immortality as an engineering problem

James james at nospam.com
Sat Jul 18 17:07:15 EST 1998

> James wrote:
> > I think many people in the field of aging are
> > extremely skeptical of Geron's results
> I can report that this was not the case at the Gordon Conference on
> the biology of aging in May, which hosted a wide selection of top
> gerontologists of all specialisations (and at which, incidentally,
> I found out about the Canadian work, which was much discussed).
> Geron staff were also there and confirmed that the cells were still
> going strong.  This was certainly not the sort of meeting at which
> participants kept skepticisms to themselves.

Well, my PI was at that Gordon conference and she is certainly skeptical
of it, so what you are saying is not true for everyone - but I do take
your point.

> The main reason why Geron's results are generally accepted is that
> they do not surprise people.  I have not understood your scientific
> reasons for being surprised at their findings - please elaborate.

I really don't have strong scientific reasons for doubting the results.
I do have some reasons, but not reasons that are worth elaborating on
here.  My main point is not that there is strong reason to doubt them,
or that the results are contrary to expectations.  It's just that
expected or not, the work is relatively new, has only been confirmed
once, and has failed to be confirmed at least twice that I am aware of.
If that were the situation about ANY scientific topic I would feel
compelled to adopt the same view, and that view is simply that Geron
very well may be right, but I don't feel that it is absolutely proven at
this point.  For me to feel that it has been proven beyond a shadow of a
doubt more people need to replicate the experiment, and we need to know
why some people are failing to replicate it.  Until then there are
unanswered questions.  Are the labs that are failing to reproduce it
doing something wrong?  Is their vector bad (I doubt this because they
probably got it from Geron)?  Does it only work on some strains of
cells?  Does it only work under specific culture conditions?  I have no
idea what the answer is, but I want to know before I can consider the
issue resolved.

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