We were delighted to have Soheila Jalali as our guest on the Futurebuilders show. Here is a small sample of our interesting discussion about aging. Soheila is a passionate biotech professional doing her master’s degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. She also has experience from health technology startup in India.
Teemu, host of the show: Together with Soheila, we’ll be finding out “Are we able to stop aging in the future?”, “What is biotechnology making possible today and tomorrow?”, and “How can you get more time?” So, Soheila, welcome to Futurebuilders podcast. Great to have you here.
Soheila Jalali: Hi! Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here and this is something I always wanted to do. You know, that’s spread the word but biotechnology.
Teemu: Excellent. Then that’s definitely an area where there’s a huge interest now and I do see that in future it will be growing as an industry and as the studies go on and innovations come along. So it’s definitely a hot topic now. But please can you share a bit more about your background, what you’re doing, your education, where you work?
Soheila: Sure. So I don’t know where to start, because I’ve always known since I was maybe a teenager, that I would want to be in biotechnology and that I would want to kind of save the world, if I May. So I did my bachelor’s degree actually at University College London a few years ago. And before that I had done some work in a pathology lab in India. So somehow I was always kind of in the health care space.
After my degree got over, I went back to India. That’s where I’m from actually. I was working with an early stage startup. Which worked with health technology, so kind of doing health checks for people while they’re at work, kind of occupation or but more fun. I was kind of on the engagement side of that. So trying to make people get more interested in their health and know what the readings mean and understand what they can do better in their lives.
But what I was really missing, was to stay in touch with science and where the future is. Like I said, I did biotechnology because I believe that it’s something that is going to build our future, like your podcast name. I was missing out on that.
So, I decided to kind of start my own blog as well at the same time as I was working, which helped me to kind of stay in touch with biotech as well as write a little bit because I enjoyed writing. I was writing even for my job, content on health and things like that. So I kept in touch and the things that really started hitting me were about aging epigenetics, which I’ll talk more about later today. Then I decided that eventually I’m going to go back to do my, continue my education a little bit in Europe because so now I’m in the Netherlands. And I think it’s, it’s a great place to be because this is where a lot of garden gutting edge research is going on in the field and I’m getting to be a part of that. I’m getting to learn what exactly is happening, what are the challenges and of course I’m getting to speak on this podcast.
Teemu: That’s very fine that you found your dream job so early. I mean, as a teenager that usually never happens. Regarding when you worked in the company before you gone back to studying and you were interested in people’s health and stuff they do. How do you find, from your perspective to people’s engagement being on their well-being? Easily on my understanding, people don’t change their happiest unless they are near, near the death store, so to speak.
Soheila: Yeah, exactly. Which is what I realized that being in preventive health actually is very challenging because people will look at their results one day and think, okay, you know what, this looks bad. Maybe I should do something and they’ll do a little bit maybe for a few days or maybe for even a couple of months. But then the pattern resumes. And I think the psychological tendencies that unless something has gotten really bad which is why everyone’s always looking for a cure more than a prevention or something that will completely eradicate the disease. Because it’s easier to treat something once it has happened then to say that, okay, this will never happen.
I think biotech can make people’s lives easier in that sense. So you don’t have to change the way you behave. But if we could come up with the right drugs or maybe the right interventions that could actually change the way we are programmed. Maybe. I mean this is of course talking very, very far into the future, but I think we could still be lazy and you know, benefit from whatever is available in the biotech field to make them maybe stay younger longer or just not develop diseases as easily.
Teemu: Yes, that’s true. So you’re now in Netherlands, do you see that’s the most advanced country for biotech industry.
Soheila: I don’t know what I could say is the most advanced of for the biotech industry. But I would definitely say that the focus on healthy aging is very strong here. It’s because there is aging population and a demographic that is proactive about staying healthy. And I think that is what drives the research as well, and the government and everybody to kind of be involved with funding research. Or at least encouraging people to have those conversations about how you can stay healthier longer and things like that.
So I think because of that, there’s an edge do the research as well. People consider this a hot topic, considered a field where it is feasible and it is something that’s needed and it’s the need of the hour. So that’s why I think it’s a, it’s a good place to be. But I would say maybe other parts of Europe as well because, the fact that we’ve reached this point where everybody here is aging. To a higher level than previously expected. So life expectancies are higher and I think that’s what giving this aging debate the push to move forward.
Teemu: One thing that it actually causes also, is that the pressure on society is much higher. Since you live longer, you need to first pay insurance, need to sustain it more, way more many years. But definitely I would imagine that everyone would like to leave as long as healthy the they can. So regarding about aging for instance, how do you see it? What is the trend of aging? Is it sort of like linear progression that we have cumulated all these years, people live longer or has he taken some sort of leaps and bounds on some point?
Soheila: The thing with the human beings and gender is that we’ve kind of reached a point where we’ve overcome evolution in a way. So like if you think about how things have been going through evolution, there was always a limit to what people could live to. Because of the environmental law, external pressures. Like what is done to extend sick modality. So people used to die maybe of bear attacks or animal attacks or just being out in the cold.
Or they got bacterial infections, viral infections. But as a species, we’ve now overcome so many of those evolutionary pressures that what used to be normal evolutionarily was around maybe living till 35 or 40. But now it’s very, very normal to just live to 70 or 80. Nowadays people think it’s young to die at 60 or 50, even. But that’s not how it was. We were living to much younger ages only, and which is why we’ve not really evolved to live long.
When we see the symptoms of aging, what we’re actually seeing is evolution not knowing how to cope with this. Because were moving so fast and do live long. So like you said, linear is true for some countries in fact because it’s so much is now defined by socio economics and politics. Certain countries, if you’re living there, you can easily expect to be living under 70 or 80, and that’s average. And that trend has gone up linearly in the past, maybe couple of decades even, which is very, very fast. If you think about the normal evolutionary dame skills that actually are in play.
Teemu: Yeah. I say, for instance the life expectancy for the last past 30 years has definitely take leaps, considered what it was back in a hundred years ago.
Soheila: There are people living into their 90s and hundreds even more often. But even with all of that, there’s definitely an end to the trend. So there’s a maximum lifespan, which is what is right now the problem, I would say. As species, yes you can keep pushing and keep pushing it, but up to maybe 120 or 122 is the longest a single individual has ever lived. So there is this push that could be happening where everything moves a little bit further, little bit further based on what we develop and what we can provide to people to stay younger, live longer and get rid of their diseases for a longer period of time.
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