As Undoing Aging 2019 in Berlin approaches, I have been reflecting on the previous year and the things that I am most looking forward to this year. So, today, as a journalist and longevity advocate, I am going to be sharing some of my personal musings and thoughts about this important event with you.
First of all, for those of you unfamiliar with the event, a little explanation is in order. Undoing Aging is an industry conference on March 28-30, Berlin, Germany that is organized by the SENS Research Foundation and the Forever Healthy Foundation.
The event has a firm focus on the science and progress being made in aging research and will see many of the leading experts come together for three days of exciting scientific talks, panels, and discussions. Undoing Aging 2019 is the second conference in this series and is one of the must-go events of the year.
A stunning line-up of speakers
Conferences live and die by the quality of their speakers, and I am not exaggerating when I say how impressed I am once again by the caliber of speakers attending the event. The line-up at the first Undoing Aging conference last year was very impressive, and this year is no exception.
Dr. Judith Campisi from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging is one of the true pioneers of the aging research field, as her research focuses on how senescent cells influence aging and cancer. She is best known for her work exploring the pro-inflammatory signals secreted by senescent cells known as the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP), which are thought to contribute to many age-related diseases.
Dr. Campisi is, without a doubt, one of the most important figures in aging research and is a founder of UNITY Biotechnology, a company taking senescent cell clearance therapies for various age-related diseases through human trials right now. I am looking forward to having the opportunity to listen to her talk during the senolysis-focused sessions on Friday afternoon as well as our interview with this important scientist.
The topic of senescent cells and clearing them from the body using drugs known as senolytics has been a hot topic in the last year or two, and there are now lots of companies developing therapies that target these problem cells. Senolytics are one of the important tools we need to effectively repair the damage that aging causes, and, as senescent cells are implicated in many age-related diseases, their successful use has big implications for treating many diseases at once.
Dr. Jerry Shay is a scientist whom I am particularly looking forward to meeting at the conference. His research on the relationships of telomeres and telomerase to aging and cancer is well known
His work on the regulation of gene expression via the Telomere Position Effect—Over Long Distances (TPE-OLD) is fascinating and supports the idea that telomeres are instrumental in epigenetic alterations and genomic stability.
He will be giving a talk on Friday, March 29th during the Counteracting DNA Instability session. We will also be interviewing Dr. Shay during the event and exploring the world of telomeres, epigenetics, and aging.
Dr. Dongsheng Cai is another interesting scientist whose research focuses on the hypothalamus and its connection to aging. Dr. Cai is exploring how the hypothalamus may regulate the aging process via a pathway that activates later in life and contributes to systemic aging and metabolic dysfunction.
His lab is focused on understanding the role of the central nervous system in the development of metabolic syndromes, aging, and age-related diseases. To do this, he has been studying the interactions between various signaling pathways and cascades and the neuronal regulatory network that underlie conditions such as obesity and age-related neural dysfunction. He is also exploring ways in which these pathways might be targeted for interventions using small molecules and cell therapies in order to prevent metabolic and age-related diseases.
In particular, Dr. Cai and his team have been experimenting with hypothalamus stem cell transplants into the brains of aged mice in order to improve the function of the hypothalamus and to better understand the regulatory role that this part of the brain plays in metabolism and aging. Mice that are given transplants of young hypothalamus cells appeared to enjoy increased healthspan and do not age as rapidly as their untreated counterparts. Dr. Cai will be giving a talk during the Cell Therapy session on Friday morning at the conference.
These are only some of the great speakers who are appearing at the event, and I wish I could talk about them all here, but this article would be huge if I did.
Some personal musings on why this conference is so important
One of the most striking things about this conference compared to others is the lack of the usual snake oil. There are no questionable pills for sale or folks selling energy crystals and so on; these sorts of things have plagued our field for decades and made it hard for the public to separate the real science from the hucksters out to make a quick buck. There is none of this at Undoing Aging, which is a good thing. This is the conference you go to when you want to learn about real science and is a great opportunity to network and meet allies.
Which brings me onto my next point, networking. This is one of the best places to meet like-minded people in our community: the scientists, biotech CEOs, investors, and other influential people in our industry. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet these people, learn more about them, share ideas, and, above all, make plans to work together for our common goal – a world where age-related diseases do not exist. If you are looking to network and find new allies for a project that you have in mind, then this is the place to be.
On a related note, as well as making new allies, the conference for me is a great way to connect with my existing friends and colleagues, particularly the people I work with day-in, day-out at LEAF but rarely see in person, as we all live in different countries. For me, seeing them at the conference reaffirms my commitment to the cause and gives me the energy to keep doing what I do, which, in this high-pressure industry, is not something to be taken lightly; take solace in your friends, because we as a community have the hardest challenge in the world.
This year, the LEAF team will be out in force with several of us at the event, so if you see us, please come and have a chat with us; we would love to meet you. We will be interviewing many of the guest researchers during the event and will be bringing you reports and articles all about it in the weeks following, so stay tuned!
Needless to say, if you are thinking about coming to the event, you really should, because it promises to be an amazing few days of science. If you would like to grab a ticket, you can find out more at the Undoing Aging Eventbrite page.
Finally, on behalf of LEAF, I would like to thank the SENS Research Foundation and the Forever Healthy Foundation for giving us the opportunity to attend this event and bring the community the latest news and interviews from the stars of aging research.