More and more scientists are convinced that aging, while a natural phenomenon experienced by all living creatures, is a disease that can be treated or even cured. Scientists, generally, have taken different approaches to aging in that regard. Some want to slow down the process, while others seek to put a stop to it altogether. Those in the latter group see no limit in our potential to extend human life.
These efforts are fueled by the latest technologies science has to offer. Among these is the use of stem cells combined with genetic and cellular manipulation. More recently, researchers have been testing the rejuvenating effects of proteins found in human blood. Still others propose using a certain type of bacteria to keep old age at bay.
Then there’s Alex Zhavoronkov. He’s the director of both the International Aging Research Portfolio (IARP) and the Biogerontology Research Foundation, as well as the CEO of bioinformatics company Insilico Medicine. His idea seems straight out of science fiction. Instead of fearing artificial intelligence (AI) as the harbinger of humanity’s demise, Zhavoronkov wants to use AI to defeat aging.
Zhavoronkov highlighted the work Insilico is doing to combat aging and age-related illnesses. One project is an algorithm called OncoFinder, which analyzes the molecular pathways associated with the growth and development of cancer and aging. “I think that applying AI to aging is the only way to bring it under the comprehensive medical control,” Zhavoronkov said. “Our long-term goal is to continuously improve human performance and prevent and cure the age-related diseases.”
He explained further:
In 5 years, we want to build a comprehensive system to model and monitor the human health status and rapidly correct any deviations from the ideal healthy state with lifestyle or therapeutic interventions. Considering what we already have, I hope that we will be able to do it sooner than in 5 years […] One of our major contributions to the field was the application of deep neural networks for predicting the age of the person. People are very different and have different diseases. I think that this approach is novel and will result in many breakthroughs.
Zhavoronkov also explained the important role AI has in facilitating the development of drugs that could treat aging and age-related diseases. “Our AI ecosystem is comprised of multiple pipelines,” he said. “With our drug discovery and biomarker development pipelines, we can go after almost every disease […] And since we are considering aging as a form of disease, many of the same algorithms are used to develop biomarkers and drugs to prevent and possibly even restore aging-associated damage.”
For Zhavoronkov, AI’s potential impact on humankind goes far beyond the possibility that it could cause a singularity apocalypse — it could actually be the very thing that saves us from death.