[Paleopsych] Novosti: Russian Oligardchs Want Immortality

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Russian Information Agency Novosti
2005-03-16 19:03


    MOSCOW (RIA Novosti commentator Vladimir Simonov) - When life is good,
    it is especially bitter to admit that it will end some day. And this
    simple truth encourages nouveaux riches Russians, called oligarchs
    here, to spend through the nose on all kinds of rejuvenation
    procedures and on scientific research to create the "elixir of youth."
    The people who have everything you can dream about, from castles in
    Scotland to garages with a dozen Ferraris, want absolute, 100% joie de
    vivre in their own immortality.

    One of such people is Vladimir Bryntsalov, the pharmaceutical king of
    Russia who plans to spend $2 million on setting up a personal
    rejuvenation laboratory. He has had a course of stem cell injections
    and feels no older than 20, though his biological age is about 60.

    "My cheeks were deeply lined - now they are smooth as baby's," said
    Bryntsalov stroking his cheeks. "There were terrible scars on my body
    since childhood - they have smoothed over, vanished."

    Stem cells are taken from the patient's fat layers under local
    anesthesia (autogenous transplant) or from aborted or miscarried human
    fetuses. In both cases, the substance is blended and put into an
    incubator, where the cells grow rapidly for several weeks, after which
    the precious substance is injected into the patient's vein. Or you can
    have facial injections, which are said to have miraculous effect.

    This expensive treatment will cost you $10,000-20,000 in Moscow,
    depending on the length of the course. But members of the financial
    elite and ranking state officials are lining up at medical centers.

    In many Western countries, such clinics would not even get the
    opportunity to open their doors. During a recent speech, President
    Bush denounced stem cell therapy as "godless." The U.S. administration
    and the governments of many other industrialized countries refuse to
    finance such research from the state budget and it is banned
    altogether in several countries. But more than a score of physicians
    openly practice this experimental method in Moscow.

    The sale of eternal youth is nearly as profitable as the oil business.
    Doctor Alexander Teplyashin, one of the most fashionable rejuvenation
    specialists, has two clinics in downtown Moscow and on the elite
    Rublyovskoye Shosse (Highway). Their high-tech architecture would do
    honor to any European capital. Dr. Teplyashin has a long list of the
    rich who want to turn the clock back.

    "I always tell my patients: Spend something on yourself, and not just
    on your planes and yachts," said Dr. Teplyashin.

    This is not a problem for many oligarchs. More and more of them can
    have a private jet, a football club, and the not quite fantastic dream
    of immortality. Forbes reported recently that Russia has the world's
    second largest group of billionaires after the U.S. The personal
    income of 27 Russian citizens is above $1 billion (69 in the U.S.) and
    their aggregate assets are $90.6 billion.

    The third man on Forbes Russian rich list is Oleg Deripaska, an
    aluminum magnate worth $5.5 billion. He would not like to leave behind
    the results of his hard work when his final hour beckons. In a bid to
    put off this day, he gave $120,000 for research into "the youth
    elixir" at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Biology of Moscow
    State University. Professor Vladimir Skulachev, the Institute director
    and a full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, received the
    money. His idea may not seem original but he has moved farther ahead
    in its implementation than many other researchers.

    Aging is a biological program where oxygen is the main killer of
    cells, said Skulachev. And any program can be turned off. The idea is
    to create a powerful antioxidant to protect the organism from
    destruction. The Deripaska grant and months of brainstorming seem to
    have brought Skulachev's group to a sensational discovery. There is a
    tube in the professor's fridge filled to a third with a sticky
    amber-colored substance. It isthe miracle elixir that may turn some
    Russians into Peter Pan.

    "No, I did not promise eternal life to Deripaska," said the professor
    modestly. "Well, his name may go down in the history of science for
    giving substantial sums to unique research." According to Skulachev,
    the task is to "check the hypothesis of aging and the possibility of
    prolonging life."

    So far, the elixir is being checked on mice, and the result will
    become clear in a year. The professor needs another $500,000 for the
    next five years of research, and his team hopes Mr. Deripaska's
    enthusiasm will not ebb.

    The Science of Longevity foundation, created by Russia's most
    exclusive family club, Monolith, is very enthusiastic. Its members are
    the cream of the country's financial elite and, not surprisingly, they
    would like to prolong the benefits of the post-communism era into
    eternity. The foundation's board, whose trustees are Yuri Osipov,
    president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Yuri Pokrovsky,
    president of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, and ex-Health
    Minister Yuri Shevchenko, has called on Russian scientists to take
    part in a competition "for the best program of prolonging human life."
    The board has received over 300 proposals and projects.

    Russian society, a third of which lives below the poverty line, is
    divided on the need for immortal oligarchs. Mikhail Rechkin, an expert
    on the paranormal, thinks that Russia does not need eternally young
    oligarchs. "There is a gulf between the rich and the poor in the
    country," he said. "And so, the rich will not be allowed to live
    eternally. There will be a revolution."

    Valery Polyakov, a cosmonaut and adviser to the director of the
    Institute of Medical and Biological Problems, is not so outspoken:
    "Deripaska did well to invest in research. Maybe this will help
    scientists find ways to prolong life not only for oligarchs but also
    for other people. The oligarchs should not think about eternal life
    but about creating a good name for themselves and cleansing themselves
    of their dirty deeds."

    The patients of the Russian Dr. Faust have a somewhat primitive notion
    of immortality. "I want to live longer so as to earn more money," one
    of them said in the surgery for stem cells transplant.

    These people will have to hear and understand yet the prayer of
    Russia's oldest citizen, Pasikhat Dzhukavleva, a Chechen who turned
    124 amid the explosions and ruination of Grozny. "I have had a good
    life but I have lived too long. I am tired of living. Forgive me for

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