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Episode 592
The Doctor's Farmacy

How Reprogramming Our Genes Can Extend Our Lives

Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

Tap the subscribe button and new shows will be added to your library.

If you’re using a different device, our show is available on the following platforms.

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All living things are programmed with a certain lifespan, which can be dramatically different from species to species.

Humans now, in general, live twice as long as our ancestors, thanks to environmental changes and advances in medicine. But most of us spend the last years of our lives without the quality of life we really want. We’ve come to identify a slew of symptoms and chronic diseases as a natural part of aging, but do they really have to be?

Today I’m excited to talk to Dr. George Church all about the latest science on reprogramming our genes to extend our healthspan and lifespan.

Dr. Church and I dive into our conversation discussing the top things that prevent disease and enhance longevity. He explains how we can use new technologies to repair and reprogram cells to a younger state and treat the diseases of aging in the process. Gene editing and gene therapy are two treatments we discuss in-depth, which Dr. Church defines and shares some exciting examples of.

The human lifespan has grown substantially, and it could keep going. We talk about living youthfully past 100 using the latest genetic therapies, plus so much more.

I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

Here are more of the details from our interview (audio):

  1. The top things that prevent disease and enhance longevity
    (7:06 )
  2. Defining aging as a disease and treating it as such
    (8:24)
  3. Reprogramming and repairing cells to a younger state
    (12:24)
  4. The future, and challenges, of delivering Yamanaka factors for cell reprogramming
    (15:05)
  5. Gene editing vs gene therapy
    (28:02)
  6. Using gene therapy to reverse disease and lengthen lifespan
    (34:44 )
  7. Animal-to-human organ transplants
    (37:34)
  8. Can we live youthfully to 100 years old and beyond?
    (44:31)
  9. How much and what types of protein do we need for healthy aging?
    (50:30)
  10. Using gene editing to bring back mammoths to restore damaged ecosystems
    (1:00:53)

Guest

 
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

 
Dr. George Church

Dr. George Church is a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, a founding member of the Wyss Institute, and director of PersonalGenomes.org, the world’s only open-access information on human genomic, environmental, and trait data. Dr. Church is known for pioneering the fields of personal genomics and synthetic biology. He developed the first methods for the first genome sequence, and dramatic cost reductions since then (down from $3 billion to $600), contributing to nearly all “next-generation sequencing” methods and companies.

His team invented CRISPR for human stem cell genome editing and other synthetic biology technologies and applications—including new ways to create organs for transplantation, gene therapies for aging reversal, and gene drives to eliminate Lyme disease and malaria. Dr. Church is the director of IARPA & NIH BRAIN Projects and the National Institutes of Health Center for Excellence in Genomic Science. He is the author of Regenesis.

Show Notes

  1. Get a copy of George Church and Ed Regis’ book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves, here.

Transcript Note: Please forgive any typos or errors in the following transcript. It was generated by a third party and has not been subsequently reviewed by our team.

Introduction:
Coming up on this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy.

Dr. George Church
We can take cells from an 80-year-old person and reprogram them to behave as if they were embryonic.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Welcome to The Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman. That’s pharmacy with an F, a place for conversations that matter. Today’s conversation with Dr. George Church is about longevity. And if you’re interested in health, in how we avoid all the disease of aging and what underlies aging itself and how we even may end up escaping death, which we’ll talk about, you’re going to listen to this conversation and love it. Dr. George Church is a professor at Harvard Medical School. He’s a founding member of the Wyss Institute, director of the personalgenomes.org, the world’s only open access information on human genomic, environmental and trait data. He actually helped developed the first ability to sequence the human genome, which is pretty amazing. And the cost went down from three billion to about $600 to do the whole genome sequence. And he is contributed to all next generation sequencing methods and companies. He’s really quite a historic figure in science.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
His team invented CRISPR, which is about gene editing for the human stem cell genome editing project and other synthetic biology technologies and applications, including lots of new ways to create organs for transplant, gene therapies for reversing aging, and genes drives to eliminate Lyme disease and malaria. I’d love to hear about that. And Dr. George Church is the director of I-A-R-P-A or IARPA, which is like DARPA, but for health, it’s like a deep science intelligence, and NH BRAIN projects in the National Institute Health Center for Excellence in Genomic Science. He’s co-authored more than 625 papers, 156 patent publications, one book called Regenesis, and his honors include Franklin Bower Laureate for Achievement in Science, a Time 100 most important people, and the election to the National Academies of Science and Engineering. So welcome, George. Can I call you George?

Dr. George Church
Thank you. A very generous introduction. Thank you.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
As a functional medicine doctor, I focus on how do we optimize our biology and our health systems, and to really rethink disease completely. And I think that what you’re talking about is a really different framework for understanding aging and disease from the traditional disease model. So most doctors are focused on the downstream diseases, but in terms of aging, it happens much higher up in the biological hierarchy. And so, I’d love to sort of… how we can rethink our ability to approach healthy aging, what the science is telling us now and where we’re headed, and just love you to riff on that for a while. And then we’ll dive deep into some of your other work and thinking.

Dr. George Church
Right. So different species of organisms live for different amounts of times, kind of programmed into our being. Mice live about two years, and bowhead whales live about 200. And so that’s one evidence that there’s a program in there. It doesn’t mean that it’s immutable. In principle, it can be changed genetically, or to a limited extent, epigenetically. We’ve improved our longevity worldwide on the order of one year every four years over the last 170 years. That’s kind of steady progress. And we had a slight slowdown recently, due to diet, sedentary life, high medical costs, suicide.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Going backwards.

Dr. George Church
… drugs. But we haven’t really gone that far backwards. It’s just a tiny little blip so far, but we need to be very cautious of this. In no way have we gone back 170 years, but maybe we’ve gone back a year or two. But there’s a lot of people, who their longevity is greatly affected by their, not just their environment, but the genetics that they have, and we need to pay attention to them as well, not just the healthy.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So looking at the whole aging framework, what are the top few things you can think of that are so important to actually prevent disease and live longer? Just curious how you are thinking about it.

Dr. George Church
Well, so I think a lot of the people that are listening and watching this podcast are already doing everything they can do.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Maybe. I would assume that.

Dr. George Church
Exercise and watching your diet, sleeping well, having good social interactions. These are all well-known at least, whether it’s convenient is another matter. But they will plateau at some level that’s based on your genetics, environmental components outside of your control. And the genetics can include things that are species specific, like being a human being. That doesn’t mean that’s the absolute limit, however, because we have changed ourselves radically as species. That’s why we live almost twice as long now, through things like vaccines and…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Public health system.

