Posted: Mon, March 18, 2013 | By: Indefinite Life Extension
Interview of Marios Kyriazis, Conducted by Justin Loew (JL)
JL: Hello my friends and welcome to Longecity now, the place with news and views about life extension from around the world. And we truly go around the world in this episode talking with Dr Marios Kyriazis from Cyprus. Now he may call Cyprus home but he has been all over the world practising medicine and advocating life extension for the past couple of decades. In fact, he was the founder of the British Longevity Society back in 1992. He has a more all-encompassing and longer view of ageing. The first question I have is how you became interested in life extension?
MK: My interest started back in the early 1990’s when I was planning to do an additional course. A course that drew my attention was a degree in gerontology run by the University of London. I thought that was an interested area to get into. It was one of the first courses in gerontology then, and my interest started from there.
JL: So, prior to your course in gerontology was there much interest in gerontology or in life extension?
MK: I was concentrating in becoming a medical doctor. I had to go to Italy to study as there was no medical university in Cyprus. As soon as I finished, I realised that there was much more into the subject of living longer, and many other associated areas, so I decided to look into this and see where it leads us.
JL: Are you still practising as a medical doctor?
MK: Yes, of course I am practising every day medicine in the emergency department. Being a doctor is not just doing one thing but it is a lifestyle thing, doing research, lecturing and other associated subject, so yes I am practicing medicine, anti-aging medicine and research into longevity.
JL: And now I would like to ask you what your focus is in anti-aging and extreme longevity?
MK: I see these two areas as entirely different. ‘Longevity’ is the normal process of trying to live to the maximum age that is currently possible i.e. the age of around 110-120 years. This can be achieved through ‘normal’ interventions like lifestyle nutritional measures and, in the future, through nanotechnology and other biotechnological developments. However, ‘extreme longevity’ or ‘extreme life extension’ is something different, in my view. I believe that in order to achieve extreme longevity we need to use a different approach, not just based on biology but also based on other disciplines like physics, mathematics, complexity theories, evolution and the behaviour of complex adaptive systems, all taken together with society, sociology as well as even cosmological (astronomical) developments, because everything in the end comes down to us humans, the way we interact with the environment and the way we change the environment, so in order to achieve extreme life extension we need to use a different approach, not just based on biology alone.
JL: Interesting on the subject of extending human lifespan. What new therapy or technology has you the most excited?
MK: First of all let me say that I am thinking outside the box here. We are not looking for a particular therapy, or an intervention, or stem cells or whatever. I am thinking that aging, the fact that we age, is a very deep situation within nature. I don’t believe that aging will be conquered by taking a pill or by moving a few cells to the left or to the right. If we are ever going to defeat aging we have to up the stakes and think not just along biological terms, but also along other terms such as complex mathematical theories, evolutionary theories, the behaviour of complex systems, interconnectivity in the world as it is now, technology, so it is not just biology we are looking at but also a host of other areas as well. Just to expand on this because it is important. Apart from the approach which is to look at complex systems, the other thing that came to my mind is, think about it, what is there we can do in order to live longer? Do a bit of exercise, don’t smoke, take a few supplements and what else? There is nothing else. We have to wait for new research to come through, stem cells, nanotechnology or other developments, so that we could take it in tablet or injection form and influence our aging. Apart from the ordinary things we have been talking about 20,30 years ago, even 40 years ago (don’t smoke, exercise, fresh air) what else is there in practical terms? Yes, there is a lot of research, and a lot of work done, but this is still in the laboratory. There is very little that can be applied now to the people in the street so that they can extend their lives.
JL: Well you have correctly identified one of the main problems in life extension that we don’t have any significant therapies or technologies that can be applied in a clinical setting. What do you think is the main bottleneck preventing us from moving forward?
MK: It is simple. Our approach is wrong. Our approach to expect the biology of aging alone to provide us answers is not going to lead us to extreme life extension. It may lead us to ordinary life extension and help people live to the age of 100-120 but it is not going to provide the answer to extreme life extension. This is providing the bottleneck. So what I am trying to address with some other forward-looking scientists, is to see if there is a different more complex or sophisticated way to look at the problem, and see if there is a way to get some answers that are applicable not only in the future but also now, to everyday people in the street.
JL: Some of the researchers I spoken with just in the past year have mentioned that money is a big bottleneck for developing any kind of anti-aging therapies or for developing therapies for extreme life extension. Would you agree with that? I know, I have been trying to advocate for extreme life extension for quite a while now, over the past decade, and have spoken to a large number of researchers who are trying to work on this problem, but have said that they just need more money to complete their research. Would you agree with that?
