Harold Katcher’s Last Rat

Experience tells us that it is much easier to extend median lifespan than maximum lifespan. Katcher’s trial of E5 in 8 rats breaks this expectation. The last of Harold Katcher’s rats has died, and she outlived her sisters by 7 months. Compared to controls, the average lifespan of treated rats increased 9.6%, while the maximum lifespan increased 22.0%. (For reasons unknown, the control rats lived longer than most Sprague-Dawley rats.)

When I last wrote about Katcher’s rats, there were just two left alive, and the survival curve conformed well to the Gompertz rule, which says that mortality rates increase exponentially with age. (There is no theoretical basis for the Gompertz rule, but it has been found to be a good empirical model for aging in many species.) From a Gompertz fit to the first 6 rats, I was projecting a maximum lifespan of 1250 days. The 7th rat wasn’t far off from that estimate, but the last of the 8 has lived just over 4 years (1464 days), breaking the record for lab rats. “Sima” lived 5% longer than the previous  longest-lived Sprague-Dawley rat.

Write-up in The Guardian

Sima received five infusions during her lifetime at intervals of 3 months. A sixth scheduled treatment was held on the judgment of the experimenters, so that at Sima’s death she was more than six months out from her last infusion. The fact that one rat lived longer than the rest is an invitation to experiment with optimization of the E5 protocol. All the rats were genetically identical and raised in the same lab. All received their first treatment around 2 years of age. Perhaps there are physiological tests that would offer suggestions why Sima responded better to the treatment.

Where does this project need to go?

It has been almost three years since I wrote up (breathlessly) the results of Katcher’s first study. I called it an Age Reduction Breakthrough. I still believe that plasma transfusions are the most promising path toward real, practical rejuvenation in the near-term. It is frustrating how little has happened in the intervening years. This should be a crash project for laboratories around the world, and instead it is being confined to a small group of scientists in Mumbai and Baltimore who are holding the IP.

Edison invented the lightbulb in 1879, and the first commercial units went on sale to the public in 1880.

We all should be demanding of Katcher and Sanghavi and our funding agencies a full-scale research program.

  • Determining what are the essential ingredients in E5 (Our patent system provides perverse incentives NOT to do this.)
  • Developing synthetic methods for creating these proteins (perhaps with vats of genetically modified E coli, a method which provides insulin and other human proteins in bulk at extremely low cost).
  • Adding plasma dilution to the protocol of infusions
  • Experimenting with different schedules and dosages, using Horvath clocks for feedback
  • Following all this up with lifespan studies in several mammalian species
  • Simultaneously offering E5 in combination with plasma dilution to human volunteers who are eager to be experimental subjects in exchange for probability of substantial health benefits.

Katcher and Sanghavi have a company called Yuvan Research, and they have connections with a laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. But this program is moving much more slowly than I would like (perhaps you concur) because the resources they have available are limited and Yuvan is jealously guarding its intellectual property. It didn’t help that Yuvan’s working capital was parked with Silicon Valley Bank, which went belly-up on Friday.

I suspect that many partners for Yuvan are available worldwide if suitable legal agreements can be reached.