Dorian Gray looks at his portrait amazed. He looks great and handsome. With all the splendor of youth. Suddenly he says: I would give my best to stay this young forever, including his soul. The story created by the mythical Oscar Wilde is well known —like his film adaptations— and the dream of eternal youth is also well known, but there are those who want to make it come true, and not precisely with portraits.
It is at least what Altos Labs intends, a mysterious startup that according to sources close to its plans is working on cell regeneration and, ultimately, in methods of rejuvenating animals and even humans. Those who believe in that idea are not selling their soul to the devil, but they are investing a lot of money in Altos Labs. Among them, Jeff Bezos, creator of Amazon, and Yuri Millner, billionaire who made his fortune on Facebook and Mail.ru.
Altos Labs was created in early 2021 and already has offices in Silicon Balley, San Diego, UK and Japan, and seem to be recruiting scientists and academics at astronomical salaries to dedicate himself to the study of cellular aging and how to slow and reverse it.
Those same sources cited in MIT Technology Review they assure that one of the investors of Altos Labs is Jeff Bezos, creator of Amazon and the richest person in the world today. Yuri Milner and his wife are also investors in a company that reminds us of Calico Labs, the startup dedicated to the study of longevity that Larry Page created in 2013.
Some of the members of the Altos Labs team are already celebrities in the scientific world who have worked in the field of cell regeneration with mixed results. Shinya Yamanaka, who shared the Nobel Prize in 2012 for cell reprogramming, is on the board of directors, for example.
There have been other attempts in this area, but Altos Labs seems to be one of the most promising startups both in terms of attracting talent and money: it is estimated that have already “raised” more than 270 million dollars of investment.
Manuel Serrano, from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Barcelona, explained that Altos Labs has offered him a job in which he will earn between five and ten times what he is earning right now. “The philosophy of Altos Labs is to do research guided by curiosity“Serrano will join the company’s team in the UK, and like the rest of the team it seems that initially he will not be looking for products or an immediate financial return, but rather to achieve great scientific discoveries.
To achieve an effective treatment, this one could be worth billions of dollarsBut at Altos Labs they want to “understand rejuvenation,” said Serrano. “I would say that the idea of having benefits in the future is there, but it is not the immediate objective.”
Of course there are scientists who are not at all clear that cell regeneration is sufficiently prepared to propose rejuvenation systems such as those that are being developed at Altos Labs. Alejandro Ocampo, professor at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, believes that “the concept is solid, but there are too many expectations“.
For this expert, one of the problems is that reprogramming not only makes cells act as if they were younger, but also changes their identity. For instance, changes a skin cell into a stem cell, something that makes this technology dangerous for its application in humans.
“I think this discipline is moving too fast,” assured Ocampo. “I don’t know if we should have five to eight reprogramming companies, it seems like everything is going too fast.How many studies have there been on reprogramming? The same number of startups working on this issue. “