Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Yuri Milner, a billionaire who spends his earnings on investing in high-tech projects, joined forces to fund research on High Labs, a new biotech company seeking discover a way to reverse aging and achieve eternal life.
The startup would focus on studying cell reprogramming, which consists of incorporate special proteins into a cell to instruct it to return to a state similar to that of a stem cell.
One of the scientists leading this project is Shinya Yamanaka, a 2012 Nobel Prize winner in medicine for discovering that, with the addition of just four proteins, known as Yamanaka factors, cells can receive instructions to return to a primitive state with the properties of embryonic stem cells.
In turn, Altos Labs has the services of Steve Horvath, professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and developer of a “biological clock” that can accurately measure human aging.
Yuri Milner, partner of Jeff Bezos. Photo REUTERS
Other scientists recruited by this pair of millionaires are the Spaniards Manuel Serrano, from the Barcelona Biomedical Research Institute and Juan Carlos Izpisúa, a biologist from the Salk Institute, in La Jolla, California.
Serrano was one of the first scientists to genetically modify mice to produce the Yamanaka factors. Their studies concluded that time can be reversed in a living animal.
But this experiment suffered an adverse reaction, since some of these animals developed embryonic tumors known as teratomas, even when their tissues had gotten younger.
On the other hand, the MIT publication highlighted that Izpisúa has gained notoriety in the field of rejuvenation research after predicting that the life expectancy of human beings could increase by 50 years thanks to the mixture of human and monkey embryos.
Through different treatments, science seeks to stop aging.
The question that Altos Labs will try to solve is how to adapt reprogramming to see if it can rejuvenate animals so safe and if the process can be carried out with common medications.
Project leaders pledged to let the scientists go free so they can conduct unfettered research on how cells age and how to reverse that process.
Milner’s interest in cell reprogramming is philanthropic. So he founded a nonprofit called the Milky Way Research Foundation that awarded grants of one million dollars over three years to various longevity researchers.
The idea of immortality had already been launched by Calico Labs, whose launch was announced in 2013 by one of Google’s creators, Larry Page.
Many scientists are looking for the formula for cell reprogramming. Photo Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Like Altos Labs, Calico hired elite scientists to work andn cell reprogramming. The specialists of this company published a first paper in preprint on the subject on May 23, but later it was diluted.
Immortality is one of the most common concerns among celebrities and billionaires. Indeed, Bezos, along with other billionaires such as Elon Musk, you have previously invested in an anti-aging company called Unity Biotechnology, specialized in the elimination of senescent cells.