Paul Boutin in Slate:
If a tall, gaunt man with a ruddy 2-foot beard were to loom over you in a bar and claim he was a scientist who could help you live forever, you’d probably check his breath. Aubrey de Grey has that effect on people. But he also has the effect of reanimating the largely ignored science of why we die.
De Grey has a Ph.D. in biology from Cambridge, where he works in the genetics department. He claims that within two decades, scientific breakthroughs could begin extending human life spans fast enough and far enough that people alive today could survive indefinitely. To that end, he organizes conferences on aging research and publishes a scientific journal, Rejuvenation Research. Last week, his Methuselah Mouse competition topped a million dollars in jackpot money with a pledge from genetic research mogul William Haseltine. The mouse prize is loosely modeled on the X Prize for space tourism, and it aims to motivate researchers to come up with proven ways to extend the life of a standard lab mouse. The first award, given in November, went to a researcher who documented that a dietetic regimen of calorie restriction induces genetic changes in mice. They not only live longer, but retain their youthful vigor.
Whether de Grey is a genius or a kook—MIT’s no-nonsense Technology Review argued the latter, in a cover story and a bitchy editorial in February—he’s the best thing to happen to aging research in a decade, since Cynthia Kenyon proved that tweaking the genes of roundworms made them live twice as long as usual.