Dr. George Church
… better diagnostics for cancer, and better treatments.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. So from some of the framework of the hallmarks of aging, this was something that’s being talked about a lot in the halls of academia and research on aging, and there are things that happen to us as we age that seem to underlie all diseases, DNA damage, mitochondrial damage, trouble with proteins, inflammation, nutrient sensing problems, hormonal dysregulation, microbiome changes, epigenetic changes. And so, there’s nine, 10, however fine you slice them hallmarks, and there’s a lot we’re learning about how these phenomena that happen in our body actually are driving all these downstream diseases. So the whole concept of aging is being challenged from just being a normal process to actually being a disease. And the WHO recently created a ICD-11 diagnostic category for aging as a disease. So, can you speak to that concept of aging as a disease versus just a normal phenomena, and what we know about that and how we actually can start to treat aging?

Dr. George Church
Well, I’m happy with it, however it’s defined. The ICD change is okay, but I think we could have, and could still, just treat it as a natural process that results in a series of age-related diseases. And then we can get FDA approvals for interventions in that natural process, as it causes disease, as either preventative or rapid reversal of those diseases of aging. Almost every major source of morbidity and mortality, especially in industrialized nations, are due to… sorry, either due to or greatly exacerbated by aging, even accidental death. The probability falling down is higher. And your probability of not getting up, probability of having a bad outcome for an infectious disease, also very steeply age-related. So I think if we deal with the underlying causes of all these age-related diseases, we can stay within the framework of disease, without necessarily defining aging as such. To me, either way is fine. But we have been, in our development of medicines, focused on whatever the FDA considers acceptable.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Well, but what’s so interesting to me is that David Sinclair and others talk about how, if we treat the hallmarks of aging, we don’t actually have to treat the diseases downstream. So we don’t have to treat heart disease, dementia, cancer, diabetes. They’re all really one phenomena that manifests as different branches on a tree, but it’s all the same trunk. And so, how do we start to attack those things, because traditional medicines… Take statins for your heart disease and do cancer screening. And pretty much for dementia there’s no recommendation, and maybe healthy lifestyle. Diabetes, obviously, eat better. But I think that there’s not really an understanding of how we really start to treat these hallmarks. What is your framework around how we begin address and treat these hallmarks?

Dr. George Church
Well, I agree that it’s quite likely that if you get at the hallmarks, if you get all of them, you may have to get all of them, because any one of them escapes, then you will die by that pathway. We know a great deal about each of these nine or 10 pathways at a molecular level, at a physiological… We know it. We don’t know everything, but we know enough to start the medical engineering process in a big way. But we do have to get it all at once. And many of the traditional bits of advice, really only get one or two. So they are interconnected. It’s like whack-a-mole, you can’t let any of them escape.

Dr. George Church
The way that my group has been mostly focusing on this, is by restoring a younger internal state. That is to say from a system’s medicine standpoint, you can look at things like the proteins and the nucleic acids in the cell. And if they are youthful on the whole, then the cell will behave as a youthful cell. And if all the cells in your body are behaving as youthful, then you will be. So for example, and this is a very potent example. Is we can ake cells from an 80-year-old person and reprogram them to behave as if they’re embryonic. And probably anywhere in between. But definitely that dramatic change from 80 years old to close to zero is been proven over and over again. It’s a standard tool in my field. It isn’t something you can use clinically, however, because if you changed every one of the cells in your body into an embryonic cell, you would no longer look like an adult.

Dr. George Church
But you can do partial reprogramming. That’s called reprogramming. Shinya Yamanaka got a Nobel prize for it two decades ago. [Inaudible 00:10:47] far back. But it shows that it’s not just about damage. Those cells can be restored to an earlier state, and then they will… And there’s another way of resetting them, which is well-known, which is called cloning. You can take a nucleus out of an adult mouse and put it into a egg and it will develop into a mouse. Then you can take that adult nucleus and do it again. And you can do that 25 times, and you can’t just pass it off as, “Oh, this is a selection that the egg and sperm are selecting for healthy…” the ones that fix their… So repair is certainly a state of the cell. If a cell thinks it’s young, it will repair the damage, for the most part.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, that’s just astounding. So essentially, what you’re saying is through the Yamanaka factors, which are transcription factors that this Dr. Yamanaka found in Japan years ago, won the Nobel prize for, that those factors we have when we’re younger and they tell us how to develop, can help us program our genes to create who we are and which organ and tissue. But by using these to get silence at some point in our life, but by turning them back on or inserting them into the cell, I want to get into how we do that, and then flipping them on, we can literally reprogram our biology back to a younger self.

Dr. George Church
That’s right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’ve heard David talk about this, David Sinclair, and I’m like, “Well, this is wild.” So how far are we from actually human trials, where we’ll be able to take these Yamanaka factors, insert them through some technology, which I’ll love you to explain, and then turn them on when appropriate? And let’s say I’m 62, but I don’t want any gray hair anymore, I got a few gray hairs coming in, or I want to get rid of my wrinkles or my joints are bothering me, so how do we begin to think about that? Is that something that’s coming down the pike soon? Are we far away from that? And what are the implications for that?

Dr. George Church
Well, you can typically get some idea of how close it is to human use, if you’re going through animal preclinical trials, because those, if they’re successful, they lead to human clinical trials, which then lead to broad use, if all goes well. So we have animal trials that we’ve done for both, for the subset of the Yamanaka factors. They’re sometimes abbreviated O-S-K-M, and so we’ve done O-S-K, is a little safer, and those have been shown in mice. And then we have another set of proteins, these are natural human proteins, we’ve done another set, which are things like fibroblast growth factor 21, and alpha-Klotho, and put those into [inaudible 00:13:41] that’s been tested in mice and in dogs. And the dog, this is work… Noah Davidson was a post-doctoral fellow in my lab and now has his own company called Rejuvenate Bio, and those are a veterinary product now for dogs, which is a good way of really testing it.

