Valter Longo – TRANSCRIPT
Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
So I’ll tell you a little bit about what we in the lab have been doing, but also some of the exciting things in the field of gerontology. And first I start by saying that the medical field has really turned into a Band-aid field, right? So we wait until somebody develops cancer and then we use chemotherapy or other therapies that do some good and kill cancer cells but also kill the normal cells.
Or with Alzheimer’s, we wait until somebody’s brain is very damaged beyond repair, and then we put a Band-aid on it, essentially, and try to keep the person from progressing further in their dementia, but it doesn’t really do much good.
But even if we were able to be very successful in curing some of these diseases, I always ask this question, and guess how much longer we will live if we were good enough to completely cure cancer. What do you think? Twenty years? Twenty-five years? It actually turns out that it’s only about three or four years, right? And what if we were good enough to cure cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes today? And the answer is about 13 years.
And the reason for this is that if one disease doesn’t get you, something else will. And this is why, instead, if we – In the aging field, we’re really saying, well, why does a mouse get cancer after one-and-a-half years of life and people never get cancer when they’re one and a half years old, right? Well, we get it after 40, after 50, after 60. And the reason for that is the mouse and the people, we age at a different rate. So the one-and-a-half years for the mouse is equivalent to 40 years for people. So if we were able to delay aging, just half as effectively as we’ve already done for mice, we would then get about 30 years of extended life.
So treat aging, and most people say, well, if you’re going to treat aging, we’re going to have all these people that are going to live longer, they’re going to have Alzheimer’s, they’re going to have all these bad diseases, so what’s the point? But it turns out that if you look at some of our work and work of others, and these on the right are the long-lived organisms. The first one on the left is yeast – you have a normal-lived one and the dwarf one lives up to ten times longer than the one on the left.
And the flies in the center, same thing – the small ones live twice as much. And the mice, finally, the small one lives about 40-50 percent longer. But what’s amazing about these mice is that they get diseases at a lot lower incidence compared to the regular mice.
And the only difference is a single mutation in the growth hormone receptor, so the little mice are lacking this growth hormone receptor. So years ago, we knew that this simple organism, the yeast lived longer, it was very healthy; their DNA was very much protected. And we knew that the mice also had this record longevity. But even though they lived longer, 50 percent of them never developed any diseases, compared to the regular mice – only about ten percent of them, or less, never developed diseases.
So we started looking for people around the world that had the same mutation and asked the question: Is it possible that people can also be so protected against aging but also against the age-related diseases? And it turns out that they seem to be so.
I started a collaboration with Jaime Guevara, who’s an endocrinologist who is following all these people down in Ecuador, and particularly in the Andes mountains in southern Ecuador, we were able to follow very closely about 100 of these subjects. And it turns out that they almost never develop cancer, and in fact, only one in all these years that I’ve been monitoring – in over 30 years – only one has died of cancer. And you can see, instead, in the relatives, you have what you expect, about 22 percent incidence of cancer deaths.
And then, when we look at diabetes, even though in Ecuador, the obesity prevalence is about 12 percent, in these people, these little people have a prevalence of obesity which is much higher, over 20 percent. And so any endocrinologist or diabetologist would tell you, these people for sure are going to have diabetes, and instead, it turns out that instead of the five percent prevalence – so five out of 100 people in Ecuador have diabetes, so far in the case of these little people, none of them have developed diabetes yet.
So they’re very much protected, but the field, particularly starting in the ’90s, we were all confused about “How do you stay young?” How do you find out about aging, and how do you regulate aging? If you look around the world and you ask people who have record longevity – this was the oldest lady in the world at the time, living in Los Angeles. And she felt that by not drinking and fooling around – that’s how she got to be 115 years of age. And I’m embarrassed to say, in the next slide, actually, Salvatore Caruso in southern Italy agrees with her. And so he came up with “No wine, no smoking and no women” as a motto for longevity. But, of course – But Madame Calment of France obviously disagrees.