Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ., 11 June 2003
New prize aims to stimulate antiaging discoveries
As if the potential for eternal youth weren't reward enough, a new prize will recognize treatments that reverse the aging process. Physiologist Andrzej Bartke of Southern Illinois University in Springfield will receive the first award in honor of a mouse, developed in his lab, that died 1 week short of its fifth birthday.
Administered by the Methuselah Foundation and conceived by theoretical biologist Aubrey de Grey of Cambridge University, U.K., the Methuselah Mouse Prize comprises two separate awards. The "Reversal Prize," to be instituted July 2004, recognizes the most successful late-life treatment for prolonging life span. The "Postponement Prize," which was awarded at the American Aging Association meeting 8 June in Baltimore, recognizes the oldest-ever mouse of the species Mus musculus.
The foundation bestows prize money according to a precise formula. It's designed to favor interventions as late in life as possible and to avoid depleting the prize fund in a single award. The Postponement Prize payout is proportional to the margin by which the mouse broke the previous life span record. For instance, a mouse that lived twice as long as the previous record holder would receive half the prize fund, because for 50% of its life, it was the oldest mouse ever. The amount of the Reversal Prize is calculated the same way, but for the purpose of this award, the mouse's "prize age" equals twice its age at the time treatment began plus the time it lives after receiving treatment. Therefore, a mouse that began receiving treatment at 1000 days and died at the age of 1500 days would be considered to have reached a prize age of 2500 days: (2 x 1000) + 500. So far, the organizers have raised $5100 for the Postponement Prize and $7160 for the Reversal Prize from several organizations and individuals, and they are accepting donations, says de Grey.
The first winning mouse exceeded the previous longevity record by almost 9 months. Scientists had genetically modified it to lack growth hormone receptor (see Growth Hormone Receptor Knockout Mouse), but the mouse was not used in a longevity study; rather, it was recruited into an insulin-sensitivity study. The mouse was still hanging around when the study concluded, Bartke says. Because the animal was already old enough to be interesting, he says, "we let him live his natural life span, and he surprised us by living and living and living."
The motivation behind the awards, de Grey says, is twofold: to propel research on age reversal out of the realm of science fiction for the general public, and to encourage researchers to pursue therapies that promote longevity late in life (see "Wake-Up Call"). "There's a lot of entertainment value in watching documentaries on [antiaging] research," says de Grey, but he hopes to move such research from amusement to reality in people's minds. By drawing attention to researchers who have successfully turned back the clock, the foundation's organizers hope to increase public funding for such research.
June 11, 2003
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