Dr. George Church
It is better than a clinical trial because you get people’s pets, and dogs have a fairly similar lifestyle to humans, they live in a similar environment, they sometimes eat the same food and they’re loving and they make eye contact, the whole bit. So that’s a terrific segue into, I think, even better than primate trials. So those are all moving very, very close. And they have been shown… We’ve tested them initially on four diseases of aging. Now it’s up to about seven diseases of aging. So when you’re getting all these diseases that have very little in common, other than they’re age-related, then you’re probably getting at the core part of aging.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I mean, these diseases may not seem related, but they’re often driven by insulin resistance, like dementia, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, which are the main things that kill us other than lung diseases, which are usually caused by smoking. I mean, those are all driven by insulin resistance, even increased inflammation that goes along with aging, even the increased risk of infections and decreased immunity. So I think there’s a kind of unifying frame about that, but it seems like these Yamanaka-

Dr. George Church
Yeah. The diabetogenic part of the hallmarks of aging are just part of it, because if you completely cured cancer and completely cured all these diabetes, like metabolic diseases, you still would have a lot of people dying of age-related diseases. It’s been estimated that maybe you’d add two years on average to the population longevity, if you completely eliminated cancer. And probably a similar thing for the metabolic diseases. So you really have to hit the whole circle of hallmarks of aging.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And you think that the Yamanaka factors are the key to this, or are there’s one part?

Dr. George Church
Well, I mentioned, the ones that are furthest along are not Yamanaka factors. The problem with the Yamanaka factors is that they are cell autonomous, which means that you put them in cell number one, and for the most part, they do not affect any of the cells nearby. Now a healthy cell will send off healthy vibes in various forms, protein molecules, but for the most part, you fixed one, the cell you delivered it to. But these other ones I was talking about, like FGF21 and alpha-Klotho and TGF beta receptor two, these are intentionally diffusing out their… Wherever you put them, whatever cells you put them in, they will be releasing these molecules into the bloodstream.

Dr. George Church
And so, it’s kind of taking a pill every hour for the rest of your life, or eating the right foods or whatever it is. It’s reprogramming you epigenetically, all the time, and in every cell. And that’s the problem with delivery, is if we could deliver to the germline, the way we do for some of our animal experiments, pigs, you could affect every cell on the body because they all grow out of one cell. But when you’re delivering it in an adult, it doesn’t necessarily… A gene delivery, like the Yamanaka factors, do not go to every cell in the body.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh, wow. So that kind of limits what they do, so you have to inject them where you want them, like right [inaudible 00:17:36] joint.

Dr. George Church
And even if you inject them where you want them, they won’t necessarily go to every cell within the-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The tissue.

Dr. George Church
… diffusion radius of the injection. So delivery is a problem. It’s not just where you inject. You can also deliver some of these proteins orally. I mean, they can make it past the stomach acid and so forth. There are not many examples of this, but you can do it. But anyway, it doesn’t matter how you deliver them, intravenously, intramuscularly, or orally, they don’t then get delivered to all the cells in your body. And since, at least all the stem cells in your body, they also don’t get to all of those. So at a minimum, those are what you need to do to really get serious impact on these age related diseases.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So if you did stem cells, for example, immune stem cells or stem cells for joint or heart, would that then sort create the germline that would actually help all the downstream heart cells [inaudible 00:18:41]?

Dr. George Church
Yes, whatever stem cells you get will then help all its progeny, all the baby stem cells and all the differentiated cells that come from it. But you don’t necessarily get all the stem cells. So if you deliver it intravenously, you only get a subset of the stem cells, so the rest of them… Now you could say, well, the rest of them are going to age and die and doesn’t matter. So that means the ones you got will then proliferate and take over the job, which is fine. I certainly wouldn’t rule that out as a possibility, that you can deliver Yamanaka factors to enough percentage of each category of stem cell.

Dr. George Church
By the time you’re an adult, you don’t really have too many pluripotent stem cells that you had when you were a embryo, that can produce everything, so you have to get each category, you have to get the blood producing stem cells. And some of them don’t have a lot. So for example, there aren’t that many neuronal stem cells. There are a few, mainly in the hippocampus. They’re not quite as many cardiac stem cells as one would like. So if you get a subset of something that’s already very small, it may not be enough. We don’t know. These are really interesting, intriguing possibilities, but I plan for the worst and hope for the best, rather than assuming the best.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I mean, this whole idea of reprogramming our biology to a younger you, is truly astounding. And what you’re saying, is now we sort of know how to do it in animals, for the whole animal, but not in humans. And it’s hard to figure out where the trajectory this is going. I mean, my understanding, the Yamanaka factors, is they actually reprogram you to this inducible pluripotent stem cell, which in English means you’ve got a stem cell that it reprograms it to that can become anything. But you’re saying that is a little tricky when it comes to humans.

Dr. George Church
Yeah. It’s not that we don’t know how to do it for humans. We might know how to do it for humans, but it’s going to take a while to get it into clinical trials. The thing that’s tricky is delivery, both in animals and in humans. In animals, you have one thing you can’t do in humans, which is germline delivery. It’s not particularly useful in humans, because most of us, almost eight billion of us, are already past that stage. And we deserve some medical care that will make us youthful longer. And germline is off the table anyway, at least temporarily, for ethical reasons.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. That’s challenging. So root programming is coming, but we don’t know if it’s five, 10, 15, 50 years, right?

Dr. George Church
Well, I think it’s unlikely that it’s 50 years. It either will fail for some fundamental reason, which I think is unlikely, or will be moving into clinical trials within the next two years, or 10. In that range, is the clinical trials. There’s a lot of different ways of doing this. I think a lot of the more promising ones, at least from my bias point of view, are based on gene therapy, which is really protein therapy with naturally occurring proteins that decrease with age, or possibly some that increase with age, reducing those. So I think we’re very close, and I think there’s going to be a number of different groups trying different things. And one or more of them will work.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I mean, from a selfish point of view, oh, you obviously have gray hair, so is there any hope for us? Are we going to die before we figure this out, or is this coming sooner than our lifetimes are going to end?

Dr. George Church
Well, literally, if the clinical trials start two to 10 years from now, some of us will be in those clinical trials. And then if they work, then some of us will already be fixed. One of the nice things about gene therapy is that, in principle, it’s once and done. You don’t have to be taking a pill every hour for the rest of your life. It’s doing that automatically. You’ve got all the natural physiological feedback loops that modulate it, and so forth, rather than having to measure your blood glucose and all that.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So you’re more excited about gene editing than the Yamanaka factor reprogramming, it sounds like.

