

The shift from infectious diseases being the primary killers, to the vast majority of people dying from the degenerative diseases of “old age”, is precisely what happened during the latter half of the twentieth century, throughout the world. The top killers in the early 20th century were infectious diseases that have been virtually wiped out today, as this chart from the Carolina Population Center shows. (For more details, see “Mortality and Cause of Death, 1900 v. 2010” by Rebeca Tippett.) Additional major progress is evident in the 54% absolute decline in mortality from all causes during the time period between 1900 and 2010.

                Blish was foresighted enough to attempt a conceptual decoupling of chronological and biological age. Anne Abbott explains to Paige that “Old age is just the age; it’s not a thing in itself, it’s just the time of life when most degenerative diseases strike” (21). She recounts that “When the actuaries first began to notice that the degenerative diseases were on the rise, they thought that it was just a sort of side-effect of the decline of the infectious diseases. They thought that cancer was increasing because more people were living long enough to come down with it” (21). Anne then proceeds to discuss findings that some cancers are caused by viruses – which is actually the case for a minority of cancers (approximately 17.8% of cancers in 2002, as estimated by the World Health Organization). In the world portrayed by Blish, a rising incidence of degenerative diseases caused by viral infections led the National Health Service to fund research efforts by companies like Pfitzner, in an effort to address the threat.

                Incidentally, Blish also foresaw the rise in major government expenditures on medical research. Anne explains that “the result of [the first world congress on degenerative diseases] was that the United States Department of Health, Welfare and Security somehow got a billion-dollar appropriation for a real mass attack on the degenerative diseases” (22). Of course, in our world, major scientific conventions on degenerative diseases – both governmental and private – are far more routine. Indeed, a small but dynamic private organization – the SENS Research Foundation – has itself hosted six world-class conferences on rejuvenation biotechnology to date. In the United States, billions of dollars each year are indeed spent on research into degenerative diseases. The budget of the National Institute on Aging exceeds $1 billion annually (it amounts to $1,170,880,000 for Fiscal Year 2015). Unfortunately, in practice, even this level of funding – from both private and governmental sources – has thus far proven wholly insufficient to comprehensively reverse biological senescence and defeat all degenerative diseases.

                In Blish’s imagined future, the battle against senescence could be won far more easily than in our present. Pfitzner’s key project is a sweeping solution to all lifespan-limiting ailments – a broad-range “antitoxin against the aging toxin of humans” (36). In this world, Paige, who later becomes trained in Pfitzner’s research techniques, can pronounce that “We know that the aging toxin exists in all animals; we know it’s a single, specific substance, quite distinct from the ones that cause the degenerative diseases, and that it can be neutralized. […] So what you’re looking for now is not an antibiotic – an anti-life drug – but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug” (36). If only it were that simple! Today, even the most ambitious engineering-based approach toward defeating senescence, Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s SENS program, recognizes not one but seven distinct types of aging-related damage that accumulate in the organism. Dr. de Grey’s strategy of periodically reversing the damage is more straightforward than the alternative approach of re-engineering the tremendously complex metabolic processes of the body that malfunction over time, and which are still quite incompletely understood. In Blish’s world, a single company, working covertly, with relatively modest funding (compared to the funds available to research organizations in our world), can develop an “anti-agathic” drug that does for senescence what antibiotics did for deadly infectious disease.

                Without spoiling the ending, I will only mention that it is friendly to the prospects of radical life extension and portrays it in a positive light – one additional reason for recommending that “At Death’s End” be included within the canon of proto-transhumanist and life-extensionist literary works. Furthermore, the viability of indefinite life extension in Blish’s vision is closely intertwined with humanity’s future as a spacefaring species – another progress-friendly position. Blish comes across as a thoughtful, scientifically literate (for his era) writer, who extrapolated the world-changing trends of his time to arrive at a tense, conflict-ridden, but still eminently hopeful vision for the future, where the best of human intellect and aspiration are able to overcome the perils of militarism, fundamentalism, decay, and death.