MK: Of course, money is a problem but I don’t think it is the main problem. I think the approach and the way of thinking is a problem. However, if there was a way of getting a few million euros into the research into aging then we would make a lot of progress. I don’t believe that it will take billions, it is only a matter of millions, because it is not just the technology that will make a difference but it is also the natural progress of evolution that will help us as well. Let me explain. We live now in a technological society, but this is the first time in the history of humankind that we are exposed to technological information. This is having an intense effect on our evolution. I believe that basic biological and evolutionary processes exposed to this new technology will change the way they operate and, as a result, if we follow the right steps and engage with technology the right way, we will then experience an increase in lifespan which is based on natural laws, not just technological laws. Basically, one approach we are following now is the engagement with technology and information. Exposure to ‘information that requires action’ up-regulates several aspects of our cognitive processes and demands energy for repairs and for the processing of information. This has an impact on our basic biology, and we are doing some advanced research now to explain exactly how the arrival of information changes the biology of somatic cells which may take immortalisation mechanisms from the germ-line repair processes. As we all know, germ-line cells have the potential for immortality because they repair themselves very effectively. Now, if these mechanisms exist, why can’t we take advantage of them? Why do only our germ-cells take advantage of them? Our research shows that it may be possible to start using some of those mechanisms, by the very fact that we expose ourselves to a relentless arrival of new actionable information (by being connected to the internet, having a lot of social connections, virtual or real, learning and digesting new things and transmitting these to other people, continual feedback of information and knowledge), that up-regulates several processes in out brain. As a result, there is an increased request by the brain for more energy and repair resources in order to deal with this information. At the same time, any age-related damage that exists in the brain, and subsequently in the body, gets repaired as well. So this is our general way of thinking his can be applicable to everyday life now, by exposing ourselves to actionable meaningful information.
JL: One thing I wanted to bring up here is the effort to convince more people that radical life extension is a good thing. You have been around the world in many different countries, what do you see as the main stumbling blocks in different cultures to convince more people that it is a beneficial thing to work toward life extension?
MK: This is a strange situation, because everywhere I have been, people say that they are interested in living longer and healthier, but if I ask them ‘do they want to live forever?’ many say ‘no’. The issue here is that the public at large wants to live longer. When we talk with politicians or to people in power who may be able to influence matters, they are just not interested. They may be thinking about votes. Quite honestly, if they say to the public, ‘vote for me but I will abolish the retirement age completely’ (which is what we as scientists are promoting), to a politician this is suicide. To suggest that people should work forever, for 100 years, albeit in a different career. I don’t know if people think about it seriously or if they say ‘we don’t have the money for this anyway, we have other things to worry about’, or if they say ‘let’s cure cancer first or heart disease and then we will think about aging’.
JL: So what advice would you give to younger people who are just getting into advocacy or extreme life extension, what are the best tips or the best way to convince people or politicians?
MK: Well, everybody needs to do what they are good at. Some people are good at talking to other people, others are unwilling to meet with people face to face but are good at working with the internet, so it should be what each individual likes to do. Start talking to other people, friends, relatives, start having new ideas, join societies or organisations like the Longevity Party, which is quite active all over the world, or Longecity, and then take it from there. Share ideas, spread the message, or start going out with a few placards to sensitise general opinion. The placards could say ‘ageing is not inevitable’, or ‘let’s increase funding into aging’ etc. People see this, the information spreads, the memes spread and eventually people in power will listen and will start doing something about it.
JL: We have been talking about science, advocacy and life extension, I was wondering if you as a medical doctor and life extension advocate, what do you personally do to stay healthy?
MK: Diet-wise I tend to follow the Paleolithic model. We are made to live a life of exploration and constant change. If you see about agriculture, apart from the nutritional effect, there was also a mental effect. Agriculture basically means to do the same things over and over again and wait every year to gather your crops, but the Paleolithic lifestyle is a constant change, constant challenge, exposure to information. Nutritionally, I try to change everything that I eat, eat at irregular times, not have three meals a day because this is not natural. When we were out in the wild we were not eating three meals a day, we were eating whatever there was available, eat a lot one day, less another day. Exercise is the same. I follow a ‘power-law’ model with a lot of low intensity exercises, some moderate intensity and some very rare high intensity exercises. I have an estate in Italy where I practice these, I move logs, run up the mountain, walk a lot or cut down trees. This affects different muscles, different postures, balance, hand coordination and strength. I don’t usually take any regular supplements. If there is something new I will try it as an experiment for myself so that I can recommend it to other people, but I don’t take hundreds of pills like some people, this is my own personal opinion. I try to follow my own advice to always avoid routine, always try different things, never stop in front of an obstacle, always try to find a way around it, come up with new projects and new ideas. My motto is that ‘there is not top, there is only height’, so I am not trying to get to the top and then stop but always trying something different.
JL: That’s a wonderful philosophy to have I would say. Lastly is there anything you would like to promote, any publications or conferences?
MK: We have a conference coming up on the 25th of May in Cyprus. This is one of the first conference where people of different interests, not just biologist but computer scientists, neurologists, social scientists, will come together and present different ideas to see if we can find a common ground and make some progress towards achieving indefinite lifespans. All the lectures will be live online for people to follow.
JL: Well it is wonderful to hear that the upcoming conference on May 25th in Cyprus will be broadcasted on line and you will find more details on the Events forum at Longecity. I thank Dr Kyriazis very much about sharing his thoughts about extending lifespan indefinitely.
This essay was first posted at Longecity, HERE