Dr. George Church
No, I’m interested in gene therapy. It doesn’t have to be editing. The Yamanaka factors is gene therapy, in that you’re moving in three or four genes into some subset of the cells, of what I described, that Rejuvenate Bio is using that. And they’re also using a different set of three genes, which are like fibroblast growth factor 21, that spread out from the cells more actively than you get. So there’s two different strategies. One where just fixing a subset of the cells and hoping that they will proliferate and displace the ones that didn’t get the gene therapy. And the other one is getting gene therapies, where no matter what cells you get, they’re going to be secreting the right proteins for life. And those are both being tested simultaneously.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So tell us more about the gene editing and the gene therapy part, because that’s a really [inaudible 00:23:56] expertise you helped invent, CRISPR, which is the technology for gene editing. So tell us, where are we at with that science and what are we looking for clinically from it, and what’s actually happening now and where are we going?

Dr. George Church
So gene editing, well, almost everything I’ve talked about so far is gene therapy that was not called gene editing. Now, it could be gene editing grows to include everything, but the original gene therapies was sort of gene replacement or gene augmentation, where you’re increasing things that have gotten lower. Editing is typically either removing a gene’s function or changing it precisely. And it’s usually thought of in terms of inherited diseases, where you might have someone with very serious disease like sickle cell or potentially Alzheimer’s or something like that, where you go in and change one base pair back to what it should be, what it is in the healthy population.

Dr. George Church
Now in practice, that again, has a delivery problem, but it’s a smaller one in that you now have a smaller number of cells that you need to fix. It could be for hemoglobinopathies, like sickle cell. You just have to fix the precursor cells, the erythroid cells, that produce the red blood cells. So in a way, you have to deliver it… In fact, you can take those cells out of the body, the myopic stem cells, fix them and then put them back in. So there’s a lot of interesting opportunities that come when you’re dealing with specific inherited diseases. And that’s what editing is good for.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. So basically, you have a gene for sickle cell anemia, you cut it out, you put in the right generation, and then the sickle cell anemia’s gone.

Dr. George Church
Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But the other thing you’re talking about is gene therapy, where you’re augment is like the bionic man, since you’re augmenting a human, a genome with genes that produce different proteins that have beneficial functions or that reverse aging somehow. Can you talk about what that is? Because this is, I think, interesting for people that haven’t really… know about reprogramming, maybe, and gene editing, but this whole idea of gene therapy seems a little bit kind of…

Dr. George Church
Well, gene therapy greatly precedes most of what we’ve been talking about. We have been talking about gene therapy. All the things that we’re pursuing at Rejuvenate Bio are either Yamanaka factors or these growth factors. And you, basically, can either introduce DNA or RNA, either in a viral capsid, just not the virus, but capsid, the protein coat, or a non-virus lipid nanoparticle. And probably, the thing that most people are familiar with, that uses all the same tools as gene therapy, and basically some people call gene therapy, are the new COVID vaccines.

Dr. George Church
There’s one category, which is double stranded DNA in a viral capsid, and another category, which is single stranded RNA in a lipid nanoparticle. And most people have gotten one of those two categories, and it is… I think a lot of us probably owe our lives to that particular kind of gene therapy. It’s been applied to a huge fraction of the human race, and it has costs as low as $2 a dose. And you really don’t need that many doses to have protection. With some vaccines, you have lifetime protection. That doesn’t seem to be case for COVID, but that’s not the fault of the gene therapy [inaudible 00:27:26]-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No, it’s the virus.

Dr. George Church
It’s the virus itself. Yeah, exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s changing, yeah. Well that’s fascinating. So can we imagine a gene therapy to help us recover our memory or to repair our joints or to improve our hearing? I’m noticing my hearing may be not as great as it used to be. So how do these things work in terms of what people suffer from day to day?

Dr. George Church
Well, it’s quite possible that some of them will be very hard to reverse. I mean, for example, if you have an amputation, there are animals that will regrow limbs. So it’s not completely out of the question. Or potentially, we could grow a limb in a lab and transplant it. We’re getting good at transplanting a variety of organs. But many of the other things are reversible, and so there’ll be… The hair cells that you said, hearing, there are hair cells that we lose, but our avian birds do not lose them with age.

Dr. George Church
That’s some gene that got messed up somewhere in the mammalian lineage, that is fine in our reptilian and avian brethren. So that might be fixable too, if you get it early enough, if you can turn those… if you can turn some kind of stem cell into hair cell stem cells, they are in birds. So there are a lot of things that seem like the damage is so severe you couldn’t fix it, but even though this might be fixable. If you convince a certain subset of cells that they’re embryo-like or fetus-like, then they will go in and they’ll do the job. They did it once before, they can do it again.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. It’s almost like the fountain of youth lies within our own cells that we know how to turn it on, basically. That’s what you’re saying.

Dr. George Church
Well, we know it does, because the babies come from adult cells.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Exactly. Right. Exactly. But most people don’t think, “Oh, if I’m 80 years old, I can take a cell of mine, turn into a younger cell and then reprogram it to become a younger me.” That’s just not in people’s framework.

Dr. George Church
And so, we even do this every day in the lab, is we take… Most of the stem cells that we use in the lab are from, actually from my left arm. So we took skin cells, we reprogram them. And now they’re used in labs all over the world. We can make little things that look like embryos or organs, and they do a lot of developmental biology in the Petri plate.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
On your cells, [inaudible 00:30:05] on your cells.

Dr. George Church
Well, it doesn’t necessarily help me. We’re not putting them back into me. But we could someday, develop either person-specific, personalized cells, or we could develop generic cells that could help everybody without further modification. And that might be more cost effective, but it’s going to be a little more challenging, technically.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Amazing. It’s really quite amazing. I mean, the whole framework of gene therapy is just wild. And I think, what I wonder, is you did this study in your lab, where you use a small number of gene therapies to target five more disease of aging. What did you find in that research? What were the results?

Dr. George Church
Right. We’ve published four papers on different ways of delivering and different genes that are being delivered. So the two main delivery methods are using capsid proteins from AAV virus and cytomegalovirus, and the genes, I’ve been listing them, but in addition to the ones I’ve listed already, there’s also follistatin and telomerase genes. All of these have been tried, and essentially all of the papers, peer reviewed papers, have shown very significant reversal of age-related disease models. Some of them might be induced to accelerate the process because we don’t want to wait, even for the short lifetime of a mouse. Some have shown very significant longevity in packs. That wasn’t the goal. The goal was-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You have.

Dr. George Church
… reversing the age-related diseases. But we measured the longevity anyway. And on the order of 1.8 times longer life.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow. So that’s a lot longer, so I’d be living to 200 or something, right? Wow. That’s amazing. And so, you saw which age-related diseases change?

