Aubrey De Grey, in California. He conceives humans could live 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 created “. His response, says Novoselov, was ” a expose of invasion by Europe against everything civilised “; Young, he says, characterised his cultivate as a plot aimed from on high by” someone important “. But its not surprising that Novoselov’s abrasive tactics have raised eyebrows; he has peril 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 form was published in Rejuvenation Research, the periodical devoted to life-extension research revised by Aubrey de Grey, the contentious gerontologist and life-extension advocate who has claimed that, by 2100, the human lifespan could contact 5,000 years. 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 layover between Berlin and his home in California, De Grey is evasive about whether his programme is to force the release of Calment’s blood test. But he does think it should be made available for science:” In the interests of saving lives, finding out more about ageing to eventually shelve ageing- then that’s actually quite important .” Would he miss his own research organization, Sens, to do the DNA testing? Not inevitably, 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 research 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 investigation of centenarians in the world, has confirmed that her blood was taken and her DNA extracted.
Twenty years ago, the life-extension field promoted by dissenters like De Grey was veto science. 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 asset. In 2013, Google vested $1.5 bn in an entire department, Calico, devoted to” solving demise “. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has given millions of dollars to Sens.
But Sens, according to its annual reports, has been running at heavy losses. De Grey says it has been expending the $13 m he put into the foundation in 2011 on research for anti-ageing rehabilitations that will save” several million” lives. But it must start to pay its course; wouldn’t assuring the DNA of the oldest woman 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 orbit of interest is how Calment bypassed cancer, congestive heart failure, 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 approve of the channel Zak and De Grey have apparently attempted to force the foundation’s hand. One upshot 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 organization announced that a woman who was purportedly 123 had died in the Astrakhan region of southern Russia. This is almost certainly impossible- even Novoselov thinks so; yielded her children’s ages, she would have given birth three times in her 50 s. But the fib 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 speculate 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 mean to tell me that Jeanne Calment does not person high on his priorities, he plans to devote another matter 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 master fraudster.” I would really like the switch storey to be true, like in the fictions I love speaking ,” says Cecile Pellegrini.” I find that kind of thing super-exciting. If it’s actually true-life, she was really something !” But perhaps the doyenne has something else to school the would-be immortals of Silicon Valley: what additional fus would 5,000 years of existence delivering, if we can’t get the record straight-out on a single ordinary life-time?
* Additional reporting by Marc Bennetts
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