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Top 5 Longevity Bottlenecks in 2024: Insights from the Rejuve Network

Updated: Dec 7, 2023


The most common sentiment veteran longevity flagbearers express during present-day conferences is amazement at how far the field has come in the last two decades.


Indeed, with unprecedented knowledge of how we age and several exciting advancements on the horizon, the longevity industry is experiencing astounding growth. To put that into numbers, Bank of America valued the industry at $110 billion in 2019 and forecasted its growth to $610 billion by 2025 [1].


The pressure is on for the industry to deliver on this hype. However, genuine strides toward extending healthy human lifespan remain elusive.


Accordingly, different organizations have attempted to outline the major bottlenecks within the industry. Earlier this year, the Longevity Biotech Fellowship released a pre-print of a survey report featuring insights from 400 individuals within the field [2]. Common bottlenecks that were identified included lack of funding and lack of validated aging biomarkers.


It's easy to see how a shortage of funds stymies the field, putting the brakes on innovative research. On the flip side, the absence of validated biomarkers presents a more intricate challenge. It makes it difficult to test longevity interventions, giving rise to regulatory hurdles and skeptic questions from the public like, "If I take this pill today, how do I know it extends my life before I reach the finish line?"


Because discussing such roadblocks is critical to driving the field to its full potential, we turned to the leadership of the Rejuve Network to pinpoint other bottlenecks that need to be addressed but aren’t talked about enough. An eclectic group of biologists, biotechnologists, AI scientists, and businesspeople, Rejuve’s leaders stand at the forefront of decentralized longevity research, each contributing a unique perspective.


So without further ado, let’s delve into their insights and reflect on the five pressing bottlenecks they believe are still holding back the longevity field heading into 2024.


1-Lack of Preventative and Holistic Wellness Protocols


As we anticipate the era of safe, practical gene therapy and epigenetic reprogramming, a profound shift is needed in clinical practice, stat. "The current paradigm only supports intervention when it's too late", asserts Rejuve.AI CEO Jasmine Smith. Instead of focusing on medicating symptomology, she advocates for official preventative and holistic protocols that appreciate the roles of nutrition and lifestyle in our overall wellness.


Supporting this stance, Rejuve.Bio CEO Kennedy Schaal references Abbott Labs' recent program, Healthy Food Rx, and its approach to "food as medicine" [3]. The idea behind the program is simple: delivering free recipe-based food boxes to 450 diabetics in tandem with hands-on education on how to leverage nutrition for the management of diabetes.


The study that accompanied the program by the Public Health Institute's Center for Wellness and Nutrition showed remarkable results, including decreased Hemoglobin A1C levels, increased levels of physical activity, and improved diabetes self-management. Despite potential national-level expenses, Schaal argues that similar long-term investments in nutrition and lifestyle will yield government savings, urging decision-makers to rethink their fixation on short-term gains.


Also pertinent to this discussion, as Smith points out, is the curative potential of natural compounds currently used as supplements, such as curcumin and allicin. She dismisses the excuse of insufficient evidence. In the age of AI-led decentralized clinical trials, she believes the time to churn out high-quality studies on these molecules and their combinations is now.



2- Data Integration Challenges


In an epoch defined by data, the abundance of information poses a paradox: it's a vast wealth, yet its scattered nature complicates harnessing its full potential, especially in the longevity field.


"There is no Bloomberg for longevity data." Dr. Ben Goertzel


As Chief AI Scientist of Rejuve Network, Dr. Ben Goertzel points out, "There is no Bloomberg for longevity, which would have all the data from all the relevant experiments nicely integrated in a meta-data savvy way and connected to a semantic representation of the ideas from the research papers."


Achieving such integration would unlock opportunities for extensive cross-dataset, cross-organism, and cross-tissue AI analytics, fostering automated hypothesis generation. Additionally, it would go a long way in resolving other lingering bottlenecks like lack of consensus within the field — which ranges from disagreement about the recognized hallmarks of aging to the definition of aging itself.


Interestingly, however, the Chief Biotechnology Officer at Rejuve.Bio, Dr. Axel Schumacher, posits that the data integration challenge isn't technological but stems from a collective mindset issue.


Drawing from his experience of creating a data-sharing platform, he notes industry-wide reluctance to share data, due to fears of losing control and recognition, especially within the ever-competitive academic world. Overcoming this requires funding and institutional support to incentivize researchers to share data.


3- AI Gap in Understanding Causal Mechanisms


While we've already discussed AI's emergence as a powerful tool in addressing the aforementioned longevity bottlenecks, Dr. Deborah Duong, Rejuve.AI's Chief Technology Officer, insists on its need for further transformation to fulfill the industry's anti-aging purpose.


"The biggest bottleneck to solving aging is data-driven AI that can understand underlying causal mechanisms." Dr. Deborah Duong

"The biggest bottleneck to solving aging is the data-driven AI that can understand the underlying causal mechanisms from raw multi-omics, wearables, and clinical data, simulate them, and test treatments on them", emphasizes Dr. Duong.