Dr. George Church
So some of these are disease models, but there’s a cardiac aortic constriction model, there’s kidney failure, there’s high fat diet obesity, diabetes type two neurodegenerative. Our most recent one is a mitral valve disease, which is very common in a particular breed of Spaniels. Typically die four to six years earlier than other dogs.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Amazing. So let’s say, I know you’re a Harvard scientist and you can’t speculate too much, but if you had kidney failure and you were about to face the consequences of that, knowing what you know, what would you do? Would you take one of these gene therapies?

Dr. George Church
Well, probably, that brings us to another related topic, which is, I would probably take an organ, either by normal organ donor route, but there’s a long waiting line, and most people that could benefit from organ, die waiting. And that would probably be me as well. So instead, what’s happening is we’re in clinical trials now, and still some preclinical trials, on organs that are transplanted from animals, like pigs.

Dr. George Church
So we’ve engineered pigs in 42 different ways, or sometimes a little bit less than that, and 42 genetic changes. And then those pigs grow up to be normal breeding pigs. So you don’t have to do that every time. You get it into their germline, and then all their progeny are engineered in the same way. They’re healthy and those organs have been transplanted into primates and humans, and the longest survival so far is 600 days. And those organ recipients are still alive at 600 days. So it’s looking promising, we’ll be going into formal clinical trials, hopefully over the next few years.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So basically, the idea is you take a pig and you reprogram its genes to be like humans, so it won’t be rejected or it’ll still work. And then you can put in a pig kidney or a pig heart, or a pig liver, or a pig whatever.

Dr. George Church
Almost every organ that we currently transplant human-to-human could be done with pigs. And this is [inaudible 00:34:41]-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So, instead of bacon, we’re going to get organs. Is that what you’re saying?

Dr. George Church
Yeah, and muscles. Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s amazing. That’s quite amazing. So basically, that would be an extraordinary advance, to not people wait for heart and kidney transplants. I mean, ideally, not having them in the first place is important. And that’s some of the other things you’re talking about, how do we address the hallmarks of aging that lead to needing a new heart or a new kidney

Dr. George Church
But not all organ failures are due to aging. So the crisis includes accidents, workplace accidents, automobile accidents. It includes genetic problems. People are born with defective valves, and so forth. So [inaudible 00:35:28] there’s a variety of non age-related reasons for organ failure. Yes, prevention, I totally agree, is better. Prevention will require serious medicines as well.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So from what I’m hearing, the future of aging kind of looks like this. We are understanding the root cause of aging. We’re understanding these underlying mechanisms that drive all disease. And by using a whole series of strategies, and it may include lifestyle, medications, gene therapies, gene editing, we’re going to be able to program us to be younger. We’ll be able to actually avoid those diseases in the first place. But you’re also talking about how… And if we get them, we’ll be able to turn back the clock. We’re also talking about, if people have already run out the clock and have burnt out their organs and burnt out their joints, that we’re going to be able to print new ones, create new parts, in ways that we haven’t even been able to imagine before. And even the 3D printing of organs is another thing, I think, you’re working on, right, not just the [inaudible 00:36:23].

Dr. George Church
But that’s much further behind than the pig. The pigs are already in clinical trials. The 3D printed organs are not fully functional, for most of them. Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So the transplantation has been done in humans, is what you said, not just animals, for the pig.

Dr. George Church
That’s correct. There’s two that I know of, two human trials. They weren’t really formal clinical trials. They were just individual humans. One was already on life support, brain dead. And the other one lasted for two months. So the survival in the preclinical animal trial, non-human primate trials, is 600 days. In humans, the record, I think… Well, actually, the record for, not for pigs, but for chimpanzee to human, which is no longer really ethical, but back in 1963, the record was not nine months for survival.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s amazing. So how does aging look in five, 10, 20, 50 years? How will this be transformed? How will our approach for medicine, how will our therapies be different? What’s coming down the pike.

Dr. George Church
Yeah, I don’t think it’s out of the question that we will have one of these general age-related disease reversal cures out of clinical trials, meaning approved by the FDA for general use, for at least one disease. And if it works for all diseases, if it’s approved for one, then it’s a very simple process to then try it for other diseases, because it’s an approved drug. It makes the further clinical trials much easier. So I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens within the next decade. I think the organ transplants is going to be much more powerful than we even think, because it’s not just about dealing with the crisis of donors, absence of donors, it’s also, we can make enhanced organs. We couldn’t make enhanced organs in humans because it’s just not ethical, but we can make them.

Dr. George Church
So by enhanced, I mean, that are resistant to pathogens, resistant to various immune diseases, possibly tolerant to a series of other drugs we’d like to produce by changing their immune system, senescence resistant, cancer resistant. We know how to do all of these in animals, germline, but we can’t do germline in humans, and we can’t do human-to-human transfers of engineered organs. So this is the way to get enhanced. We could have enhanced all the blood cells, white blood red blood cells could be, by getting engineered hematopoietic stem cells, either from human stem cells or from pigs.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s like getting a software update. It’s like getting the newest version, better version, more powerful, more features. That’s pretty wild. And in a way it’s a little bit sci-fi, because you’re not talking about just keeping us a status quo. You’re talking about actually helping evolution go faster.

Dr. George Church
Yeah. It’s not classical evolution, which is via your children. It’s more like cultural evolution and technological evolution. And almost a huge fraction of our technologies are enhancements. If you think of cars, jets, cellphones, you name it, electric, all sorts of electric lights and so on, these are enhancements relative to our ancestors. And I think this will be the era of biological technologies.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s pretty exciting. I hope we stay alive, you and I, long enough to actually take advantage of it. And that brings us [inaudible 00:40:10]-

Dr. George Church
We’re already taking advantage of it. I mean, you probably took the gene therapy vaccine, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Well, I did actually, did the JJ one, but yeah, that’s what I got at the time. But yeah, for sure. But I think, in terms of optimizing our health, longevity, it seems like there’s the low tech, which is what really is profoundly effective, but it’ll only take us so far, maybe to a hundred. We’re talking about these other features of longevity research that are going to maybe take us to 200, or maybe actually to what you call longevity escape philosophy. I’d love you to talk about what that means. Is it real? What are the scientific advances around that now? And how close are we in? Should we even be bothered, because what’s going to happen when we never die? Because what makes us human is that we have mortality, and why the gods were so upset in Greek mythology is that they never died.