              The author of “At Death’s End” himself succumbed to death at the age of 54, on July 30, 1975. He did not live to see the world of 2000 and compare it to his prognosis. Unfortunately, Blish seems to have disregarded the tremendous harms of tobacco smoke and was even employed by the Tobacco Institute from 1962 to 1968. A genealogical profile lists Blish’s cause of death as “Recurrent cancer per smoking, metastasized.” This brilliant, forward-thinking mind unfortunately could not escape one of the most common collective delusions of his time – the fascination with and normalization of one of the least healthy habits imaginable, one that is the most statistically likely to lower life expectancy (by about 10 years). This is quite sad, as it would have been fascinating to learn how Blish’s projections for the future would have been affected by additional decades of his experience of societal and technological changes. One of the major trends in longevity improvement over the past several decades has been a major decline in the smoking rate, which decreased to an all-time low in the United States in 2013 (the latest year for which statistics are currently available). Surely, to come closer to death’s end, as many humans as possible should abandon what are now known to be obviously life-shortening habits.

              While an anti-agathic drug is not in our future, James Blish’s vision of the defeat of senescence can still serve to inspire those who endeavor to solve this colossal problem in our world, during our lifetimes. Let us hope that, through the efforts of longevity researchers and through increases in funding and public attitudinal support for their projects, we will arrive at death’s end before death ends us.

Updates on a Crowdfunded Mouse Lifespan Study – Article by Reason

Updates on a Crowdfunded Mouse Lifespan Study – Article by Reason

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
January 3, 2015
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For all that I think it isn’t an efficient path forward, one likely to produce meaningful results in moving the needle on human life spans, there is considerable interest in testing combinations of existing drugs and various dietary compounds in mice to see if healthy life is extended. I expect that as public interest grows in the prospects for aging research to move from being an investigative to an interventional field, wherein researchers are actively trying to treat aging, we’ll only see more of this. There is certainly a sizable portion of the research community who think that the the best path ahead is in fact the pharmaceutical path of drug discovery in search of ways to slightly slow the aging process. To their eyes slightly slowing the aging process is all that is plausible, and adding five healthy years to life by 2035 would be a grand success. Google’s Calico initiative looks set to take that path, for example, which I is why I’m not all that hopeful it will produce meaningful results in terms of healthy years gained and ways to help the old suffer less.

There is a considerable overlap between researchers aiming to gently slow aging via drug discovery and researchers whose primary motivation is still investigation, not intervention: to produce a complete catalog of metabolism and how it changes with age, and it’s someone else’s problem to actually use that data. So we have, for example, the Interventions Testing Program at the NIA. This program was long fought for by researchers tired of the lack of rigor in most mouse life span studies, and the people involved are essentially engaged in replacing a lot of carelessly optimistic past results with the realistic view that very little other than calorie restriction and exercise actually does reliably extend life in mice if you go about the studies carefully. This is good science, but it isn’t the road to extended human life spans: it instead has much more to do with understanding the process of aging at a very detailed level. That task is vast and will take a very long time even in this age of computing and biotechnology.

To my eyes the right way to go is the repair approach: build the biotechnologies needed to repair the forms of cellular and molecular damage produced as a side-effect of the normal operation of metabolism, and which clearly distinguish old tissues from young tissues. If you want rejuvenation of the old, a path to adding decades to healthy life, and to eliminate all age-related disease, then repair is the way to go. Fix the damage, don’t just tinker with the engines of life in ways that might possibly slow down damage accumulation just a little. This strategic direction can allow researchers to largely bypass the great complexity of the progression of aging and focus instead on fixing things that are already well known and well cataloged. But I say this a lot, and will continue to do so until more than just a small fraction of the research community agree with me.

Back to mice and lifespan studies: in this day and age institutional research is far from the only way to get things done. Early-stage research is becoming quite cheap as the tools of biotechnology improve, and the global economy allows quality scientific work to be performed in locations that are lot less expensive than the US or Western Europe. We have crowdfunding, the internet, and a supportive community, which means that any group of ambitious researchers can raise a few tens of thousands of dollars and set an established lab in the Ukraine to running a set of mouse lifespan studies. So that happened back in 2013, and has been ongoing since then despite the present geopolitical issues in that part of the world. It is perhaps worth noting that this is the same group that found no effect on longevity from transfusions of young blood plasma into old mice. The studies mentioned below used pre-aged mice, starting at old age as a way to try to discover effects more rapidly, an approach that is fairly widespread.

I am a little mouse and I want to live longer: updates

Quote:

Dear contributors, we wish you a happy New Year! We are sorry to be taken by a very-expected but very time-consuming c60 lifespan study to digest the data in a way to make the long report we had announced. So, for the New Year and in order for you not to wait longer, please find at least the main results so far:

1) 23 months old C57BL6 mice received a mixture of 6 therapies that had already been reported to extend the lifespan of mice: Aspirin; Everolimus (mTOR inhibitor, similar action as rapamycin); Metoprolol (beta blocker); Metformin (anti-diabetic drug); Simvastatin (lowers LDL cholesterol); Ramipril (ACE inhibitor).

The drugs were given in the food, at doses that had been reported to extend lifespan … when taken individually. Some people are given that combination of medicines so we hoped that the drug interaction would not be too damaging, and we had wondered if some lifespan synergy within some of these drugs could lead to an overall high lifespan (e.g. if the different drugs improve different functions). But we observed a lifespan reduction in males and in females.

2) In the food of some remaining females we mixed low doses of 4 medications against cardiovascular conditions: Simvastatin; Thiazide (lowers blood pressure); Losartan potassium (angiotensin receptor blocker, lowers blood pressure); Amlodipine (calcium channel blocker, lowers blood pressure).

The question was: taken at a low-to-medium dose, could these drugs that many aged persons take have some overall preventive effect? We transposed to mice an ongoing polypill clinical trial in the UK, using a basic human-mouse conversion scale. Again, a decrease in lifespan was observed.

3) Adaptations of the first combination of drugs actually extended lifespan!

We started at age 18 months instead of 23 months, reduced the dose (as a function of weight) and gave a) the 6 compounds b) ‘only’ aspirin+metformin+everolimus. The results are to be analysed in greater details as we haven’t analyzed the latest data yet. Also, whatever the refined analysis, we would already like to indicate that it would be good to reproduce the experiment in some other conditions, e.g. hybrid mice; in particular as the mortality rates of these mice was higher than the first series (but in a consistent way that supports the life extending effect).

4) Ongoing C60 experiments

After many difficulties in setting the experiment (cross-border transportation in current geopolitical times, checking absorption in mice/ detecting C60/correct source of C60, administration tried in food and replaced by gavage, training for gavage and various measures) we have transposed the popular lifespan test with c60 fullerenes reported in rats by Baati et al. to mice (CBA strain, common in the lab) and with more animals (N=17 per group). There are three groups (gavage of water, of olive oil, of C60 dissolved in olive oil), there are … a lot of health measures and a lot of gavage (at the beginnings of the experiment as administrations are first very frequent and then gradually less frequent). Given that the experiment starts with mid-aged animals, the results are expected for the beginning of 2016.

The original C60 results from a few years back were greeted with some skepticism in the research community, given the very large size of the effect claimed and the small number of animals tested. There was, I think, also a certain annoyance: now that someone had made what was on the face of it an unlikely claim of significant lifespan extension via administration of C60, then some other group was going to have to waste their time in disproving it. We’ll see how that all turns out, I suppose. This is science as it works in practice.

At some point the broad structural classes of research illustrated by the Interventions Testing Program and this crowdfunded mouse study will meet in the middle, and the process of funding and organizing scientific programs will be a far more complicated, dynamic, and public affair than is presently the case. I think this will be for the better. All that we have we owe to science, and a majority of the public thinks all too little of the work that will determine whether they live in good health or suffer and die a few decades from now. The more they can see what is going on, the better for all of us in the end, I think.

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries. 
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This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.

Transhuman Libertarianism – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

Transhuman Libertarianism – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

Editor’s Note and Announcement: The Rational Argumentator is hosting a series of articles on the relationship between libertarianism and transhumanism and the question of whether, and – if so – in what manner and to what extent, advocates of indefinite life extension should ever pursue government funding or programs with the aim of lengthening human lifespans.

This article below presents a perspective from Kyrel Zantonavitch, who strongly argues against government support for life-extension research and instead sees solely private research as being the most capable of achieving indefinite lifespans in our lifetimes.

Mr. Stolyarov’s own views are detailed in his articles “Six Libertarian Reforms to Accelerate Life Extension” and “Liberty Through Long Life” and “Liberty or Death: Why Libertarians Should Proclaim That Death is Wrong“.

The Rational Argumentator invites all advocates of indefinite life extension to share their views regarding these questions, and many perspectives will be considered and published – so long as the authors genuinely support the goal of lengthening human lifespans through science and technology. All articles submitted in response to this request will be linked alongside one another once a critical mass has accumulated, so that readers would be able to analyze the viewpoints presented and formulate their own conclusions.

~ G. Stolyarov II, Editor-in-Chief, The Rational Argumentator, December 4, 2014

The New Renaissance Hat
Kyrel Zantonavitch
December 4, 2014
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All transhumanists are libertarians. They are all believers in, and future practitioners of, laissez-faire capitalism. They’re advocates of 100% liberty in politics, economics, and sociology. Transhumanists never initiate force against their fellow man; they never aggress upon or attack them. Transhumanists think people and property are sacred and untouchable. All transhumanists are political and socio-economic freedom-fighters and libertarians to the point of infinity.

Or at least they should be.

Because nothing advances human biological/physical development, and intellectual/spiritual ascent, faster than political and socio-economic freedom. Nothing improves quality and quantity of life more deftly or more powerfully. For immortality to have even a remote chance of being achievable within the next generation or two, government-protected justice and liberty must be pure and limitless.

Nothing generates more opportunity for general and particular success and triumph than freedom. Nothing germinates more innovation and genius — more radical and revolutionary brilliance. And make no mistake: immortality within the next 20-40 years will require a lot of innovation and genius.

For this and reasons of fundamental morality, massive government subsidies of science and medicine, via the evil and tyrannical welfare state, are emphatically not the way to go. It would be like suddenly, militarily seizing the powers of world government, and then trying to physically coerce almost everyone on Earth into studying technology and healthcare. Whips and guns (and chains and cattle-prods) are not the path to longevity. As the philosopher Ayn Rand noted: “You cannot force a mind.”

Firstly, such government funding is a type of slavery. Coercive taxation, especially for non-freedom purposes, is evil at its foundation. And no good thing can ever flower from such bad roots. The ends never justify the means. Tyranny and depravity are never practical or workable.

Those who are talented and slick at obtaining government grants, and those who willingly, passively submit to government edicts, are virtually never good scientists or doctors. Meanwhile, the good and great scientists and doctors — mankind’s innovators, creators, geniuses, saints, and heroes — will be hugely misled. With minimalist political knowledge, they’ll massively tend to follow the money and prestige trail; these brainiacs will massively tend to go work for the Big Brother bozos and frauds. At the least, the Good Guys will solidly incline toward reading the Dumb Guys’ (mountains of worthless) papers, and following them and their organizations intellectually. Thus the only real hopes of mankind will overwhelmingly tend to be side-tracked down a dead end.

The purpose of government is to protect individual rights — not expand the human life span. The state has no ability whatsoever to accomplish the later. It can only get in the way. It can only hurt the cause. Anyone who hijacks the government for longevity purposes is sure to massively damage both liberty and transhumanism.

However ironic, the more state funds are spent on transhumanism, and the more people are forced by government to engage in transhumanist research, the slower progress will be. It’ll be a repeat of the U.S. government’s buffoonish 1970s’ “war on cancer.” We’ll go backward. The effort will be counter-productive. It’ll be like throwing money down a bottomless rat hole — only worse.

The reality of today’s welfare state world is that if we finally get around to terminating all government funding of education, science, and technology, then these three fields will have to turn to private industry and free enterprise. This, in turn, will cause human knowledge in general, and transhumanism in particular, to rise like a rocket.

If, say, a very plausible 10% of the world’s G.D.P. is voluntarily dedicated to transhumanist education, investigation, and experimentation via capitalism, this will generate far more progress than if a wildly unlikely 75% of the world’s G.D.P. is coercively dedicated to transhumanist research via welfare statism.

The paramount and stunning reality is one social system will create new versions of Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, and Steve Jobs. The other will create new, mindless bureaucrats and lifeless, soulless, hack, quack, bozo drones.

And pray note that the above discussion isn’t trivial or merely theoretical; nor is it some ideologue’s and freak’s dubious mere political opinion. It’s the way reality is. It’s the way government and science really interact and work. Misunderstand this, transhumanists, and we’re all gonna die.

Kyrel Zantonavitch is the founder of The Liberal Institute  (http://www.liberalinstitute.com/) and a writer for Rebirth of Reason (http://www.rebirthofreason.com). He can be contacted at zantonavitch@gmail.com.
Why Do We Advocate for Rejuvenation Research? – Article by Reason

Why Do We Advocate for Rejuvenation Research? – Article by Reason

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
November 24, 2014
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Yesterday, I had occasion to spend six hours or so in the emergency room of a medical center largely focused on treating serious conditions that are most prevalent in old people. A part of that experience by necessity involved listening to the comings, goings, and conversations of those present. These are not private places: they are typically divided visually by screens but with no way to avoid overhearing the staff and patients. The people there are generally not too concerned about privacy in the immediate sense in any case, having far more pressing matters to focus upon.

So, by proxy, one gets to experience small and somewhat wrenching slices of other people’s lives. It is very easy for even those who follow aging research and speak up for rejuvenation treatments to forget just how hard it is to be very old. It’s one thing to know about the catalog of pain, suffering, and loss of capabilities, the conditions we’d like to find ways to turn back, and another to watch it in action. It is, really, a terrible thing to be frail.

A fellow was brought in a little while after I arrived, a 90-something man who looked a lot better on the exterior than perhaps your mental picture of a 90-something individual might be. Tall, and surprisingly lacking in wrinkles stretched out on the rolling gurney under blankets, a mess of cables, and an oxygen mask. That he had fallen was what I heard from the conversation of the medics, and was in pain. He cried out several times as he was moved from the gurney. It took some time and care to do it without hurting him more, given his weakness.

He seemed confused at first, but that was just my misperception: you try being 90 and in pain some time and see how well you do while you’re being moved around and told to hold this and let go of that. The fellow answered the bevy of questions the receiving staff had for him, but the thing that caught at me was the time he took with the answers, and the questions he just missed. He was coherent, even quite sharp at times, not on any more painkillers than a handful of Tylenol, as I later heard, but he clearly struggled with something that we younger folk all take for granted: parse the question, find the information, form up a reply and speak it. Cognitive ability in all these areas becomes ever less efficient with old age, and there’s something hollowing about hearing what is clearly a capable guy set back for a dozen seconds by a short question about one of the details of his fall. The medic repeated the question a few times and in different ways, which was clearly just making the information overload worse.

It sticks with you to be the observer in this situation and clearly and suddenly realize that one day that faltering older person will be you, trying and often failing to force your mind into the necessary connections rapidly enough for the younger people around you. I know this, but knowing it and having it reinforced by being there are two very different things. An aged person is no less intelligent, far more experienced, wiser and all the rest, but the damage to the structure of the brain that occurs even in those without dementia means that making use of all of that in the way it deserves is near insurmountable.

The fellow’s 60-something daughter arrived a little later to provide support and fill in more of the details. A story was conveyed in bits and pieces: that he was near blind now, and just about too frail to walk safely, even with a frame. The blindness explained a great deal of what had sounded to my ignorant ears as confusion in the earlier part of the fellow’s arrival: we assume all too many things about those around us, such as the use of sight in an unfamiliar environment, or the ability to walk, or think quickly – and all of this is taken from us by aging. The fellow lived with his wife still, and she was of a similar age to him. His wife was not there because she herself was too frail to be undertaking even a short trip at such short notice. That seemed to me a harsh blow on top of the rest of what old age does to you. At some point you simply cannot do everything you’d want to as a partner. You are on the sidelines and at the point at which your other half is most likely to die, you are most likely unable to be there.

In this case the fellow was in no immediate danger by the sound of it. By good luck this was in no way likely to be a fatal accident, but rather another painful indignity to be endured as a part of the downward spiral of health and ability at the end of life. Once you get to the point at which simply moving from room to room bears a high risk of accident, and this is by no means unusual for a mentally capable person in their 90s, then it really is just a matter of time before you cannot live for yourself with only minimal assistance.

When talking with his daughter while he waited on a doctor and medical assistants to come and go with tests and updates, the fellow was much faster in his responses, though this was interrupted by a series of well-meaning but futile attempts to ease his pain by changing his position, each as much an ordeal as the move from the gurney had been. The conversation between father and daughter had the sense of signposts on well-worn paths, short exchanges that recapitulated the high points of many discussions that had come before. She wanted her father to move into an assisted living facility, and this fall was the latest in a line of examples as to why it was past the time for this – she simply could not provide all of the support needed on her own. She wasn’t even strong enough herself to be able to safely get him back up on his feet after a fall. He was concerned about cost and the difficulties of moving, uncertainties and change. They went back and forth on this for a while. “We have to accept that it’s just going to be more expensive as we get older,” she said at one point, and he replied “I think you’re getting the picture now,” and laughed. There wasn’t much to laugh about, but we can all do it here and there under these circumstances. I believe it helps.

I walked out of there after my six hours of hurry up and wait was done. They were still there, and whenever it is he leaves to go home it is unlikely it will be on his own two feet. But this is a scene I’ll no doubt be revisiting at some point in the future, some decades from now, playing the other role in this small slice of life. What comes around goes around, but I’d like it to be different for me, and more importantly to be different for millions of others a lot sooner than my old age arrives.

Which leads to this: why does Fight Aging! exist? Why do we do this? Why advocate, why raise funds for research programs into ways to treat aging that may take decades to pay off? We do this because we can help to create a future in which there will be no more emergency rooms like the one I visited, no conversations about increasing disability, no pain, and no struggles to answer questions as quickly as one used to. No profound frailty. All these things will be removed by the advent of therapies that can effectively repair the causes of aging, curing and preventing frailty and age-related disease, and the sooner this happens the more people will be spared.

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries. 
***

This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.

The 2014 Fight Aging! Fundraiser Starts Now: We’ll Match Your Research Donations with $2 for Every $1 Given – Article by Reason

The 2014 Fight Aging! Fundraiser Starts Now: We’ll Match Your Research Donations with $2 for Every $1 Given – Article by Reason

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
October 4, 2014
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Note from the Editor: The Rational Argumentator strongly supports this matching fundraiser and encourages all readers to donate any sums of money to the SENS Research Foundation, in order to accelerate the basic research into and the development of cures for the debilitating diseases of old age. I personally made a donation of $100 on October 4, 2014, knowing that its impact will be tripled through a 2-for-1 additional contribution by the generous donors who established the matching fund. This is the time to leverage our resources and ensure that this literally vital research gets done as soon as possible. I am grateful to Reason of FightAging.org for his tireless efforts in advocating for life-extension research and spearheading campaigns to attract the funding that this area of science urgently needs.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Editor-in-Chief, The Rational Argumentator, October 4, 2014

***

It is that time again, and our 2014 matching fundraiser started October 1st 2014. From now until the end of the year, December 31st 2014, we will match the first $50,000 donated to the SENS Research Foundation with $2 for every $1 given. These funds will help to speed progress in ongoing scientific programs conducted in US and European research centers, their ultimate aim being to repair and reverse the causes of frailty and age-related disease.

The SENS Research Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charity and all US donations are tax-deductible. Donations from most European Union countries are also tax-deductible, though the details vary by location. Please contact the SENS Research Foundation to find out more.

The Matching Fund Founders Ask You to Join Us

Who are we? We are Christophe and Dominique Cornuejols, David Gobel of the Methuselah Foundation, Dennis Towne, Håkon Karlsen, philanthropist Jason Hope, Michael Achey, Michael Cooper, and Reason of Fight Aging! We are all long-time supporters of SENS research aimed at rejuvenation through repair of the known root causes of aging. The few types of cellular and molecular damage that accumulate in all of our tissues cause progressive dysfunction and eventual death for everyone – unless something is done to stop it. This cause is important enough for everyone to do their part, and for us that means putting up a $100,000 matching fund we want you to help draw down: for every dollar you donate, we will match it with two of our own.

Even Small Donations Make a Meaningful Difference

Early stage medical biotechnology research of the sort carried out at the SENS Research Foundation costs little nowadays in comparison to the recent past. The cost of tools and techniques in biotechnology has plummeted in the past decade, even while capabilities have greatly increased. A graduate student with $20,000 can accomplish in a few months what would have required a full laboratory, years, and tens of millions of dollars in the 1990s. All of the much-lamented great expense in modern medicine lies in clinical translation, the long and drawn out process of trials, retrials, marketing, and manufacturing that is required to bring a laboratory proof of concept into clinics as a widely available therapy.

The SENS Research Foundation is focused on early stage research, following a plan that leads to technology demonstrations in the laboratory. With a proof of concept rejuvenation therapy the world will beat a path to their doorstep in order to fund clinical translation. The real challenge is here and now, raising the funds to get to that step. A few tens of thousands of dollars means the difference between a significant project delayed indefinitely or that project completed.

To pick one example, last year the community raised $20,000 to fund cutting edge work in allotopic expression of mitochondrial genes, a potential cure for the issue of mitochondrial damage in aging. That was enough to have a skilled young researcher work on the process for two of the thirteen genes of interest over a period of months. It really is that cheap given an existing group like the SENS Research Foundation with diverse connections and access to established laboratories.

Your donations make a real difference.

Spread the Word, Tell Your Friends

Don’t forget to tell your friends about this fundraiser. Talk to your community, online and offline. Consider running local events to help meet our goal of raising $50,000 from a grassroots community of supporters. The more people who know about the prospects for near future therapies resulting from rejuvenation research of the sort carried out by the SENS Research Foundation, the easier it becomes to raise funds and obtain institutional support for these research programs in the future.

Launched at /r/Futurology and in Conjunction with Longevity Day

Take a look at the generous spirit displayed at /r/Futurology, the futurist Reddit community, when given the chance to help. Scores of people there have already donated modest sums to the cause in response to our fundraiser: many thanks to you all!

The 1st of October marks the launch of this fundraiser, but it is also the International Day of Older Persons, and the International Longevity Alliance would like this to become an official Longevity Day. This year, just like last year, groups of futurists around the world will be holding events to mark the occasion, and this includes the scientists and advocates present at the 2014 Eurosymposium on Healthy Aging.

Download the 2014 Fundraiser Posters

The full size graphics here are large enough for 24 x 36 inch posters, but are also suitable for page-sized fliers. The original Photoshop files are available on request, but are a little large to put up here. Make as much use of these as you like – please help to spread the word and help this fundraiser to meet its target.

Color design, 3600 x 5600 pixels suitable for 24 x 36 inch posters, 11.3MB
Color design, 2400 x 3600 pixels suitable for letter size, 6.3MB

Blue design, 7200 x 10800 pixels suitable for 24 x 36 inch posters, 13.1MB
Blue design, 2400 x 3600 pixels suitable for letter size, 3.8MB

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries. 
***

This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.

Final Level – 1 Life Left – Big Boss Man: Grim Reaper – Article by Eric Schulke

Final Level – 1 Life Left – Big Boss Man: Grim Reaper – Article by Eric Schulke

The New Renaissance Hat
Eric Schulke
September 24, 2014
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The grim reapers of the world are like metaphorical big boss men. It’s like fighting a dragon that lives at the end of a great pass, or a King Koopa at the end of the last level. If you don’t destroy the grim reaper within your 90 years or so of “free lives”, then you never get to play the game of life again. We can choose to put our intellectual, problem-solving, level-navigating skills to the test to see if we can do it.

We do that by supporting the research that is working to do it. Play the game of life. The controls are completely integrated into your surroundings, and it comes with a fully immersive virtual reality option. It’s like Mario can navigate areas where he can choose from levels like, teleconferencing with the World Health Organization to help problem-solve the orchestration of a beneficial convention, or navigating the 5 largest cities of a small map to pin up enough fliers to get at least 100 people to show up at an organization’s life-extension rally.

Reaper_MILE_Ad“Beat the Reaper” ad developed by Wendy Stolyarov.

After you spend some time going through the routines of the levels, it becomes easier, and your controller speed and dexterity increases. It is the same with support of the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension. Bio-technology, lab equipment, and the political, social, commercial, and other contributions that go into it, are your controllers. After you’ve spent some time going through various levels in the chambers of the game, you’ll have more confidence in helping the growing collective of us to continue getting to and entering that final level, to work on beating the grim reaper.  We go in independent missions and through various united efforts, sometimes with slingshots, sometimes with Battle Ship fleets; sometimes with tested, comprehensive, long-term strategies, and the backing of nations of focused, practiced, fervent supporters.

There is a lot of good practical and theoretical research on ending aging, diseases, and other forms of death, and a lot more that can be completed and dreamt up by the new minds entering in on this great mission. There are small, growing pockets of students, activists, researchers and others around the world that are already doing things like chipping away at the roots of aging, working on preserving consciousness, and finding more algorithms that can help crunch data for cures.

Play “Beat the Reaper” with us. It’s an epic game.

MILE_Logo

When most people understand the importance of integrating this into their lives, they will be compelled to, and want to, and find satisfaction in helping to beat these levels. People will think about all resources available to them as being of potential assistance to this cause, in even small capacities, like pinning up a life-extension post card in their office.

This requires world support, which will not arrive until your example leads the thoughts of the people you come in contact with to notice how valuable this is, and gives them ideas to mull over on what they might decide to do to contribute. The goal of indefinite life extension gets here after we all join in and do what it takes to get the work done to make it happen. Help the people, projects, and organizations that are working on indefinite life extension to succeed by talking about their breakthroughs, reading about conference reports, suggesting books about it to people, encouraging your friends to team up with the various projects and events related to it, and most importantly, by leading the way for more of the people around you. Play the game. We can beat the reaper. Make time for indefinite life extension so that indefinite life extension can make time for you.

Eric Schulke was a director at LongeCity during 2009-2013. He has also been an activist with the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension and other causes for over 13 years.

Indefinite Life Extension: The Pay is $Infinity – Article by Eric Schulke

Indefinite Life Extension: The Pay is $Infinity – Article by Eric Schulke

The New Renaissance Hat
Eric Schulke
September 22, 2014
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World awareness of indefinite-life-extension research increases the percentage of people who will then want to contribute to its success. When we inform the mainstream of most of the industrialized world and beyond, about the people, projects, and organizations working directly and indirectly toward indefinite life extension, then a percentage of that world – which is a lot of people at even a fraction of 1% – will be helping to execute the projects that need to be completed to see if we can make this happen.

It looks like we can make indefinite life extension happen, and in more of our lifetimes. All arrows point to the probability of this occurring. We can stop a lot of things that are like the diseases and damages that cause aging already. There are ways to move genes around to cure some diseases; other diseases have been fixed by delivery of proteins in ingenious ways. We can move material between various nuclei, tag specific neurons, custom-make enzymes, do intricate work on the nano-scale, create amazing new methods and mechanisms for working in our cells, and there are countless other inventions. The numbers of them are increasing in fields across the spectrum by the day.

There are also dozens of organizations with countless projects that are working directly toward indefinite life extension every day. Begin contributing to the research and the support structures that help this all excel. Stand up for your life by getting involved. There is seriously way too much to know and experience in this universe to be laying around in a graveyard for eternity.

Everything that humans do is about striving for sustainability and development. Our elders are among the most important capital that we have. Humans, are as far as we can see, among the universe’s most important capital. We can’t afford to “let the universe down”, so to speak, by letting our negligence cause it to lose any of the extraordinary phenomena of sentience that it has produced.  Do you know how long it took it to do that? Do you know how many times it failed to do that across the universe?

You are an important asset to reality, and you are dying, being killed by aging, disease, and biological frailty, and so are all the people around you. You are under attack by mechanisms that are working to kill you at all times. There is not a day that goes by that they don’t drag you closer to your grave. Some of us aren’t able to help ourselves, because those people are dead now. You are still alive, you can still help yourself. There is still a chance for you. You are still able to continue taking part in the marvels and wonders of the universe. Seize the opportunity. Seriously, what more do you want? How much is enough to entice you to stay? What more could you ask for? How much can a person voluntarily throw away? The journey, work, and fun are profoundly fulfilling, and the pay is $infinity.

Come on, let’s get going. We want you on our teams. Be a leader to your peers on this issue. Don’t procrastinate or let your anxiety about talking to people about it let them down. All you have to do is lead them to the extensive networks of indefinite-life-extension projects and organizations. We have the tools and insights to convince people over time, if you would only give them that first chance. A new thought opens a person’s mind more by allowing that person to collect, think about and sort through more insights related to it. Every wave of people that joins us makes it that much easier to get the next and bigger wave to join in. This is critical. Get the people around you to read and think about the various facets of this life-and-death reality, and join its groups and websites. Subscribe to the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension page here to get a lot of core information about organizations, events, activism opportunities, and related topics.

Remember now: when the percentage of world awareness of this cause goes up, then indefinite life extension, if it is possible, will get here faster.

Eric Schulke was a director at LongeCity during 2009-2013. He has also been an activist with the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension and other causes for over 13 years.

ALS, SENS, and Ice Buckets (or Lack Thereof) – Video by Gennady Stolyarov II and Wendy Stolyarov

ALS, SENS, and Ice Buckets (or Lack Thereof) – Video by Gennady Stolyarov II and Wendy Stolyarov

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II and Wendy Stolyarov
August 28, 2014
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Gennady Stolyarov II and Wendy Stolyarov, author and illustrator of Death is Wrong, respond to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

References

Evidence of Donation to ALS Association
Evidence of Donation to SENS Research Foundation
ALS Association
SENS Research Foundation
Eternal Life Fan Club Website
Eternal Life Fan Club on Facebook
Death is Wrong Official Home Page