The work of Dr. Cynthia Kenyon inspired my novel The Methuselah Gene, (which was originally in hardcover, and is now an ebook and audiobook.) Dr. Kenyon does genetic research on the aging of small animals, and the implications it may have on human aging. A breakthrough came for her when her team doubled the lifespan of certain worms by altering a single gene. She is currently at work on developing a drug that may produce a pill which puts off life-curtailing diseases by a decade or more. In addition, the magazine Scientific American ran an article in January 2012 on new pathways to youth, revealing that interfering with a protein called mTOR by pharmaceutical means can slow aging by postponing the triggers of cell senescence. Certain drugs such as metformin and rapamycin have been seen to mimic calorie restriction in animals on unrestricted diets (something resveratrol has failed to do…and who wants to eat 75% less food than we do now, in an age of billion dollar junk food campaigns?) Lifespans in mice were extended 14%. The equivalent for humans might be a decade. As the premise for my novel, I imagined a breakthrough in which a gene is extracted from a bristlecone pine tree (the longest living plant on the planet) and discovering a means of “infecting” the brain with it via a neutered AIDS virus. (I was told by a pharmaceutical scientist that this was not as far fetched as I first imagined.) The AIDS effects of HIV can be neutralized in the laboratory prior to human contact, while retaining the capacity to pass the blood/brain barrier. So if such a gene is attached by recombinant DNA splicing, it is plausible that it could deliver its longevity effects, and that such a method of delivery could be patented. From this, my plot arose—as theft, coverup, and side effects could enter to provide intrigue and suspense. HERE are the opening chapters, which were left out of the digital versions for pacing reasons, but which nonetheless provide character background and tone to what follows.
Summary, THE METHUSELAH GENE: Imagine that the pharmaceutical company you work for is on the verge of patenting a molecular formula that could extend human life by a decade. Your home computer has recently been hacked, and now you discover that the woman who’s been lying to you on the internet isn’t whom she claimed to be. Should you have told her about your work, much less kept research notes on the project on your home computer, against company policy? What will you do when the hacker you’ve hired to trace this thief informs you that “she” is a “he” whose last known address is a post office box in Zion, Iowa? With your job in jeopardy if you tell your boss, will your next vacation be to Hawaii…or to Iowa? For Alan Dyson, curiousity was a trait which inspired him with the idea to use a virus to deliver a bristlecone pine gene across the blood/brain barrier. Now curiosity will place both his job and his life in jeopardy. Because those who’ve stolen his idea have billions of reason$ to make him the scapegoat, and a plan so insidious that they must have been watching him all along.