Dr. George Church
Yeah. I don’t think that mortality necessarily is the defining feature of humanity. I think it’s more about our ability to reflect on the past, even ancient past, and to use that to help us plan the future. I think that’s really one… And also caring for other human beings in a way that goes beyond normal paternal and fraternal caring. So I don’t think humanity is at risk here. Before I talk about escape philosophy, I just come in on the hundred. Yes, we can get to a hundred if we live very well, and if we’re lucky at the genetic lottery. But most people, when they get to a hundred, even the super, even the centenarians, are not very youthful, honestly. We celebrate their hundredth birthday, but they’re usually sitting down, not running around the room like a kid would. They’re not doing back flips and black diamond skiing, usually.

Dr. George Church
There may be a few exceptions. But we want to have the average 100-year-old be very youthful, so that there’s no doubt in their mind that they feel the way they did when they were 25. In a way, to some extent, that’s more important, medium term goal, than escape philosophy. Now escape philosophy will probably follow from that. If you can get a hundred year old to behave like a 25 year old, you’ll probably solve the problem. It doesn’t mean you’ll live forever. I mean, there’s still… The sun’s going to explode or turn into red-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s a few billion years down the road.

Dr. George Church
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there are all kinds of things. Maybe thousands of years from now, there’ll be an asteroid. But anyway, I think if we get to the point where we can reset a 60-year-old to 30, then we’re probably, when that 30-year-old, that new 30-year-old becomes 60, we’ll reset it to 30. We might be there. So, that’s a good goal. I mean, I think you’re raising the ethical point of what happens when everybody keeps resetting from 60 to 30 forever? Some people worry about population explosion. I think there’s a subset of us that worry about population implosion. That is to say, if you look at current demographics, everybody is moving to cities. I mean, somewhere between 65 and 80% of us are in cities, and it could be 97% soon. And when they move to cities, they change their goals for procreation from about seven children per family to about 1.2. Now, 1.2 means implosion, it means population keeps shrinking over long periods of time.

Dr. George Church
And then, another source of possible population reduction, aside from death, is immigration. So it used to be that there’d be a drain of people from Europe into America. Now there’s going to be a drain of people from Earth to elsewhere. And so, we have to think about those two things, the urban reduction and fecundity and the fact that there is a big universe out there that we might be wanting to participate in, if nothing else, to have a backup for Earth. Not because we’re going to pollute Earth. Maybe Earth will do just fine. But we want to have a backup that saves us from asteroids and solar flares and all the rest.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Well, I mean, I don’t know if I want to live on Mars. It doesn’t [inaudible 00:45:00]-

Dr. George Church
Well, you don’t have to. I mean, because it’s like, most of the people stayed in Europe. It was just the crazy, brave, the ones that had a different religion, that conflicted with… those are the ones that went to America. Or the prisoners. It doesn’t have to be everybody. But the point is, it does drain the population.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Amazing. Wow. I mean, we’re almost eight billion, but I think we were at one billion-ish at the turn of the 1900s. So we’ve gone up quite a bit. I think we have room to go down. Might not be a bad idea.

Dr. George Church
Well, yeah. We also have room to go up, without getting off the planet. I’ve estimated that we can probably handle 20 billion, if we used our farmland differently. I think we could… Right now, a typical human uses… A typical vegan human might use nine acres of land. And then, if you’re really into beef as your sole source of food, it’s going to be maybe 10, 20 times that. So I think it could fit into the size of your house. You could have a footprint, which one small house is enough to produce all the food you need for a small family.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So clearly, I’m sure agriculture isn’t your expertise, but it sounds like the conversation around protein and aging is an interesting one, and you’re implying something there, both in terms of planetary health, but also in terms of longevity. And I know a lot of people in the longevity field are talking about reducing protein, reducing animal protein, to actually help keep mTOR quieter and help autophagy and the recycling of proteins and cells and the cleanup crew, so to speak, of our system. I’d love to hear your perspective on that, because I think… I have maybe a little bit contrarian view and I’d love to hear what you’re thinking about it and chat about it for a minute.

Dr. George Church
Yeah. [Inaudible 00:46:59]-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Sure, [inaudible 00:47:00] having more protein or less protein as we age. And what about animal versus non animal and how does that implicate itself in all the hallmarks of aging?

Dr. George Church
Yeah, so I may have a different contrarian. We may both be contrarian, but slightly different. But first the first thing I want to point out is it’s not a one size fit all thing. It’s not let everybody that ages needs to increase or decrease their protein. It’s that some people are born or become allergic to certain kinds of foods as they grow up, so there are people that are extremely sensitive to lactose. There are people who very sensitive to fructose and other [inaudible 00:47:39], more so than the average. There’s MODY, is a highly predictable genetic predisposition to diabetes. And the list goes on. There are people that are actually allergic to animal proteins. They can’t handle the sugars that are on the surfaces of the animal, of non-human animals. And the list goes on. So you need to be aware of your genetics. A lot of us are very self righteous that, “Oh, we’re healthy because we eat well and we exercise,” but we also won the genetic lottery.

Dr. George Church
And so we need to be very cautious about all the other people around us who can’t get the same thing. So that’s one thing. I think that animals are very problematic for a lot of people, because they increase cholesterol. And that alone is a problem. But in addition, they have planetary problems, like use of antibiotics. I mean, that it could be regulated, but it isn’t as well as it should be. Use of fertilizer, runoff, water, zoonotic diseases. I think we’re pretty sick or pretty tired of zoonotic diseases right now. I think we’ve had our fill, since COVID was one. Wasn’t necessarily due to farming though, but it illustrates the point, is a lot of our influenza comes from domesticated animals.

Dr. George Church
In fact, an alarming statistic is that 96% of mammals on the entire planet, not just in the industrialized nations, 96 of mammal, percent of mammals, are either us or our domesticated mammals. 96%. And that could change in a snap because there are plenty of people who survive their entire lifetime on a vegan diet. There’s all kinds of great recipes that are as good or better than anything you normally eat from animals. So that would shrink the land usage, water, fertilizer zoonotic diseases. And for the subset of people who have a cholesterol problem, I’m not saying this is everybody, again, personalized food, [inaudible 00:50:04]-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You’re talking about conventional feed lot, animal agriculture, not regenerative agriculture, right?

Dr. George Church
Yeah. I’m talking about whatever agriculture works for vegans, there are a variety of ways of doing it, that are healthy. And you need to monitor them. You need to make sure that they don’t have infectious diseases, for example. So there are some infectious disease that get in through organic farming as well as non-organic, inorganic. But I think almost every way you grow animals has a risk of zoonotic diseases and cholesterol, for the subset of people that have a cholesterol problem.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I mean, the thing about saturated fat that’s in animals, mostly as stearic acid, except for what’s in butter and milk, but stearic acid in meat is basically, doesn’t actually impact your cholesterol levels.

