Meet Charles Brenner, the Longevity Skeptic. Brenner, a leading biochemist at City of Hope National Medical Center in L.A., has been attending the largest longevity conferences with one main purpose: to point out that some of the other speakers are full of it.
Brenner is "throwing cold water" on several scientists in the field of aging, accusing them of hyping various fountains of youth, despite limited evidence for these therapies.
In this podcast episode, Brenner sat down with Leaps.org to discuss his groundbreaking work on metabolism and his efforts to counter what he considers to be bad science.
In addition to bringing his candor to conferences, Brenner is applying it in academic journals, publishing a paper in September, "A Science-Based Review of the World's Best-Selling Book on Aging," in which he pans the author of this bestseller, David Sinclair, a Harvard biologist, for talking up the potential for humans to live far past 100. These aspirations may sound nice, but they're not backed by science, Brenner says. He's had high-profile debates online with Sinclair and Aubrey de Grey, a prominent biomedical gerontologist.
Meanwhile, in his own lab work, Brenner is credited with identifying a vitamin precursor called NR that seems to enable repair of cellular damage that happens as we get older - a major discovery that he's helped turn into a supplement, commercialized with a company called ChromaDex.
Whether it's possible to extend human lifespan is a pressing question as investments in longevity startups are projected to increase from $40 billion to $600 billion over the next three years. The field of biological aging seems split on the question of whether "anti-aging" therapies can significantly lengthen our natural lifespans, as Sinclair believes. Brenner, Morgan Levine of Altos Labs and Matt Kaeberlein of the University of Washington have argued that the only realistic goal is to extend one's window of healthy years, or healthspan, rather than trying to break the biological ceiling of our species.
Brenner is an intriguing figure in these debates. Although he’s been introduced in public appearances as a longevity skeptic, he calls himself an optimist.
Charles Brenner on Twitter
Charles Brenner's debate with Aubrey de Grey
Brenner's paper, "A Science-Based Review of the World's Best-Selling Book on Aging"
Peter Attia's recent blog on NR supplements
Brad Stanfield's recent reaction to "David Sinclair vs Charles Brenner"
ChromaDex NR supplement