Building a large, supportive community is critically important in the fight against aging. Widespread awareness means not only a larger pool of potential supporters who, through their generous contributions, keep the research going; it also means more people who become active and help the cause in a way or another—telling their friends about rejuvenation biotechnologies, lobbying, volunteering their time, and even doing the research itself.
However, before more people can be persuaded to join, they must understand what aging is and the possible interventions that we might be able to employ against it in the not-so-distant future. Quite possibly, the very first book suggesting that aging could be undone in a relatively short time was Ending Aging by Dr. Aubrey de Grey and Michael Rae, both from the SENS Research Foundation.
The book explains in great detail the biology of aging, how we could undo the damage aging wrecks throughout our bodies, why we should do it, and what we can do to achieve this goal as soon as possible. Originally written in English, Ending Aging has been translated into Spanish, German, Russian, and Italian, which is, of course, great for the purposes of advocacy and spreading awareness. In an attempt to reach an even wider audience, professional translators and longevity enthusiasts Nicolas Chernavsky and Nina Torres Zanvettor are now setting out to translate Ending Aging into Portuguese.
To support their project, which was recently featured on Fight Aging!, Nicolas and Nina have launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Brazilian platform Catarse.me. As of the moment of writing, the campaign will last for several months and has a long way to go to reach its goal of 28,000 Brazilian reals, which is currently around 8,500 US dollars. If you wish to contribute, at the bottom of this article, you’ll find instructions on how to navigate the project page, should your Portuguese be a bit rusty.
Dr. Aubrey de Grey has endorsed the project and has filmed this video in support of the initiative.
Today, we caught up with Nicolas and Nina and had a chance to talk with them about their project.
Hi guys! Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Nicolas: I’m 36 years old and I live in Campinas, a city 90 km from São Paulo, the most populous city in Brazil. I have lived together with Nina, my girlfriend, for the past 5 years.
My parents are Argentinean, so I always spoke Spanish at home and Portuguese outside, and thus, I always liked the field of language, and it is something with which I have some familiarity. I studied journalism at university, and after working for some newspapers, I went into translation, which has been my job for the past 13 years.
During my childhood and adolescence, I had two apparently contradictory dreams: to be a soccer player and a scientist. Later, my interests varied more. Besides technologies against aging, of course, I’m very interested in the new economic systems that the Internet and new technologies have enabled and how these can open ways for art, science and cultural content to be created and shared.
Nina: Hello! Well, I’m 27 years old, I live with Nicolas in Campinas, the city where I was born and studied most of my life. My family is also Brazilian, but as with almost all Brazilian families, we have a mixed background, so I’m part Italian, part Spanish, part Portuguese, part Native Brazilian and part Afro-Brazilian. I studied chemistry in a technical course during high school and at Unicamp, one of the top universities in Brazil.
During my undergrad, I studied for one year at the University of Southampton (UK) with a scholarship from the Brazilian government. Then I came back to Brazil, finished my undergrad course and completed a master’s degree at Unicamp in the field of Bioinorganic Chemistry, which studies the metals present in our body and their effect on body function and the development of metal-based drugs. After I finished my master’s degree, I began working alongside Nicolas in technical translations, focusing on the English language. I have been working in this area for the past 2 years.
What first sparked your interest in aging research?
Nicolas: Well, it could be said that I’ve had this interest for as long as I can remember. I remember when I was 6 or 7 years old I realized that I would die someday, and that my parents and my family would also die someday, and that deeply affected me. Thus, as Aubrey de Grey says, I never ‘made peace’ with death. I always thought it was something horrible that should be avoided, and while I was learning about science during my childhood, I always wondered how research on aging was going. In 2012, I decided to actively search on the Internet to see which were the most interesting initiatives on the subject, and I discovered several, including the Methuselah Foundation, which was the most interesting at the time.
But I still hadn’t found a concrete way for science to defeat aging in the relatively short term. In 2016, I decided to search again on the Internet, and then I found Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s work and the SENS Research Foundation. For the first time in my life, I realized that my childhood dream of avoiding death by aging was no longer only a dream anymore. There was a feasible, believable and realistic plan, and I couldn’t stay out of it. I had to help.
