Aubrey De Grey, in California. He speculates humen live their lives to 5,000, and misses Calment’s DNA tested. Photograph: Carlos Chavarria/ Redux/ eyevine
Novoselov wrote to Young at Guinness World Records about Calment in October 2018,” asking him to look attentively at the issues we grew “. His response, says Novoselov, was ” a presentation of invasion by Europe against everything civilised “; Young, he says, characterised his job as a scheme sent from on high by” someone important “. But its not surprising that Novoselov’s abrasive tactics have raised eyebrows; he has menaced Young, as well as Calment’s validators, with investigation by Sledkom, the Russian FBI.
The evidence for a Russian disinformation campaign is thin, but Zak’s article did have a second sponsor. The peer-reviewed version was published in Rejuvenation Research, the publication devoted to life-extension research revised by Aubrey de Grey, the controversial gerontologist and life-extension advocate who has claimed that, by 2100, the human lifespan could contact 5,000 times. Even if Zak doesn’t believe it, the possibility that Calment did reach 122 is tantalising for De Grey.” Anyone who is the world record holder of longevity is of interest to those of us studying the biology of ageing ,” he tells me.
Speaking on the phone from London, where he is on a stopover between Berlin and his home in California, De Grey is evasive about whether his strategy is to force the freeing of Calment’s blood sample. But he does think it should be made available for science:” In the interests of saving lives, used to identify more about ageing to eventually postpone ageing- then that’s actually quite important .” Would he want his own study organization, Sens, to do the DNA testing? Not necessarily, he says,” but I would certainly are aware of the right kind of researchers to recommend “.
That analysis seems unlikely to happen any time soon. The Fondation Jean Dausset, a private genetic study core in Paris, refuses even to confirm that it is keeping Jeanne Calment’s blood; just that it has a collection of biosamples it alone can use for research under anonymised provisions. But Francois Schachter, the scientist who in the 1990 s founded its Chronos Project, the first genetic inspect of centenarians in the world, proven that her blood was taken and her DNA extracted.
Twenty years ago, the life-extension field promoted by mavericks like De Grey was outlaw discipline. Now, the landscape has changed: the technical means for ” hacking ” the human lifespan have come into being, and the sector is beginning to attract serious speculation. In 2013, Google invested $1.5 bn in an entire discord, Calico, devoted to” solving fatality “. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has given millions of dollars to Sens.
But Sens, according to its annual reports, has been running at heavy damages. De Grey says it has been wasting the $13 m he put into the foundation in 2011 on research for anti-ageing therapies that will save” various million” lives. But it must start to pay its room; wouldn’t procuring the DNA of the oldest female in the world be a great publicity coup, as death-dodging tech billionaires pile into the sector? De Grey bats off this idea.” I get enough media attention as it is .”
If he could study Calment’s DNA, what might he expect to learn? De Grey points out that supercentenarians’ genetic substance contains a high ratio of useful information,” because they have to get more things right in order to get to the age they do “. One obvious field of interest is how Calment bypassed cancer, coronary thrombosis, diabetes and other late-life killers.
Several scientists I spoke to believe that Calment’s genome should be made available for study; but they don’t are supportive of the space Zak and De Grey have apparently attempted to force the foundation’s hand. One repercussion of promoting the switch theory, they point out, is that they have alienated family members whose own DNA might be crucial in understanding Calment’s.
Earlier this month, a Russian news organisation announced that a woman who was purportedly 123 had died in the Astrakhan region of southern Russia. This is almost certainly hopeless- even Novoselov thinks so; returned her children’s ages, she would have given birth three times in her 50 s. But the narrative underlines the need for gerontology to keep its house in order.
At the time of going to press, scientists from around the world were due to discuss the impact of the Calment affair on gerontology at a special meeting in Paris. As for her mortal remains, some see the Fondation Jean Dausset might be more open to collaboration as anti-ageing science evolves- but it is unlikely to be with De Grey. Despite trying to tell me that Jeanne Calment does not anatomy high on his priorities, he plans to devote another issue of Rejuvenation Research to age validation and Calment next year.
In Arles, despite everything, the counter-investigation group are tickled by the idea that Jeanne Calment might have been a original fraudster.” I would really like the permutation tale is correct, like in the romances I cherish speaking ,” says Cecile Pellegrini.” I find that kind of thing super-exciting. If it’s actually true-blue, she was really something !” But perhaps the doyenne has something else to teach the would-be immortals of Silicon Valley: what additional fus would 5,000 years of live fetching, if we can’t get the record straight-shooting on a single everyday lifetime?
* Additional reporting by Marc Bennetts
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