Are Google and Amazon beating death?

With massive investments, Alphabet and Amazon aim to combat the degeneration of human cells, in other words aging. Their goal: to make rejuvenation a normality.

“Killing Death”. The project that Google showed during the creation in 2013 of Calico, its subsidiary specializing in the fight against aging, leaves no doubt. The American company wants to revolutionize the very concept of human existence by eliminating cellular aging. A crazy project?

As early as 2011, the team of doctor Jean-Marc Lemaitre, currently director of research at Inserm and co-director of the Institute of Medicine and Biotherapy in Montpellier, proved that cellular aging was reversible. A huge step in the sector. “Experiments on mice show that it is possible to make them have 15 to 30% life expectancy with good health”, explains the doctor from Montpellier. Are the same results possible in humans? “There are clinical trials in the US that show benefits on the skin, but nothing more.”

To achieve new advances of this kind, Google and Amazon are ready to invest significant amounts. In August 2022, almost 10 years after Google, Jeff Bezos and other billionaires injected several million dollars into the Altos Lab startup, created by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner.. The company that works on cellular rejuvenation with in its ranks Shinya Yamanaka, the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2012, has completed a fundraising of up to three billion dollars.

For now, the results are awaited. “Calico is quite secretive about its research and has not published much since its debut,” says Jean-Marc Lemaitre. This is not the case with Amazon, which plays on transparency. “The money invested in Altos Lab makes it possible to finance academic laboratories, which employ more researchers with significant salaries. The aim is to put all brains at the disposal of this project”, assures the French doctor. Eduardo Moreno, Spanish researcher specializing in cellular communication, member of the Altos Lab in Cambridge since May 2022 confirms: “The idea of ​​the company is to preserve the best of academic life by allowing us to freely research our favorite topics. We are all passionate about our work and want to do our best by stimulating each other.”

In addition to Calico, Google has created a health network by developing several partnerships such as with the pharmaceutical company AbbVie, which focuses on neurodegenerative diseases and cancers. Verily, founded in 2015, is a subsidiary company dedicated to the collection and analysis of healthcare data. She started the Baseline Project, which aims to map the human body and get information about as many diseases as possible. Prevention rather than cure, a way like any other to seek to improve life expectancy.

Note that the two digital giants have different initial approaches. “Altos is working on partial reprogramming, which studies the body’s resistance over time, while Calico has focused on caloric restriction. But that’s a good thing, because it’s not possible to know what the best way to fight aging”, rejoices Eduardo Moreno.

Although Google and Amazon are at the forefront, other players, especially start-ups, are tackling topics in parallel with cellular aging. This is the case with the company Mesentech, which develops technologies to fight bone diseases, or Spiderwort, which focuses on repairing the spine. Others such as LyGenesis or Satellite Bio even go so far as to test technologies to regenerate organs such as the kidneys. Others are interested in metformin, a drug used by diabetics that even reduces signs of aging and increases the lifespan of several living organisms. “An interesting trail to follow”, says Eduardo Moreno. Like telomere shortening, DNA sequences at the end of chromosomes cause aging.

Immortality may not be that close, but people continue, decade after decade, to live longer. “Life expectancy has doubled in a century, and we have no idea how far this can go,” concludes the Montpellier researcher.

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