Nina: I don’t think like Nicolas. I never wanted to end aging in the way that he is saying, I always wanted to defeat cancer and other age-related diseases, and a great way to do that is to defeat aging. So, my personal approach has a lot more to do with the end of age-related diseases. I’ve always been interested in science, medicine, and biology. When I was a kid, I changed my mind a lot about what I wanted to do when I grew up, but my parents said that for a long time I would say that I wanted “to make drugs to cure diseases”.
Then, when I did my master’s degree, I focused on that, specifically on the development of metal-based drugs with anticancer activity. So, it’s not ‘what’ sparked my interest in aging research, it’s ‘who’. When Nicolas found out about Dr. Aubrey de Grey, he told me everything he knew about it and made me watch a bunch of videos, etc. I was skeptical at first, but with time and study and research, I understood that to cure several diseases, you would need to cure aging.
Was Ending Aging the first book you read on the subject and why do you think it is such a compelling read?
Nicolas: It was the first book I read that was specifically about the study of aging. I had already read a lot of articles in scientific magazines, but not a book on this subject, also no scientific research had seemed exciting enough at this point in time.
What happened to me after regarding ‘Ending Aging’, which was also important. The fact that there were so many of Aubrey de Grey’s videos on the Internet, made me realize that it was not only his scientific approach that was so interesting but also his most profound way of thinking.
I related to this way of thinking because I realized that Aubrey, just like me, didn’t have any problems in explicitly considering aging a bad thing, and that was not something easy to find. People in general, and not only scientists, seem to be ashamed to publicly consider aging as something bad.
I realized that Aubrey combined a way of thinking which I related to with a plan that made a lot of sense from a scientific point of view. And when I read the book itself, this was confirmed, and it greatly increased my conviction that it is possible to defeat aging as a cause of death in the next few decades. Therefore, I think ‘Ending Aging’ is an extraordinary book; it combines the feeling of love for life with a real and feasible plan to save this life we love so much.
Nina: Yes, it was. I think it’s so compelling because it combines several aspects of the problem of defeating aging. First, you have chapters addressing conceptual aspects of defeating aging, then there are the technical chapters explaining how we could do it, which strategies to use, and finally how to fund it. Thus, it is a very thorough book, and it’s not common to find science books that address so many different but vital aspects of the research.
Once the book (and e-book) are ready, where can readers find it?
Nicolas: When the book is ready in June 2018, it will be sent by email in a digital format to everybody who contributed at least R$ 10 (US$ 3) to our crowdfunding for the translation into Portuguese. After June 2018, the e-book will be for sale on Amazon, but the gains from these sales will not be used to pay for the translation: it will all go to the SENS Research Foundation. The translation and editing work Nina and I are doing will be paid only with the amount raised through the crowdfunding that ends in June 2018. We don’t have plans for a printed version of the book yet.
As you know, we crowdfund research projects for aging on Lifespan.io. Why do you think crowdfunding scientific research is so important, and what made you think this approach could work for books too?
Nicolas: I think that crowdfunding scientific research is really important. Lifespan.io’s idea to implement a platform to do this was amazing. Even if not much scientific research is currently funded this way, this system’s potential seems very large, and someone has to be the first to do it. Lifespan.io seems to have been very successful with its campaigns to fund scientific research on aging and the end of age-related diseases. I think that crowdfunding scientific projects, depending on how it is planned, would also allow the free sharing of knowledge acquired through research, because the necessary work would be paid for in advance.
There are many possibilities. Regarding the book ‘Ending Aging’, as there are countless book translations that are being crowdfunded on online platforms, it seemed an interesting way to make the project viable.
Nina: From my point of view, crowdfunding is the method of funding that is more related to the public interest. Before crowdfunding, there was basically only governmental and private funding.
