This week’s conversation is with Dr. David Sinclair, a professor in the Department of Genetics and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School, where he and his colleagues study longevity, aging and how to slow its effects.

More specifically, their focus is on studying sirtuins—protein-modifying enzymes that respond to changing NAD+ levels and to caloric restriction—as well as metabolism, neurodegeneration, cancer, cellular reprogramming, and more.

David is the co-creator and co-chief editor of the journal Aging, has co-founded several biotechnology companies, and is an inventor on 35 patents.

Among the honors and awards he’s received are his inclusion in Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” and Time’s “Top 50 in Healthcare”.

In addition, David is the author of the new book, Lifespan: The Revolutionary Science of Why We Age — and Why We Don’t Have To.

I wanted to speak with David because he’s pushing the boundaries of what we understand to be possible for humans – and if he’s successful it will change the world as we know it.

“I am searching for the ultimate cause of why we grow old at the molecular level. Can we understand it in enough detail to be able to slow it down or reverse it?”

In This Episode:

  • Grew up in the suburbs of Sydney, lived on the edge as a child, exploring the outdoors
  • What captivated him about the early explorers of the world and why he’s sees similarities in himself
  • Exploring longevity: can we stop the aging process?
  • The impact his grandmother had on him: it’s your job to make humanity the best it can be
  • His quest to reverse aging
  • Is legacy important to him?
  • How he grapples with spending less time with his family on his mission to reverse aging
  • The difficulties he faced getting to the U.S. for his post PhD studies and the big risk he took to get there
  • Arriving at MIT to solve aging and immediately getting “scooped”
  • What he’s searching for: why we get old at the molecular level
  • His views on technology and if it’s dangerous for the future of humanity
  • Why it can be tough being a rebel in his field of work
  • The darkest days of his career and how he bounced back
  • What he’s discovered about the aging process and why he believes it’s possible to reset your “internal clock”
  • Treatments currently available: Resveratrol (the accelerator pedal), NAD boosters (the gasoline), and Metformin (manages blood sugar)
  • Lifestyle approaches to living longer: exercising and intermittent fasting
  • His definition of mastery

 

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Quotables:

“Solving aging is actually easier than solving being with my family. Every day I get probably 10 to 20 requests to do something out of town and learning how to say no to things and prioritize is something I’m still trying to master.”

“I’d like to leave the world a better place than I found it. I think many of us, especially those at the peak of our careers, want to be remembered for something good, for having done something that makes our lives worth something. Why else are we here?”

“I have an insane curiosity. I want to know how things work. Not just mechanical things but living things because they’re much more complicated and interesting to me. I’d pull apart insects, I’d pull apart spiders nests. That was my world for the first 18 years.”

“I want to know where everything begins because when you know where it begins, you can actually understand why it happens, where the river comes from and you can even dam it up if you want to.”

“Once we understand why we age, we can slow it down, if not reverse it. We’re not there yet, but we’re very close to being able to understand all of that in great detail, similar to when we discovered why cancer occurs.”

“In order to do things that no one’s done before, you need a child’s approach, a vision of the world where you see things for the first time. As we get older it’s so easy to focus on what we know rather than what we don’t know.”

“My quest since age four has been to get a degree in biology, become a doctor, PhD, study genetics, figure out the tools to understand why we age and then figure out how to slow that down, reverse it, extend peoples health.”

“I get up wanting to make every day count, every second count. If you saw me during the day, there’s barely a second where I take a breath. People say, ‘David, take a break. Take a vacation.’ That’s a nightmare to me. That’s wasted time.”

“I’m not the brightest guy in the room. What I am definitely good at is focusing on a goal and not giving up when all odds would say that I’m nuts, and people would tell me, ‘You’ll never do this. It’s never been done.'”

“Information’s important because I believe what happens during aging is that in the same way that a DVD can get scratched over time, our bodies lose the ability to read the movie or the songs beneath that.”

“I’m at a point for me where mastery is that my gut is making far better decisions than my conscious mind. Part of that is innate. I just have this ability to understand how cells work and predict what’s going to possibly work.”

 

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Professor and Author at Harvard University

David Sinclair, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Genetics and co-Director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School. He is best known for his work on understanding why we age and how to slow its effects.