Ultra-rich Jeff Bezos seeks to ‘reprogram’ human cells with new investment

A new report links Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to a group of scientists trying to find a technology roadmap to the Fountain of Youth.

The report Saturday in the MIT Technology Review features Altos Labs, a Silicon Valley company that is conducting anti-aging research.

“Some people briefed by the company have been told that its investors include Jeff Bezos,” the report said.

It said the former Amazon CEO, who has an estimated net worth of more than $200 billion, has a longstanding interest in research about aging.

The MIT Technology Review said that in his final letter to Amazon shareholders, Bezos — who recently went into space as a publicity gimmick for a space tourism business he wants to grow — quoted musings about life and death published by biologist Richard Dawkins in a book titled “The Blind Watchmaker.”

“Staving off death is a thing that you have to work at,” Bezos wrote then, adding, “More generally, if living things didn’t work actively to prevent it, they would eventually merge into their surroundings, and cease to exist as autonomous beings. That is what happens when they die.”

Altos Labs will include on its staff researcher Shinya Yamanaka, who in 2012 shared a Nobel Prize for his work on reprogramming,

“Although there are many hurdles to overcome, there is huge potential,” Yamanaka said.

The quest to defeat aging is drawing attention — and cash.

“There are hundreds of millions of dollars being raised by investors to invest in reprogramming, specifically aimed at rejuvenating parts or all of the human body,” said David Sinclair, a researcher at Harvard University, according to the MIT Technology Review.

“What else can you do that can reverse the age of the body?” he said. “In my lab we are ticking off the major organs and tissues, for instance skin, muscle and brain — to see which we can rejuvenate.”

Manuel Serrano, a researcher in genetic engineering who will leave a position at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, in Barcelona, Spain, to work for Altos Labs, said profits are not the short-term goal.

“The philosophy of Altos Labs is to do curiosity-driven research. This is what I know how to do and love to do,” Serrano said. “In this case, through a private company, we have the freedom to be bold and explore. In this way it will rejuvenate me.”

“The aim is to understand rejuvenation,” he said. “I would say the idea of having revenue in the future is there, but it’s not the immediate goal.”

Alejandro Ocampo, a professor at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, is an admitted skeptic, according to the report.

“I think the concept is strong, but there is a lot of hype. It’s far away from translation,” he said, noting that reprogramming cells causes vast changes not fully understood. “It’s risky and it’s a long way from a human therapy.”

Ocampo said money is being thrown around too soon.

“I think it’s moving too fast. I don’t know if we should have five to eight reprogramming companies — it looks too quick,” he said. “How many papers have there even been in in vivo reprogramming? It’s the same as the number of companies.”

However, Ocampo said, the possibilities of reprogramming technology are intriguing.

“You can take a cell from an 80-year old and, in vitro, reverse the age by 40 years. There is no other technology that can do that,” he said.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.