Is cellular aging a myth? Delving into Harold Katcher’s new book, The Illusion of Knowledge: The paradigm shift in aging research that shows the way to human rejuvenation.
4th September sees the launch of Harold Katcher’s book, The Illusion of Knowledge: The paradigm shift in aging research that shows the way to human rejuvenation. Katcher is the scientist behind the spectacular mammalian rejuvenation that caused a Twitter storm last year and which we covered here. Katcher’s results – 54% of epigenetic rejuvenation – were measured by Steve Horvath, and, as David Sinclair puts it: “If this finding holds up, rejuvenation of the body may become commonplace within our lifetimes, able to systemically reduce the risk of the onset of several diseases in the first place or provide resilience to a wide variety of infections.”
Longevity.Technology: Harold Katcher’s book aims to explain in detail the foundations of his theory of aging and the evolutionary and biochemical bases of the mechanisms that determine the lifespan of different species. But more than that, Katcher seeks to provide an in-depth analysis humanity’s relationship with the idea of immortality and the concept of aging. By looking through the related history of scientific ideas, he posits that it is no accident that he may have made one of the greatest discoveries in human history.
We’ll be bringing you an interview with Dr Katcher in the coming weeks, but ahead of that, here are a few tasters from The Illusion of Knowledge.
Circular reasoning in some theories of aging:
“Now, though apparently unnoted, this explanation was circular reasoning: the proposal was that old age occurred because deleterious mutations occurring over evolutionary time were spared from being selected against because they only occurred at the end of life and were therefore resistant to selection pressures because reproduction slowed, but also assumed that old age and the post-reproductive period occurred because of the same mutations, the ones that cause reproduction to slow, that were spared by evolution as they only manifested at old age (post-reproductively). In this reasoning, the genes that caused aging resulted from aging, as the loss of reproductive potential with age is part of aging.”
Cellular aging as a cell non-autonomous process:
“I realized that everything I had been taught (and had myself taught) about aging was false. It quickly became clear to me that cellular aging was a myth. While I worked for many weeks drawing circuit diagrams of redox pathways (I’m more familiar with electrical circuitry, and we are after all dealing with the flow of electrons and their use in producing the energy the cell needs), there was no obvious way that cells could not restore their components given enough energy (in the form of food). Now the reason became clear: cellular aging was a cell non-autonomous process! That means that cellular aging did not depend on the cell’s history, but on its environment. Bodily aging was not the result of cellular aging; rather cellular aging was caused by bodily aging (it’s a feedback process when aging cells signal organs to change).”
Organisms as four-dimensional objects:
“The point is that organisms are given a life – not the process of life that might end if it meets more than it can handle, or a life plan determined by chance; they’re a four-dimensional object, limited in time as well as in space with many mechanisms designed to ensure that lifespan does not pass the species maximum lifespan, as lifespan is a species characteristic, like size or coloration, that depends on an organism’s ecological niche and habitat as well as many other physical and biological ‘facts of life’.”
Image courtesy of Harold Katcher