Blog: F036 How is AI decoding aging?
Have you ever considered how it would be to live forever? Or at least more than 100 years? Longevity, eternal youth or even immortality have been an aspiration in religion and culture throughout history. The Greek gods were admired for their eternal strength, beauty, and vitality. Today, people adopt all sorts of approaches to increase their wellbeing, delay aging and avoid diseases. Efforts are increasingly quantified with sensors, wearables, or even biohacking — interventions to influence body biology.
The new hope for advancements in longevity is seen in artificial intelligence, which is becoming increasingly powerful. Alex Zhavoronkov has been researching the use of AI in aging for years. He is the CEO of Insilico Medicine, a Baltimore-based leader in the next-generation artificial intelligence technologies for drug discovery and aging biomarkers discovery. He truly is a well of knowledge — since 2012 he published over 130 peer-reviewed research papers and 2 books including “The Ageless Generation: How Biomedical Advances Will Transform the Global Economy” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). As he emphasizes, constant research is crucial in longevity industry, because the field has been plagued by deceit and fraud throughout history. This s why Insilico Medicine is staying on the brinks of medicine, to have the credibility that opens doors for collaborations with medical experts.
There are three areas of how AI can be applied to aging:
- the construction of aging clocks – guessing age,
- generation of novel chemistry — enables the design of interventions to test your hypothesis,
- new data generation – creating models in which moving one feature in time shows changes in other data types.
Combined those three applications of AI present a very powerful tool for AI. The technology is gaining in sophistication every day. Several techniques fall under next-generation artificial intelligence:
Machine learning refers to algorithms that can learn from and make predictions on data by building a model from sample inputs.
Deep learning is a subset of machine learning and refers to modeling of complex relationships among layers of non-linear computational units — so-called neural networks. Reinforcement learning solves the difficult problem of correlating immediate actions with the delayed returns they produce. The challenge here is that we know the inputs and outputs, but not quite how one led to another. Generative Adversarial Networks are structured, probabilistic models for generating data and consist of two entities — the generator and the denominator. The denominator checks the authenticity of the data produced by the generator, whereas the generator tries to trick the denominator — it’s kind of like trying to learn to lie without getting caught.
Transfer learning is a machine learning method where the set of learned features of a model for a specific task is reused, or repurposed, as the targeting point for a model on a second task. In practice, it’s often used for optimization.
Generative Adversarial Networks and Transfer Learning bring the promise of faster progress in the field of aging. For example, algorithms can be trained in diseases with enough patients and a new understanding of biological processes could be applied to areas where data is harder to come by, such as rare diseases. Data acquisition is, in general, becoming a challenge with the rising demands for privacy regulation, making Asian countries more competitive, since they aren’t yet as strict as the Western world regarding data privacy laws. Medical research and looking for new cures is a business where you usually more often fail than succeed, says Alex Zhavoronkov. For these purposes, he believes, patient data should be available to researchers: “It should be a fundamental law, for all the medical data to be donated for medical purposes until we aren’t managed to cure diseases that kill people. People think about data privacy but they fail to remember the pain and suffering caused by diseases. We need data to find cures.”
To learn more about aging and AI, read the following:
Some questions addressed in the podcast: