Seeing the Future Horizon is Easier When You are this High Up !
I recently had one of the most formative experiences of my life at the recent Longevity Frontiers workshop, hosted by the Foresight Institute. I’ve been a proud member of Foresight since 2017, and can’t recommend the group enough. They are a community of forward-thinkers on the forefront of longevity, neuroscience, nanotechnology, space tech, and many other frontiers of human accomplishment. One of my favorite things about this nonprofit is how open and inclusive they are. Many of their online groups can be freely attended, which is appreciated for forever-students like myself.
This event was particularly important for me, since I made some key professional connections and had conversations about a pathway I’ve been trying to decipher for the better part of a decade. My thoughts on that pathway are here, and I give special thanks to Steve Horvath, Alexander Pickett, and Sonia Arrison for much of the inspiring conversations that lead to these ideas.
The recent workshop was hosted atop the Salesforce Tower by the “The Institute”, a public benefit think tank with a similarly amazing mission. My appreciation for the experience extends to them as well!
The event brought in some of the top minds of the current aging research revolution, primarily surrounding the new “epigenetic theory of aging”. Steve Horvath, the pioneer of Aging Clocks, gave an amazing talk that forever changed the way I look at aging. Also in attendance was Vittorio Sebastiano, a pioneer in epigenetic reprogramming, who has apparently also been tracking osteopontin, one of my favorite aging pathways! I also had the opportunity to reconnect with the always-kind Joe Betts-Lacroix, who recently started his own cellular reprogramming moonshot focused on single-cell sequencing. I had a great time chatting with countless other amazing longevity scientists, half of which I still need to email!
People don’t just attend Foresight conferences for cutting edge science. What truly takes center stage is an overwhelming infectious optimism among its attendees. The last several years have been rough for all of us, as we have slowly pulled out of a biological catastrophe that killed millions of people. It’s easy to lose the faith during such a crisis as we all watched our flawed healthcare system struggle to get the pandemic under control. This event however reinfected me with the optimism I needed to push forward in my personal quest for longevity.
Alas, human connections weren’t the only thing I gained at this critical event. It was meeting some of the brightest minds in aging research that finally allowed me to make some scientific connections that I have been trying to formulate for years. I am fascinated by longevity and aging biology, but for extremely personal reasons, have waged a lifelong war against the diseases of metabolic syndrome. Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are the top killers of those in my family, and are the key reasons I transitioned into biology from my prior career in astronomy.
For obesity in particular, I have been trying to untangle the genetic basis of this disease for the last decade. It wasn’t until this conference that I finally started understand why the top genes associated with obesity do what they do. I think this explanation makes intuitive (and in retrospect, obvious sense). More importantly however, this interpretation hints at future directions for therapies!
This post primarily serves as a thank you to the Foresight Institute for making this event happen. I adore you all, and the mission that you serve in seeing the future and driving it forward. Its only at events like this, and in communities like this, that those of us working in silos can exchange ideas. Its during those exchanges that new connections are made!
Curing aging, and indeed, mastering the biology that we evolved into, is the hardest grand challenge mankind has ever faced. It has been a dark couple of years. I am confident however that if we stay optimistic, and embrace the Existential Hope promoted by Foresight, we all have a truly bright future ahead of us.