I’m taking up science with the specific intent of doing SENS research. This is because young transhumanists may be key to changing the biogerontology establishment from within. The people of SENS and I envision a phenomenon in which there will be a small cadre of people opposed to aging in institutions all over the place. And as the economy improves over the next few years, and the public finally starts to demand serious work on rejuvenation biotechnologies (with any luck, just as I’m getting on with my postdoctoral studies), we’ll be ready to take up the challenge with full public and government support.
Here, I summarize the two strategies I’ve discussed with the people at SENS for clearing lysosomal aggregates:
*The first, involves decomposer bacteria. We identify the specific enzymes they are using and then modify them for the different environment in our lysosomes. Then we unleash a barrage of injections upon the living.
*The second is to genetically engineer our own macrophages so that they produce the necessary enzymes themselves.
The gene therapy approach is a continuation of the injectable enzyme approach: the sticking point is that I’ve been told we don’t have a safe, reliable system for gene therapy in humans yet, except for very niche applications such as the genetic form of retinitis pigmentosa1 (where target cells are few in number and located in a compartment that is isolated from the immune system). As a researcher, I need to identify a candidate enzyme, test it in cell models, and then in animals. If by the time I get to human testing there is safe, reliable gene therapy, I can encode the gene into a vector; if not, I can work on modifying it for cellular and then lysosomal uptake after injection, as is done today for genetic lysosomal storage diseases.
Exactly what direction I should push to pursue this kind of work will depend substantially on which target I go after. But since it is not the case that I graduated from high school at 15 and have already completed my BS, those decisions are still some time off: my real goal as an undergrad is not to specialize, but to get a broad foundation in life sciences. And I think there normally isn’t that much specialization at the undergrad level anyway. So I will want to focus to the extent that I can on cellular and molecular biology. I’ll be talking to my department student advisor to tailor my classes in that direction — but honestly, I doubt there will be much tweaking. My real goal is to build up foundational skills and the knowledge base, and to set myself up to do whatever most appeals to me and matches my aptitude at the graduate level.