In Episode 8 of the 3 Thoughts On podcast the host converses with Greg Shindler who at the time was CEO of the Regenerative Medicine Institute (RMI). The discussion is focused on the topic of aging, defining it as the functional decline of an organism over time. Schindler emphasizes the importance of quality of life alongside lifespan extension and highlights the role of cellular medicine and lifestyle in addressing aging, integrating cellular strategies with good lifestyle habits. Although Greg is no longer at RMI, his insight is quite valuable and insightful. This article is a summary of the conversation which is available to listeners at www.3thoughtspodcast.com
Can you get us started by sharing with us how should we define aging?
So that's a great question. And I like this because the way I look at aging, it's the functional decline of a living organism over a period of time. And we hear a lot about extending human lifespan potential, and you'll hear whether it's in the biohacking community or in the longevity community. You hear a lot of things about living to 130 or 150 or even longer these days, and we can get into that in a little bit. But if we're not aging well in a good quality of life, then nobody's going to sign up for that. And the only way to start to extend lifespan potential is by addressing and focusing on the functional decline of this living organism that we call human. And how do we functionally decline? Well, we functionally decline in our cognitive abilities, in our immune function, in our musculoskeletal or our mobility. We functionally decline in our sexual wellness and in our aesthetics, our vascular system. So all of these main systems in our body start to functionally decline over time as we start to age. And that's where we have to focus.
As the CEO of the Regenerative Medicine Institute, how do you guys tackle this process of aging?
Let me start by saying there's no magic bullet when it comes to living healthier longer. There's just not. There are no shortcuts. All of the things that we've been told for a long time with respect to lifestyle, eating well and sleeping and exercising, and having the right mindset, and trying to use different strategies to mitigate our stress, that's in our lives; all of those things play a huge role in trying to age gracefully as we grow older. But at RMI, we're really focused on using cellular medicine in conjunction with good lifestyle habits. And what I mean by that is we're focusing on using the body's innate regenerative potential with your own cells, and then also using umbilical cord stem cells in addition to help with systemic inflammation and to treat joint pain and osteoarthritis, as well as some of the other conditions around sexual wellness and even aesthetics. So when you combine these cellular strategies, if you will, with good functional medicine and lifestyle behavior, you start to really get all of the puzzle pieces dialed in. And that includes everything from mindset to trying to keep our inflammation down and keep our biomarkers as in tune as we possibly can.
There are two very popular terms in longevity today. One is epigenetics and the other is stem cells. Could you elaborate on how they are at the center of what you do?
Absolutely. Epigenetics really is the external influences on our bodies, on our systems. Things like lifestyle, things like your environment, things like UV damage from sunlight and the pollution in the air. All of these things we now know affect our epigenome, which rides above our genome, if you will. And epigenetics is really measuring how you're methylating DNA. And the epigenetic clocks that have been developed in the last several years have really come a long way; the industry is on a third-generation epigenetic clock now. And they start to measure things.
A lot of people have probably heard about biological age. Chronologically I'm 56, but biologically I'm 48. And what does that really mean? Well, statistically it means that I'm up to 56% less likely to die prematurely or to succumb to age related diseases, and this is important. Most recently we've seen an epigenetic clock called the Dunedin Pace of Aging clock. What I like about this measurement tool is that it's showing longitudinal data as to whether you're accelerated or decelerated in the aging process. I like this a lot because it's a measurement tool that shows the impact of the lifestyle changes, or of cellular medicine therapies, or supplementation, or anything that you're doing. It's going to show up in these tests with respect to our epigenetics. And the good news about epigenetics is that because it is lifestyle related and centric, you can change it so if your biological age was 58 and I'm chronologically 56, well, I can impact that. We can start to develop strategies to reverse my biological age and get it lower, ideally, than my chronological age, and then start to measure my pace of aging, rather accelerated or decelerated, to see how well I'm doing as I go along. And that's hence the longitudinal part of this.
So epigenetics is playing a huge role right now. We also have biomarkers like oxidative stress and HSCRP and TNF alpha, DNA damage, free radical levels. There's a ton of different things. And looking at neurotransmitters and hormones, when you put all these tests, including physiological, what's your BMI look like and your muscle mass, you start to tell a story about each of the people, the patients, if you will. And we start to see the granular level of the impact of some of these lifestyle behaviors and modifications that we can make to start to improve our epigenetics, our biological ages, if you will. So it's really important as a measurement tool, and when you put it in conjunction and next to other biomarkers, it really does start to tell a story of each individual and unique person with respect to their health.
And now stem cells, think of it like this. What makes a stem cell special is the only cell in the human body that can differentiate into other tissues. And I'm going to go on a quick aside here, at the risk of getting a little too deep into the weeds here. But one of the big breakthroughs, there's been some pivotal moments, literally since about 2007. So it's fairly recent.
It's not that long ago. So that's why you're seeing such excitement in the longevity community and in this movement to try to live healthier longer, is because in 2007, a gentleman by the name of Professor Yamanaka out of Japan identified four genes, now known as the Yamanaka factors. And what makes this so special is that he took an adult skin cell and he reversed its age all the way back to pluripotency, or almost embryonic like age in this stem cell. It had never been done before. In fact, a lot of people never even considered that it could be done. And it was a pivotal moment in the industry. In 2012, Professor Dr. Yamanaka received a Nobel Prize for it, as well he should for identifying these four genes that accelerated.
A lot of the things that we're seeing with respect to epigenetic clocks came around in 2013. In 2016, you saw epigenetic reprogramming, where you could take a patient's older cells, you could take an 80 year old person's cells, epigenetically reprogram back to 30 year old versions of themselves. And when you give them back to the patient, they will go back into their bone marrow and start making copies of their younger cells. Now, that sounds like science fiction, but it's not. It's science fact today. And then we saw, as recently as last year, the WHO finally acknowledged aging as a disease. That's not a new debate; it's been around for a couple of hundred years. Whether you think it is or it isn't, isn't really the point. The way I see it, when we think of things in that context as a disease, and if you think of aging as a disease, then you start to develop strategies to mitigate it and to treat it.
That's the important part that I think, and stem cells play a role in that, because we're all born with a fixed number or a finite number of stem cells, and it is our regenerative potential. It supplies the repair and the regeneration, the rejuvenation, if you will, that we need when we get injured and when we suffer inflammation and when we suffer stress. As we age, our bodies call on these stem cells to do the repair work, and as we start to decline in both number and function, that's when we see the aging process start to accelerate. So they play a huge role. And I want to be really clear, I think I said this earlier but there is no magic bullet. They're a puzzle piece just like everything else. But it turns out they're a really critical puzzle piece when it comes to aging and longevity and improved health.
The discussion continued by highlighting the interplay of cellular medicine and lifestyle in managing aging, advocating for a combination of advanced cellular strategies with healthy lifestyle habits. Key topics like epigenetics and stem cells were explored in further detail for their crucial roles in understanding and addressing aging. Throughout, there's a strong emphasis on a personalized, holistic approach to health that integrates scientific developments with lifestyle changes to enhance the aging process.
It is well known that taking advantage of this technology comes at a steep price these days. Because of that, toward the end of the conversation, the discussion focused on some of the things people can do at home that have been proven to slow down the aging process.