Alzheimer's & cryonics

Robert J. Bradbury (
Tue, 16 Feb 1999 20:46 EST

Murray's recent message prompts me to respond.

> After speaking to several neuropathologists who feel that Alzheimers
> disease is an inevitable fate for all that live long enough I have
> some somber conclusions. Since 10% of people age 70 have dementia
> (>50% due to Alzheimer's), and that number climbs to 40% of people by
> age 85, by my calculations, nearly 100% of people who reach 115 will be
> demented (aymptotically speaking of course, as we know nothing is 100%).

I've had direct contact with Dr. George Martin, both as a student and in his position as an advisor to Aeiveos Sciences Group. Dr. Martin is probably one of the world's leading experts on Alzheimer's. I've also had direct contact with A.D. since my grandmother was hospitalized for a many years with something which was either A.D. or something bearing a strong resemblance to it.

I would generally agree with the estimates and prognosis which Murray and his neuropathologists provide. I would not however agree with the conclusions Murray proposes:

> My point is just that any chemical which radically extends human life,
> but is not lipophilic enough to cross the blood brain barrier, will be
> far worse than no treatment at all.

(a) there will be no general chemical which extends human life since

human aging becomes increasingly multifactorial as one ages [this is determined by the evolutionary biology of aging]

(b) the question becomes, not whether A.D. develops, but whether

or not A.D. "destroys" the individual? If A.D. develops but the individual remains intact (in his/her memories, hopes, perceptions, etc.), then the medical question is whether or not one can resurect the "recall/processing" paths which are damaged by A.D. so as to allow the individual to exercise "free will"?

(c) I would maintain that current medical technology in *incapable*

of judging those circumstances in which they may or may not be able to resurect information processing pathways. This is related to the fundamental lack of understanding in the medical community for the capacities of consciously programmed "nanobots".

(d) I would cite the case of Parkinsons disease, in which the simple

increase in the levels of a neurotransmitter (through the inhibition of breakdown or the replacement of the cells responsible for synthesis) results in a recover of function. If nanobots, can (easily) do this and much more, then how can neuropathologists dictate that A.D. is terminal?

Furthermore, as a Senior Associate of the Foresight Institute, the former president of a not so insignificant biotechnology company, an as a reviewer of the soon to be published "Nanomedicine", which details nanotechnology interventions in medical pathologies, I would say that the

> 15 years from age 70 to age 85 where A.D. climbs from 10 to 40%
> (according to Murray) is a *huge* *huge* time span.

If we compare 1980 (when genome sequencing was but an imagined fantasy) to 1995; (when multiple genomes were being sequenced) to 2010; (when the human genome and all known human pathogenic organisms will be sequnced (many years in the past).

The bottom line is that the rate of technology advancement is continually increasing and if we base our prognosis on historical experience or perceptions, we will inevitiably be shortchanged.

So, all of the above leads us to only two conclusions: (1) That we should "combat" aging with whatever limited means we

have at our disposal currently.

(2) That we should encourage the "last-ditch" solution of

      cryonics to catch those situations in which our current
      knowledge or metodologies are insufficient.

We cannot in our wildest imaginations perceive what may be possible with future nanotechnolgies, so adhering to the first principle of medicine: "first, do no harm", one can only adopt a conservative approach of doing what one can now, and arranging to do what is possible in the future then.