She views that also as a mindset issue, criticizing reductionist thinking that views intelligence and evolution in individualistic terms. Dr. Duong, who helms Rejuve.AI's Generative Cooperative Network, argues for a cooperative approach that considers coevolution as mutually beneficial — not competitive. She contends that prevailing thinking and programming see logic in a reductionist manner, whereas it is rather an emergent layer of society, framing humans as creatures of language.


For true progress, Dr. Duong stresses the necessity of AI that's powered with social language creation abilities. Such AI, reflecting the social nature of intelligence, can autonomously evolve and comprehend emerging concepts, sidestepping the need for human input.


In essence, the journey toward solving aging requires not just advanced technology but a paradigm shift in how we conceive intelligence and its evolution.


4- Overlooking Early Aging Mechanisms and Transgenerational Longevity in Research


The term "aging" culturally connotes being old. This notion also apparently extends to the research realm where most studies focus on the elderly, such as centenarian studies.


However, the biological aging process starts long before the traditional image of an individual growing old and frail — specifically, in the germline of their parents. Yes, even before birth.


According to Dr. Schumacher, these early aging mechanisms are just as essential to study. For one, they can offer clues into intrinsic rejuvenation. A groundbreaking discovery from the Gladyshev Lab at Harvard University revealed that, despite the germline starting with age, a natural rejuvenation occurs post-fertilization, seemingly resetting the embryo's biological age before its age increases again in post-embryonic stages [4].


This finding holds promise for future longevity interventions if the underlying mechanisms of transgenerational longevity are thoroughly understood. "This includes studying the mechanisms with which environmental factors and lifestyle choices impact an individual's aging process and, consequently, the health and aging of their offspring", adds Schumacher.


Few studies have broached these influences in model organisms. For example, research on the roundworm C. elegans showed that dietary restriction can extend lifespan but has a wide range of both positive and deleterious effects on future generations [5].


Despite these exciting revelations, research remains scant in the area. Given the wasted potential, this scarcity stands as a significant longevity bottleneck.


5- Centralized Pharma Dominance


At first glance, it might be naive to think that a future without aging — the strongest risk factor for most chronic diseases — is a lucrative one for drugmakers.


Yet, that future would bring with it a huge demand for a whole new portfolio of pharmaceuticals. Think gene therapy, digital therapeutics, and even anti-aging vaccines. Big Pharma may or may not see that vision fast enough. Nevertheless, its current position of limited cooperation is taking a toll on the progress of the longevity field.


So, perhaps the least surprising bottleneck on this list heading into 2024 is the current centralized dominance of the Pharma industry.


As Michael Duncan, the Chief Science Officer at Rejuve.Bio elaborates, "The process of translating the exponentially increasing rate of discoveries in biomedical science into effective and accessible clinical interventions is hindered by the dominance of centralized corporate Pharma, and by market-based healthcare systems. Especially in the US, preventive medicine tailored to individual biological variation just isn't as profitable as a blockbuster drug targeting a large population of sick people."


Instead of waiting for pharmaceutical firms to come around, however, Dr. Duong suggests taking a proactive approach to accelerate the independence of longevity breakthroughs from the confines of the traditional industry.


She proposes, “We can reinvent markets with blockchain technology, so that people own the products of their labor, and solve the perverse incentives problem, in a way that preserves transparency and freedom of choice.”


A shift to decentralization would empower the whole ecosystem, foster innovation, and give power to consumers.


Conclusion


As we contemplate the remarkable journey of the longevity field, it's evident that overcoming the highlighted bottlenecks is a matter of time. The Rejuve Network leads the way, actively addressing these challenges with ambitious endeavors such as building a first-of-its-kind decentralized network for longevity research and pioneering a streamlined framework for translational research.


Join the Rejuve Revolution!

Rejuve.AI is a decentralized, AI-driven longevity research network allowing people from all over the world to track their health data, receive valuable insights, contribute to cutting-edge longevity research, and earn rewards.

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References


[1] Grover, N. (2019, August 19). Healthier, longer lifespans will be a reality sooner than you think, Juvenescence promises as it closes $100M round. Endpts.com; Endpoints News. https://endpts.com/healthier-longer-lifespans-will-be-a-reality-sooner-than-you-think-juvenescence-promises-as-it-closes-100m-round/


[2] Florea, M., Hamalainen, M., Seebold, P., Cheng, N., Murray, P., Colville, A. J., Zheng, S., Ingham, D., Kantelal, R., & De Sicilia, R. (2023). Longevity Bottlenecks. Longevity Biotech Fellowship consortium. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.08.18.553936


[3] Wilkin, M., Sun, B., Mitchell, K., & Romero, L. (2023, November 8). Healthy Food Rx Results – 12 Months. https://www.phi.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/Abbott-Report-11012023.pdf


[4] Kerepesi, C., Zhang, B., Lee, S.-G., Trapp, A., & Gladyshev, V. N. (2021). Epigenetic clocks reveal a rejuvenation event during embryogenesis followed by aging. Science Advances, 7(26), eabg6082. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abg6082


[5] Ivimey‐Cook, E., Sales, K., Carlsson, H., Immler, S., Chapman, T., & Maklakov, A. A. (2021). Transgenerational fitness effects of lifespan extension by dietary restriction in Caenorhabditis elegans. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288(1950). https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.0701

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