Parabiosis, Drugs Targeting Genes, Susskind, Feynman, and MUH

I’m sorry holy quest, but I must unload my burdened back if I must go on. There is much fun [?useless?] knowledge begging me to be released.

I found out about Kristen Fortney through correspondence with Michael Rae from the SENS Research Foundation (the people on the Manichaean mission to fight the evils of our own metabolism, and the only real rationalists as far as I’m concerned.)

Anyway, I’ve been interested in SENS since I was 16 and pretty much memorized Aubrey de Grey’s speech by heart (he gives the same one every time). But yet I had never heard of Fortney’s work until recently. She seems pretty excited about some of her colleagues’ work eliminating senescent cells, since it has been shown that mice live 30% longer when these are specifically removed. And if you know anything at all about biology, you know that 30% lifespan increase in mammals is ridiculously huge – especially when it was caused by a single intervention.

However, I didn’t read that paper, and took her word for it. (She mentioned it in a podcast.) I did read a paper of her own like 2.5 times. It was about building representations of networks of protein-to-protein interactions with nodes and edges. I learned some interesting things about DNA up-regulation and down-regulation. Apparently, most drugs affect the expression of all genes in a roundhouse-kick fashion. They don’t tend to be specific enough to work on single genes coding for the protein of interest who’s expression level we want to tweak. And Fortney et al. attribute this failure of control to the reason why most drugs have many unintended side-effects and therefore this helps explain the abysmally low number of drugs approved by the FDA in recent times. However, Fortney et al. are not trying to fix this gene targeting problem. They are instead working at the protein interaction level, and just accepting that a ton of genes will be differentially regulated by a single drug. The idea was something about setting off random walks on the node graphs and seeing which paths are treaded the most by a given drug interaction. Maybe whatever abstract analysis tool they were discussing in the paper is actually a little useful, and I don’t claim to have 100% fully understood their work, but as a student of biology and chemistry, my picture of the territory is one of such hopeless complexity that I doubt too much use will come from all this.

Direct interventions, like teasing out why parabiosis (infusion of young blood to old blood) works, and then working to develop antigens and other small molecules sounds more promising (and profitable), at least for now. Luckily she, and many others, are also interested in this area.

Oh but in case you’re getting too giddy for the forever-dancefloor, the effects of old blood on young mice is more devastating than young blood is rejuvenating.

And you know who needs rejuvenation… Leonard Susskind.

We need imaginative, effective theoretical physicists like him around. He famously debated Stephen Hawking about information loss in black holes, and won. It’s kind of sad that his call to fame to the public is only through connection to someone who happened to have more celebrity status.

Yeah Stephen Hawking is cool… and I’m going to let you finish, but Leonard Susskind is largely responsible for fleshing out the holographic principle.

And to those who believe that the holographic principle is “metaphysical” and “unscientific” while Newton’s mechanics are “physical” and “scientific,” you are guilty of attempting to derive the nature of molecules from the taste of the orange juice.

The validity of a theory should not be inferred from whatever particular queasy feel one gets from the sound of a word. ‘Holographic’ means nothing. The claim is precise and mathematical. Only in that ring should the assessment take place.

And by the way, Susskind’s father was a plumber. His father had no idea what a physicist was and initially believed Susskind was planning to be a pharmacist. Kind of inspiring huh? A Jewish plumber, but a plumber nonetheless.

Speaking of… umm, physicists (regardless! of their socially constructed ethnicity). How about that dead chap Feynman. Is he still alive in other regions of the the wave function that never collapses? Infinitely so?

I wonder what he would think about Max Tegmark’s mathematical universe hypothesis.

He would probably consider it rubbish. I get the impression that he had a distaste for ‘pure mathematics,’ given his reaction to the P vs. NP problem.

But he was also not the type to simply internalize the canonical lexicon. He was a mover, a changer, someone who truly valued knowing. It is evidenced by the fact that he was already performing engineering feats as a child; his development of the path-integral formulation; the quirkily simple diagrams that initially perplexed Bohr and Dirac; his criticism of the Brazilian physics education; his interest in the hallucinations produced in a deprivation tank. All of this suggests that he was willing to be different.

He was willing to go wherever reality lead. Including to the arms of prostitutes and the creation of atomic bombs.

But Platonism? That might be too much, even for him.

 

 

 

 

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