Life Extension Magazine September 2009
David Kekich 125th Birthday Party
By Kyle Roderick
Would you like to live to 125? How would it feel? What technologies are you going to use to help enrich your quality of life and life span?
Overlooking the timeless blue surf rolling onto Huntington Beach, California, anti-aging entrepreneur David Kekich recently hosted his 125th birthday party. Well, at least that was the party’s premise.
Kekich and about 70 friends projected into the year 2068; accordingly, some revelers came dressed for global warming in head-to-toe sun protection hats and suits. This being southern California, there were also party girls as well as people dressed as space travelers, babies, and Methuselah fruit flies (lab insects specially bred by Michael Rose, PhD to live 4.5 times longer than others). One scientific duo showed up in NASA scientist lab coats replete with Albert Einstein masks, clipboards, and a computer. The physician Lord Lee-Benner, MD, medical director of the Lee-Benner Institute Anti-Aging Clinic in Newport Beach, CA, came as he was in 2009 (www.theantiagingdoctor.com). Dr. Lee-Benner’s wife wore a royal blue sash inscribed, “cee elegans,” in luminous gold letters. (C. elegans is the intensively studied worm that was the first multi-celled animal to have its genome completely sequenced in 1998; researchers have been studying it for years to better understand the molecular biology of aging.)
As the founder of the Maximum Life Foundation, (www.maxlife.org), Kekich works at the nexus of healthy living and positive aging. Clad in a t-shirt proclaiming, “I’m from the future,” he says, “I collaborate with scientists, investors, and other financial experts to identify and support emerging and safe medical technologies so that these can help reverse the human aging process.”
Part of his anti-aging strategy is that he avoids pharmaceutical drugs in favor of holistic formulas, so he takes about 60 Life Extension® supplements a day. “I’ve been a Life Extension® member since 1982,” he says. “If people were to follow what they learn by reading Life Extension®, it could make the difference between personal oblivion and a healthier, happier, and longer life.” As it happens, the Maximum Life Foundation has recently helped fund several anti-aging products that will debut in late 2009 to early 2010.
Other pathfinders in the anti-aging movement celebrating Kekich’s 125th included Bill Andrews, PhD, President and CEO of Sierra Sciences, LLC. “Our company is devoted to finding ways to enrich and expand our health and life spans beyond the theoretical maximum of 125 years,” says Dr. Andrews. “Scientific research has shown that this theoretical maximum is limited because of the length of our telomeres, which shorten as we get older. Our reproductive cells don’t experience this shortening, and thus don’t age, because they contain an enzyme called telomerase that re-lengthens the telomeres as they shorten,” he explains.
Sierra Sciences (www.sierrasci.com) is searching for pharmaceuticals that will induce the production of telomerase in various types of cells. In 2007, Sierra Sciences found its first telomerase-inducing chemical; this is the first chemical ever discovered that activates the telomerase gene without killing the cells. So far, the company has found 63 more chemicals that activate the telomerase gene. One can only hope that Sierra Sciences’ researchers continue to find more and eventually formulate these into safe and effective drugs.
A few of Kekich’s guests flew in from abroad for the party. One international guest was Aubrey de Grey, PhD. Dr. de Grey is a biomedical gerontologist based in Cambridge, England and author of Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime (St. Martin’s Press, 2007). A slim, long-haired man with a beard as long as Father Time’s, Dr. de Grey is the Editor-in-Chief of Rejuvenation Research, a peer-reviewed medical journal focused on intervention in aging. He’s also a prolific author of peer-reviewed medical journal articles. “My focus is on the accumulation, and eventually pathogenic, molecular, and cellular side-effects of metabolism (“damage”). According to Dr. de Grey, this damage “constitutes mammalian aging, and my work seeks to design the interventions necessary for its repair and/or obviation.”
Toward that end, Dr. de Grey has developed a potentially comprehensive plan for such repair, termed Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), which breaks the aging process down into seven major classes of damage and identifies detailed approaches for addressing each one. “A key aspect of SENS is its potential to extend healthy life span,” Dr. de Grey says, “Repair processes can even be less than perfect, as the repair only needs to approach perfection rapidly enough to keep the overall damage below pathogenic levels.” Dr. de Grey has named this required rate of improvement of repair therapies “longevity escape velocity.” One of the more influential academic anti-aging research conferences is organized by Dr. de Grey; his international SENS Research Conference takes place annually in Cambridge, England. For more information on de Grey’s work and conferences, go to: www.sens.org.
Two more intriguing characters at the party were Gregory Benford, PhD, the founder of Genescient, a nutrigenomics company based in Fountain Valley, California, and Genescient’s CEO, Damian Crowe. Nutrigenomics encompasses the study of how foods and/or nutritional supplements affect the expression of genetic information in an individual. Conventional approaches seek to identify individual genetic pathways responsible for disease. Most diseases, however, including the aging-related diseases that Genescient is concerned with, are caused by complex interactions within genomic networks. Nutrigenomics is one of the most potentially powerful realms in the anti-aging field because its approaches are so scientifically complex and precise.
Working with Dr. Rose’s famously long-lived Methuselah fruit flies, Genescient researchers have identified several hundred unique human genomic pathways that may be associated with the diseases of aging. Accordingly, researchers are studying these with the ultimate goal of developing supplements that will help secure biochemical pathways to longevity.
Like everyone at his party, Kekich is grateful to be alive at this point in history. “Scientific and medical advances are happening at intense rates,” Kekich says, “Anti-aging science is presenting humans with potentially life-enhancing knowledge and solutions. I’m committed to using the evidence-based medicine with care to enrich my quality of life and extend my life span.” Or as the motto of Sierra Sciences puts it, “cure aging or die trying.”
“I collaborate with scientists, investors, and other financial experts to identify and support emerging and safe medical technologies so that these can help reverse the human aging process.”