Do long-lived flies hold the key to extending human longevity?
Rejuve Biotech is combining advanced AI with data from Methuselah flies to develop therapeutics that target aging and age-related disease.
[ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Do long-lived flies hold the key to extending human longevity? - Longevity.Technology]
Longevity focused biotechnology startup Rejuve Biotech is using AI and data from long-lived animal models to develop novel therapeutics designed to help people live longer and healthier. The company holds exclusive rights to the data from so-called Methuselah flies – long-lived fruit flies that have been specifically bred for remarkable longevity.
Rejuve.Bio believes that combining this data with crowdsourced human data sets and “neural-symbolic” AI will enable it to quickly develop “effective healthspan-enhancing and aging-related disease mitigating products.”
Longevity.Technology: Rejuve.Bio operates within the SingularityNET ecosystem, an organization on a mission to create an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) that is “decentralized, democratic, inclusive, and beneficial.” Founded by Dr Ben Goertzel, SingularityNET acts like an incubator to companies like Rejuve.Bio, providing guidance, funding and expertise. To learn more about how Rejuve.Bio aims to crack the longevity code, we spoke to the company’s CEO, Kennedy Schaal.
The Methuselah fly data on which Rejuve.Bio is founded is the culmination of a fascinating project, started more than 40 years ago by UC Irvine professor Michael Rose.
“Normal lifespan for a fruit fly is about five to six weeks,” says Schaal. “By selectively breeding the flies for increased longevity – taking the eggs of the longest-lived flies for the next generation, over thousands of generations – they got the flies up to about a 12-week lifespan.”
‘No limit’ to fly lifespan
In 2008, while she was working for longevity genomics company Genescient, Schaal took ownership of the Methuselah flies and has continued to selectively breed them.
Kennedy Schaal is CEO of Rejuve Biotech
“I now have a stock of Methuselah flies that are on a six-month generation cycle – maxing out at about eight months lifespan today,” she says. “I’m continuing to select them every generation. It’s a slower process now, because they only have two generations a year, but their lifespan continues to increase. It appears there really is no limit to expanding the lifespan of these flies.”
Between 2006 and 2010, Genescient conducted AI analyses of gene expression and sequences in Methuselah flies, compared with data from corresponding “wild-type” control flies. The work provided key insights into the genetic networks relevant to longevity, as well as cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, and other age-associated diseases. Cross-linking this information with drug databases provided lists of substances that could target key parts of the biological networks related to age-related diseases.
“What’s great about fruit flies is they share about 60 to 70% of their genome with us,” says Schaal. “And the mechanisms by which they age are particularly similar to ours, so they’re a really great model organism, and they’re also very economical to study.”
Key longevity genes identified
Schaal says that Genescient’s initial work on the flies has now been taken up by Rejuve.Bio.
“We’re in a position now to really make this into the longevity company that it was always meant to be,” she says. “The AI is much better now, so we did another genomic analysis of the fruit flies, including the new ‘super Methuselah’ flies that I have developed.”
Schaal found that the new, super long-lived flies have a much crisper genetic signal in terms of the genes that are functioning to increase their longevity.
“In particular, we’ve identified four specific transcription factors that each influence dozens of genes involved in their longevity,” she says. “Mostly pertaining to cellular metabolism, autophagy, preservation of circadian rhythms, stress resistance and things like that.”
Combining human and animal data
Rejuve.Bio was created to leverage this data alongside the crowd-sourced human longevity data generated by its SingularityNET sister company Rejuve AI and its tokenomics-incentivized longevity app.
“That data will eventually include everything from height, weight and sleep data to genomic data, microbiome data, EEG data, blood tests, biomarkers, all that stuff,” says Schaal. “We will put that data into our neural-symbolic AI platform, crunch it with model organism data from the flies, and other long lived animal models, to make inferences and generate new hypotheses about new targets for aging that haven’t been thought of before.”
“For me, one of the most exciting things about this project is that we’re going to get a diverse, robust human dataset, to really find what we share with long-lived animal models and make informed insights for individuals on how to improve their own longevity. Eventually, we want to collect so much data that the insights for everyone can be highly personalized.”
An open approach
While Rejuve.Bio will aim to commercialize its own longevity therapeutics, Schaal is also keen to point out that the company’s aim is to make its technology widely accessible.
“We may potentially develop supplements for early intervention and pharmaceutical interventions for people who might already be suffering from age-related disease,” she says. “But we would also like to provide our AI as a service to others – and not just those researching age-related diseases. With the amount of data that we’re going to be collecting, our AI platform could really be used for almost any health challenge.”
All the code behind Rejuve.Bio’s approach is open source, allowing other research institutions and companies to benefit from it.
“That’s the mission of the SingularityNET ecosystem: benevolent AGI for all,” says Schaal. “That means letting everybody have access, no centralized power, multiple checks and balances, everybody has access to the code, everybody can use it, and just really inspiring everybody to come in and help us solve these big problems.”
Rejuve.Bio is currently raising seed funding, and Schaal expects that the platform will be ready to start churning out hits in six to 12 months.