Dr. George Church
I wasn’t talking about stearic acid. I was actually talking about cholesterol.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Right. But stearic acid is the saturated fat. I mean, I don’t think it raises cholesterol. It actually-

Dr. George Church
I agree. I agree. I got nothing against stearic acid. I have something about cholesterol effect. I have an inherited problem with cholesterol, that killed my father, and there are people that have even more severe cholesterol problems than I do, called hypercholesterolemia. So that’s what I’m talking about. The cholesterol molecule, which looks very different from fatty acids, it’s not a fatty acid at all. It’s a fat though.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I have a inherited cholesterol problem too. It’s based on absorption. I’m kind of a hyper absorber. Interesting. I had a lot of heart disease in my family. But I would imagine that 500 years ago, there wasn’t any hard disease in my family. I mean, you read the reports from William [inaudible 00:51:55] and Johns Hopkins-

Dr. George Church
Probably 500 years ago, you had a similar situation to what poorer people have in the world today, which is they don’t have the luxury of eating so much meat. And so, the solution to the cholesterol problem was poverty back then. But I don’t think that’s a problem. I think, if anything, we should be trying to eliminate poverty. Anyway.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What about protein aging specifically, because from my understanding, sarcopenia, which is loss of muscle, hugely contributes to all the disease of aging. It drives inflammation, hormonal dysregulation, lipid dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, just creates a whole cascade of problems, low growth hormone, high cortisol. And that’s really driven by inadequate muscle building or synthesis, which partly comes from exercise, but the quality of the protein really matters. And if you look at the data, it really matters to have higher leucine levels in protein, in order to activate protein synthesis, because it’s a rate limiting step. So if you have plant protein, as you get older, even the studies that show that animal protein may be harmful when you’re younger, shows that it’s better when you’re older to build muscle. So how do you thread that needle?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Assuming we could figure out a way to gather, sell meat, or we could have regenerative agriculture, which is a different profile and so forth that may not have the same impact, maybe actually reduce climate destruction, and may have better fatty acid profiles and better phytochemicals. Let’s just say for that argument, we could actually eat animal protein as we get older, what’s the science from your perspective on how to manage this mTOR problem, because too much stimulation of mTOR with extra amino acids or sugars causes an overproduction of proteins and inflammation in a lot of downstream consequence of aging? And not silencing it, will lead to lack of autophagy or cleanup and which is so critical to the longevity process. So how do you thread that needle? I think people are really interested in hearing a debate about this.

Dr. George Church
So I’ve studied amino acid metabolism in plants and animals. In fact, I was a guinea pig in a study at MIT on a leucine deficient diet, a model for kwashiorkor. Probably not a smart idea, but I was a teenager at the time. But anyway, so that’s why I’m… have a brain problems. I’m just kidding.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I think you’re doing all right.

Dr. George Church
Anyway. I think, that from my study of plant… well, of the literature on plant amino acids, with the right diet, they can be more or less identical to the amino acid composition of a meat-based diet. So there’s no fundamental problem with making a vegan equivalent in terms of amino acid composition.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
How would you do that, other than adding extra leucine to the proteins or having-

Dr. George Church
There are plenty of plants that are leucine rich. It’s also plant parts. So it’s not like you have to eat the whole plant. There’s particular seeds that have more leucine than other seeds. The seed stores proteins, very tremendously, from plant to plant. If you want, I can send you some links to specific sources of leucine from plants, but it’s not just about leucine. The point is you can perfectly mimic the profile, if that were map. Now, I think that most Americans get an excess of proteins, and so they pick and choose what they need. And so, as long as you’re above the minimum. But ratios do matter. I don’t want to diminish that. But broadly speaking, we have a good diet. And I think that no matter how you grow the animal protein, you still have the problem of cholesterol and zoonotic diseases.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But I mean, for example for you, [inaudible 00:55:55]-

Dr. George Church
[Inaudible 00:55:55] solve all the other Earth problems, but you have those two human medical problems.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But in terms of the… Should we be eating more protein as we get older? Do we need it to maintain our muscle mass? How do that [inaudible 00:56:07]?

Dr. George Church
I think that varies from person to person. Some people never get sarcopenia, and other people have genetic problems with too high of protein. Some people can deal with that, can diet. Other people get ketogenic. So it has to be crafted. But I think to a first approximation, a modest increase in protein is achievable with a vegan diet.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, [inaudible 00:56:41]. Okay. That’s fascinating. I want to just close with one of your amazing projects, called Colossal Biosciences, which is a company that’s trying to bring back [inaudible 00:56:52] the woolly mammoth, through editing the genes of an Asian elephant. And you talked about it being both of scientific value, but also that it might even help us save the planet. So can you talk about that project and what you’re finding and where we’re at with it, because it sounds kind of wild, and a little bit of a distraction from your normal work?

Dr. George Church
I’ll try to connect the dots to some of the other things. I mean, we’ve been talking about reversal of age-related diseases. This is kind of reversal of ecosystem damage. I think this is a different way of thinking about the ecosystem, is we don’t have to point our finger and say, “Oh, you’re responsible because you have a smoke stack or you’re responsible because you’re driving an SUV.” It’s really, 15,000 years ago, some of our ancestors are responsible because they killed off almost all of the big herbivores in the Arctic. And you say, “Well, what’s the big deal about the Arctic?” Well, the Arctic is a unique ecosystem that sequesters carbon. We talk about carbon sequestration, but it does it naturally. Each year you get a whole layer of grass and all the grassroots below it that frees solid, and then dust and feces are on top of that.

Dr. George Church
And another layer of grass grows, and it freezes and so forth. So the thickness of the soil in the Arctic can be 500 meters thick, while the average thickness in most forests is more like one meter. And so it’s much, much thicker, because in a regular, let’s say tropical forest, you’re constantly turning over that carbon into carbon dioxide, and so it never gets very thick. But that’s the good news. The bad news is all of that is at risk now because if it melts, it’s all going to decompose into either carbon dioxide, or more likely, methane, because carbon dioxide requires access to oxygen. Most of it’s going to decompose anaerobically without oxygen. And so, methane is 80 times worse than carbon dioxide in terms of climate change. So anyway, we want to restore the herbivores, but the herbivores can’t make it because, most of them, because they can’t penetrate the forests, the trees. And so, elephants are one of the few herbivores that can knock down trees, and they love knocking down trees. You can look on the internet, you can get dozens of nice, short videos of them knocking down trees.

