Eric Verdin explains how a new understanding of existing aging clocks has allowed the Buck Institute to create new ones.
The Rejuvenation Startup Summit is one of the key events in the longevity calendar; kicking things off with the opening keynote was Eric Verdin, CEO and President of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.
Longevity.Technology: Eric’s keynote was fascinating, and we were lucky enough to follow it up with an interview where we could further explore his position on aging clocks and the implications of some new studies in which he and the Buck have been involved. Check out our video interview with Eric Verdin below.
Eric Verdin on…
The longevity bottleneck
Everyone recognises that the identification of predictable, validated biomarkers is going to be a bottleneck in terms of proof – if we discover drugs that we think slow down aging, we are going to have to prove it not only in mice, but in humans. No-one is prepared to do a 30-year clinical trial in humans!
True age vs cell differentiation
The current clocks we are using are a mixture of two different things: a true age and something linked to cell differentiation. Based on this, we generated two new clocks, one that would be looking at differentiation associated with aging, and one that would be looking purely at intrinsic aging. Current clocks have great predictive value, but they are compound of two different clocks. Now we know this, we can separate the process out into two different clocks that will tell us different things – they are both related to aging, but via different mechanisms. In the future, this will allow us to refine our analyses and have better tools.
Making a better tool
To get to the next level – a validated medical tool that doctors can use – that’s going to take a lot more work. Our research is another step to making things better.
Testing is ongoing, and we are lucky in that so many datasets are available. A virtue of this clock is that we think it eliminates an aspect of aging that was enmeshed with the other clock, and we are equally excited in using this clock as a tool for screening for compounds that would revert this. Untangling clocks will give us a better understanding and a better tool.
Trajectory to new drug aging targets
Firstly, a lot more work, which is ongoing at the Buck. Secondly, we are looking at startups; if a clock can screen for drugs that can reverse it, we can go through the library of approved drugs to see what works. Thirdly, now we have untangled the clocks, we can see they speak different languages and point at different things – and maybe identify new targets.
Disruption is progress
Our work could be considered disruptive in a way, as things that have been said in the past in terms of reversion of aging could be reinterpreted in a different way based on our clock; but I think that more than being disruptive, I would hope that people look at it as one more step. Science progresses by taking something that you think is very simple and making it very complicated – the more you study something, the more complicated it gets!
At some point, eventually, it gets simpler and we are right at that stage. We have a partial understanding of the aging process and how to measure it, and where we thought we were measuring pure aging, we were measuring two variables in aging. Now we can look at them individually and gain a better understanding – there are lots of interesting questions that are going to come out of this.