The Methuselah Mouse Prize

Enlisting the virtues of voluntary research …

The Methuselah Mouse Prize

“Here I come to save the day! Mighty Mouse is on the way!”

eroes incarnate a society’s values, as Joseph Campbell, the author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, has frequently written. They are a necessary part of culture; depending on the virtues that are imputed to their heroes, societies die, live aimlessly, or leap into the future. You may not have heard of the Methuselah Mouse Prize, although Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw mentioned it in a recent Life Extension News, but you soon will, because MMouse (as he is affectionately called) is coming to a newsstand, TV listing, and even a theater near you (a film is underway).

In brief, the Methuselah Mouse Prize (MPrize)1 is a contest that will award an ongoing series of monetary prizes to the scientific research teams that produce the longest-living specimens of Mus musculus, the species of mouse most commonly used in scientific research. The current record holder is a mouse that lived just short of 5 years. It is the hope of the sponsoring organization, the Methuselah Foundation, that whatever the winning interventions are that work in mice will presage the development of interventions that can extend human lifespans as well.

Once it is clearly demonstrated that aging in mice can be effectively delayed, or even reversed, there will inevitably be a significant shift in the public’s attitude toward aging—the current attitude will no longer be possible. When a critical level of opinion change is reached and the idea that mice can be treated for aging becomes widely accepted, the necessary funding for a full-fledged assault on the aging process will be forthcoming.

This is the true power of the MPrize: to demonstrate a proof of principle and give hope to the world that functional decline and age-related diseases are no longer guaranteed—for us or for future generations—if we work together now.

The brainchild of gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, the MPrize is a stroke of publicity genius that gets our vote as a superb way of advertising the virtues of life extension research—far better than Proposition 71, the $3 billion stem-cell bond issue recently passed in California. The MPrize was launched without political battles or bureaucrats using the funds for pork-barrel projects—there are none of the usual hands that giveth and taketh away. Instead, the concept is shaping up to be one of the best things life extension has going for it.

Regarding the MPrize and its subject matter:

We know we can extend the life span of mammals … there is no reason to believe that we couldn’t do the same today in humans. — Judith Campisi, Ph.D., Buck Institute for Age Research, Novato, CA
I am convinced that longevity will increase faster than people expect in this century. The science is ripe, good people are getting into the field, and as we understand mechanisms, there will be many ways to intervene. I am working in the area of nutrition and optimizing micronutrients and metabolites, as I think that will go a long way to minimizing premature death. — Bruce Ames, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
… it’s not a question of if, but when, and where and how [aging interventions] will arrive. — Gregory Stock, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles
… it’s possible that we could change a human gene and double our lifespan. — Cynthia Kenyon, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
The ability to directly study the mechanisms that regulate lifespan creates enormous possibilities for future work and potential interventions. — Chris Zell, Ph.D., Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, Wynnewood, PA
The Methuselah Mouse Prize (MP) is an important step in winning this fight for life. The MP is focused on curing aging in mice. Success with mice will focus attention to the possibility that aging can be cured in humans. — Bruce Klein, Chairman, The Immortality Institute, Birmingham, AL

To date some very fine scientists have let it be known that they are on board to vie for the purse. The pledged awards now exceed $1.2 million, and if the current trend in pledging continues, by the time they are claimed the amount may very well top the entire purse given to all the Nobel Prize winners in any one year (currently $8 million). With the map of the human genome to guide them and the power of supercomputers at their disposal, competitors are racing to be the first to develop real anti-aging therapies.

Prizes are a great way to promote life extension. In other areas, the Loebner Prize could result in computers that can think, and the X-Prize has hastened the day when commercial space travel becomes commonplace. It is entirely fitting that a prize, the MPrize, should give liftoff to what we believe will be the greatest achievement in human history: the end and reversal of human aging. Mighty Mouse will not merely save the day. He (or she) will save life itself—including, we hope, our lives. Long live Mighty Mouse!



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