The problem with governmental funding is that if the government changes, the funding can end, like what happened with embryonic stem cell research during the George W. Bush administration in the USA and what is happening now in Brazil with the illegitimate federal government.
With private funding, there are the private interests of the heads of the companies. Thus, crowdfunding would be the optimal way to fund science, but we are still at the very beginning of knowing for sure if it would work for every area.
Aside from this translation, do you engage in other advocacy efforts?
Nicolas: This question is very interesting because I realized that a consequence of doing this crowdfunding is that, as we have to advertise the project, we end up doing a lot of advertising of the field of research against aging and age-related diseases.
So, we are talking with all our friends and acquaintances about the subject, we are using our social media to explain the subject, we are contacting journalists so they might publish articles about it, we are informing websites and bloggers about it and we are talking with university professors and scientists.
We have realized that, besides the translation of the book, what we are doing has been raising public awareness about aging research as a result. But, other than that, we have not been directly involved in other initiatives. In the future, Nina and I may do more in this area. I intend to help in any way I can.
Nina: As Nicolas said, we don’t engage in other advocacy efforts in the area of aging research, just the translation and the advertisement of the crowdfunding project. I personally also do charity work, teaching chemistry for low-income students in a charity school.
Here in Brazil, the public schools are very bad, but the public universities are very good. To enter these universities, you have to do an exam, and if you only studied in public schools your whole life, you have very little chance of passing this exam. My charity work is focused on helping these people to enter university.
Depending on the country, spreading the idea of healthier, longer lives may be more difficult. For example, Russia has a large community who support the idea. How popular is the healthy longevity cause in Brazil and how difficult has it been to get the message across?
Nicolas: In Brazil, as in any other country, there are the usual barriers regarding the subject. But, when compared to other countries, I think Brazil is a place where public support for ending aging and age-related diseases has a great potential for growth. Our Brazilian community seems relatively small now, but I think this is much more related to lack of information than to resistance by the general population. In this respect, I think the translation of ‘Ending Aging’ can help a lot.
To exemplify that, I recently talked with a Brazilian scientist who studies aging. He told me he was asked to indicate a book in Portuguese on the subject, and he couldn’t find any that described the science well enough. Thus, I think there are a lot of people in Brazil that would be interested in this subject but don’t have good resources in Portuguese.
Nina: To add to this, I must say that a lot of scientific books translated into Portuguese do very well on the Brazilian market, like books by Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene and the book ‘The Telomere Effect’ by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn. So, it is very clear that interest in this area will greatly grow in Brazil if the population has translated material to read.
Finally, what personal measures do you both use for health and longevity to help you reach longevity escape velocity?
Nicolas: I think that I need two things to reach LEV. In the first place, I need to live long enough to use the rejuvenation technologies that may arise soon. In the second place, I need to help so that these technologies can arise as fast as possible. For the first part, I try to adequately use what medicine already provides: I regularly go to the doctor, I undergo health exams and I take medicines when needed. I also try to have a healthy diet and try not to risk my health with hazardous activities. I also think that mental health is really important; without the will to live, health and longevity are compromised. Thus, I try to do the things I enjoy and to be with the people I love. For the second part, I intend to engage in, during my life, constant activity to help to end aging.
Nina: I also try to keep a healthy lifestyle, I always go to my medical appointments and, like Nicolas, I’m working on spreading the word about age-defeating research.
We’d like to thank Nicolas and Nina for taking the time to talk to us and for their efforts to spread the word about the possibility of bringing aging under comprehensive medical control. If you’d like to help them out with a donation to their project, visit their project page and follow these instructions:
1) Click the green donation link: “Apoiar este projeto”
2) Choose an amount on the next page, and click the green continue link.
3) Now, enter email and password, then enter or click the green button. You’ll be taken back to the website’s home page, but now you’ll be logged in. So, go back to the project page and repeat the above two steps.
4) Now you have a form page for name, address, and payment method. Go to the country pulldown, and select an English-language country. The text will change to English, making the rest of this easy.
5) Finish filling out the information to make the donation.
Further information on the project is available in English at the bottom of the project page.