A history of mankind’s quest for immortality | Michael West CEO of Bio Time

By Michael D. West, Ph.D. | August 2017

(Photo by Chris Buckwald on Unsplash)

In this five-part video series Back to Immortality, Dr. Michael West provides a history of mankind’s quest for immortality and frames that history in the context of modern science that is uncovering the actual biology behind immortal renewal.

First is the Introduction to the series.

Back to Immortality – Introduction to a series on aging, telomeres, and stem cells

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This episode called The Green Face of Neter, discusses the observation by ancient peoples that there is an immortal substratum of life seen, for instance, in the perpetual renewal of life in Springtime. This was the basis of ancient mystery religions such as those practiced in Egypt and Greece. These myths have important parallels with modern science which has uncovered the molecular mechanisms regulating immortal renewal, cell aging, and cell immortality.

Back to Immortality – Episode 1, Mystery religions and mankind’s quest for the drug of immortality

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In Episode 2 called The Evolution of Death the scientific developments of the 19th century are discussed. Scientists discovered that the human body is composed of cells, that life evolved over many millions of years, and that death is an ancient feature of life, reflecting the properties of only some, not all, cell types in the body. This opened the door to modern gerontology in its efforts to discover the actual clockwork mechanisms of aging and death.

Back to Immortality – Episode 2, the discovery of cells, evolution, and the origins of aging

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This episode (3) called The Immortalization of Dr. Hayflick, describes aging research in the 20th century beginning with the controversial research of Alexis Carrel and Charles Lindbergh through to the work of the “erector set” and finally the discovery of cell aging and the role of telomerase in immortalizing human cells.

Back to Immortality – Episode 3, Alexis Carrel, Hayflick, telomeres, and cellular aging

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Episode 4 called Renatus (Latin for being born a second time) describes the origins of regenerative medicine as a search to isolate for the first time cells from the immortal human germ-line. The science led to techniques like somatic cell nuclear transfer and induced pluripotency to transport human cells back in time and back to immortality.

Back to Immortality – Episode 4, stem cells, cloning, and the reversal of the aging of human cells

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Episode 5 called The Last Enemy, looks to the future of aging and biotechnology, both from the perspective of what science can do (such as learning how to induce immortal tissue regeneration in humans) as well as what it should do as individuals and a society.

Back to Immortality – Episode 5, ethics, economics, and the future of aging research

Dr. Michael West is the Chief Executive Officer of BioTime, Inc. BioTime and its subsidiaries are focused on developing an array of research and therapeutic products using pluripotent stem cell technology.

He received his Ph.D. from Baylor College of Medicine in 1989 concentrating on the biology of cellular aging. He has focused his academic and business career on the application of developmental biology to the age-related degenerative disease.

He was the founder and first CEO of Geron Corporation of Menlo Park, California and from 1992 to 1998 he was a Director, and Vice President, where he initiated and managed programs in telomerase diagnostics, oligonucleotide-based telomerase inhibition as anti-tumor therapy, and the cloning and use of telomerase in telomerase-mediated therapy wherein telomerase is utilized to immortalize human cells.

From 1995 to 1998 he organized and managed the research collaboration between Geron and its academic collaborators James Thomson and John Gearhart that led to the first isolation of human embryonic stem and human embryonic germ cells.

From 1998 to 2007 he was President and Chief Scientific Officer at Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. now Ocata Therapeutics where he managed programs in nuclear transfer, retinal differentiation, and PureStemTM, a technology for the multiplex derivation and characterization of diverse clonal human embryonic progenitor cell lines.

In 2013 he led BioTime’s efforts to acquire Geron’s stem cell assets through the subsidiary Asterias Biotherapeutics. Follow him on Twitter.

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