Dr. George Church
So anyway, that would restore the grasslands. You still have trees interspersed, but plenty of grassland for the herbivores to restore. And this experiment’s been done, the ecosystem experiment, has been started by our collaborators at Pleistocene Park, and we hope to have additional herbivore stations in Canada and Alaska as well. And then, as those herbivore stations are growing up where we have to… then we’ll supplement them with cold resistant elephants. And so the same tools that we talked about earlier for engineering pigs at 42 loci, for genetic positions, we’ll use that to make a similar number of changes in the elephants.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Because basically, they make like 50 pounds of poop every day, so that helps fertilize it and grow new soil. Is that what you’re saying?

Dr. George Church
Yep. Yeah. Well, I mean, yes, it’s not the major thing that they will do, but the major thing they will do is convert some of the trees back to grasslands. And we’re going to focus on the parts of the Arctic that have the most carbon already, because we want to keep that soil cold, frozen, year round, or at least once a year. And when I was last in Siberia, was actually the first year in recorded history that the summer melt did not refreeze. The top layer did, but there was a layer in the middle that didn’t refreeze. That’s an ominous milestone.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s scary. How close are we to having your gene edited elephants up in the Arctic, and new woolly mammoths?

Dr. George Church
Yeah, it’s a similar timeline for how close we are to clinical trials for the pigs. Well, the pigs are already in clinical and preclinical trials. Elephants are probably… The first calf is probably six years away. That’s at least the goal. And that includes a 22-month gestation period. So this is the longest gestation period of any mammal that I know of. But another four years for working out ways of scaling up the gestation outside of the elephant body, starting with other mammal gestation.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s really incredible. Well, why don’t we wrap up by you giving us what is your top things to do in looking at extending your health span and your lifespan, so you both live long and healthy? And what are the things that we now know that we should be implementing? I mean, is it rapamycin, metformin, NMN, is it, I mean obviously lifestyle stuff? But what are you seeing as the most promising advances right now?

Dr. George Church
Well, I think most of them, how we started, is people know, and it’s just a matter of whether they are willing to do it or not. So it’s getting a lot of exercise, having loving relationships with friends and family, eating well. I would say a vegan diet, but it can be whatever works for you. And above all, knowing yourself, knowing how you’re different from other people. Just don’t assume, that if you have the diet book that tells you how everybody should have the same diet, I would take those with a grain of salt and I would learn your genome, get your genome sequenced.

Dr. George Church
There might be something lurking in there that could affect you or your kids. What does it hurt to learn a little bit? Maybe you get one of your friends that’s a little geekier to explain it to you the way they explain the computer. But the point is, it’s not that hard, and physicians are getting better and better at understanding how each person is different. There’s revolution in personalized and precision medicine. Tune into that. That’s probably the best thing you can do for yourself. Assuming you’re already following all the other ordinary things you can do for yourself.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And how about you? Are you taking supplements, are you taking NMN, are you taking metformin, rapamycin?

Dr. George Church
I think that I-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You don’t have to answer that, but you can [inaudible 01:03:20]-

Dr. George Church
No, I’m happy to answer it, but I think it’s important to say it’s not important. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. I’m a guinea pig, so I’m taking things that aren’t necessarily recommended for other people. I’ve been a guinea pig ever since I was a kid, both of my parents did experiments on me. Not all of them were approved by IRB.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wasn’t too traumatic.

Dr. George Church
And I’m the main guinea pig in my lab, for ethical reasons that you don’t want to… You don’t want to perceive to be coercing employees, right, so they do experiments on me. That’s fine. Or on my cells more frequently. Anyway. So I don’t recommend any particular thing, other than the dietary things that we talked about before. I think that there will… Partly because this whack-a-mole thing we talked about, is most of these supplements just address one or two of the nine or 10 hallmarks of aging. You really have to get all of them to have an impact.

Dr. George Church
And most of them are, frankly, wishful thinking. The hope is there’s a fountain of youth, something you can drink or something you can eat or not eat. And I think that’s limited, except in cases where people have a particular genetic problem that they needed to fix. So if you avoid phenylalanine in your phenylketonuric, that’s a good combination to be aware of. That’s a particular dietary thing. Diabetic or pre-diabetics should be very cautious about foods that cause glucose spikes. And there’s a whole science that you have to understand if you’re pre-diabetic. You can’t just blindly follow some cookbook.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
For sure.

Dr. George Church
Anyway.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So, that sidestepped the question of what are you doing.

Dr. George Church
I’m doing some experimental stuff that I would not want to even mention the names.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I got it. Okay.

Dr. George Church
It’s not that I’m dodging. It’s not that it’s invasion of my privacy. It’s just that people have a tendency to [inaudible 01:05:31]. Yeah, to take it as… I recommend a healthy vegan diet. That’s what I recommend.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So next time, if I see you and you have black hair and look 20 years younger, I’m going to go, “What are you doing?”

Dr. George Church
Yeah. First, you’ll see the black roots.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So the opposite, right?

Dr. George Church
Yeah. But hair is pretty easy. I mean, you could easily restore melanocytes, just like you could dye your hair. I mean, it doesn’t necessarily mean you fixed aging.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
For sure. For sure. Well, I love this conversation.

Dr. George Church
If you have fixed aging, it is quite possible that you’ll get restoration melanocytes that are missing.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, this is quite exciting conversation. We talked about how we reprogram our genes to a younger you, how we can do gene therapies to solve both inherited diseases and optimize and upgrade our biology, about how we can recover lost species and improve the ecosystem of the planet, and some of the interesting nuances around aging. I think we’re really at the infancy, it feels like, of what we’re about to be doing very soon. And we’re in this exponential phase of research that I think, hopefully in our lifetime, will yield some benefits for both of us. We’ve been working on this for a long time, but if not, it’s certainly for our children and their children. Well, thank you so much for what you do, Dr. Church, and for keeping your mind curious and helping us learn about how to live healthier and longer. So I appreciate what you do very much. And I think the world is grateful for you.

Dr. George Church
Thank you. I greatly enjoyed this conversation. I hope other people do as well.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Well, thank you. If you love this podcast, please share with your friends and family on social media. I’m sure they’d love to hear about it. Maybe leave a comment how you figured out how to extend your life or feel healthier [inaudible 01:07:15] disease. We’d love to know. And subscribe wherever you get your podcast. We’ll see you next week on The Doctor’s Farmacy.

Outro:
Hi, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their find a practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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