Longevity Meme Newsletter, February 10 2003
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LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
February 10 2003

The Longevity Meme Newsletter is an infrequent e-mail containing news, opinions and happenings for people interested in life extension: making use of diet, lifestyle choices, technology and proven medical advances to live healthy, longer lives.

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THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS BAD PUBLICITY

Or is there? There has been some discussion on mail lists and in forums regarding comments made by Michael Jackson during recent television spots. The pop star (and very rich person, according to some sources) wants to live forever; something he briefly spoke about in a very matter-of-fact way. This cropped up as a couple of throwaway lines in many, many articles. The following link is representative of many:

http://www.eonline.com/News/Items/0,1,11228,00.html?tnews

The actual quote:

"Elsewhere, in the ITV documentary, Jackson ruminates about life and death--actually, mostly about life. Jackson's not big on dying.

'I would like to live forever,' he tells Bashir."

As you should all know by now, I'm very big on publicity and public awareness for live extension. Given the low profile that life extension has, I'm all for the possibility of life extension being put forth in any way in the mass media.

Was this Michael Jackson thing good, bad, or a non-event? I have no idea.

I sometimes look at this whole situation from the marketing director point of view: life extension is a wonderful product with no downside that everyone would want if they only realized just how great it actually is. When you have a product like this, you are in an enviable position: there really is no such thing as bad publicity. If people lambaste your product as a terrible thing, all they are doing is spending their money to educate more of the public of the existence of your wonderful product!

That is what I would like to believe, in any case. It would make it easy to dismiss comments of the sort that show up near the end of this Washington Post article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39931-2003Feb7.html

Look for the section entitled "The President's Ethicist." Dr. Leon Kass, Chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics is in fine form as usual, decrying life extension technology in any number of ways.

Unfortunately, we cannot dismiss Kass. While he is helping (in his own backwards way) to raise awareness of the possibilities of life extension, he and his bioethicist cronies have a real ability to damage and hold back research in the US. He offers the justification for legislation currently under debate that would shut down or criminalize vast swathes of anti-aging research in this country. France has already done this: it's not as though we can pretend that it can't happen here.

WHY IS PUBLICITY IMPORTANT?

Research and research funding ebbs and flows on public awareness and public opinion. Government funding is usually a small amount of the whole if a field is popular or well known. If the market sees a dollar to be made by selling people what they want, then companies will bloom and research funds will pour forth.

Life extension, aging and anti-aging research is currently seriously under-funded in comparison to, say, cancer, heart disease or AIDS research. When you stop to think about it, this is a very strange state of affairs. After all, everyone ages. Almost everyone is prepared to pay money to slow or halt the progress of aging. Witness the success of vendors claiming to supply "anti-aging" products!

So why is anti-aging, aging and life extension research languishing? One answer is that the wider public really doesn't understand the possibilities that life extension research could bring in the near future. This isn't an insurmountable barrier, however. We can look at what happened in the 80s and 90s for AIDS research, for example. Activist groups were well aware of the possibilities that future research could bring. They worked long and hard, and raised a great noise to the heavens. Lo and behold, the flow of money to AIDS research increased dramatically. Today, AIDS in Western countries is almost a manageable, chronic condition rather than a death sentence. This happened in only 20 years. When political and economic barriers are overcome, AIDS patients elsewhere in the world will enjoy the same benefits.

So something like this could – and indeed should - happen for aging. We need to organize, speak up and make ourselves heard.

FIN

And that's all for this newsletter. See you next time.

DISCUSSION

Have comments for us, or want to discuss the newsletter?

Reason

Founder, Longevity Meme

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RECENT NEWS

Stepping Towards Regenerative Medicine (February 09 2003)
http://abcnews.go.com/wire/SciTech/reuters20030209_211.html
ABC News carries this report on the first gene-engineering of human stem cells. This would seem to be significant research; it promises far greater control over the tissues formed by stem cells, and thus a greater range of medical applications.

Managing Cancer (February 09 2003)
http://news.ninemsn.com.au/Health/story_42294.asp
It seems that the scientific community is getting tantalizingly close to turning cancer from a killer into a managed or curable condition. We're seeing a lot of announcements similar to this one recently; it's very exciting!

Premature Aging Disease Caused By Short Telomeres (February 07 2003)
http://www.lef.org/news/aging/2003/02/06/eng-medinews_biotek/eng-medinews_biotek_105954_5027383175694399455.html
The Life Extension Foundation News notes that researchers have linked shortened telomeres with a condition that produces the effects of premature aging. Very interesting, especially in the stated connection to stem cells, but far too early to comment on significance.

Legislative Battle Continues (February 06 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-02-06-4
Betterhumans covers the latest round in the legislative battle over theraputic cloning. A new bill that restricts but does not ban theraputic cloning is proposed. It's not exactly wonderful, but it's better than criminalizing the research.

Drinking Water to Lose Weight (February 05 2003)
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/02/030205073358.htm
ScienceDaily has this article on how drinking water really does help you to eat less without feeling hungry. I post it because I recall how much this trick helped me when I first started on a calorie restriction diet; the CR Society lists are a great place to pick up help and tips like this.

The Genetics of Fly Longevity (February 05 2003)
http://genomebiology.com/pressreleases/pressrelease30jan03.asp
Flies have been used in a large number of life extension studies; they have short lives, so research moves more rapidly. There is a lot of genetic similarity between flies and humans (funnily enough). Genome Biology posts this article on recent basic research on the genetics of fly longevity.

French Criminalize Theraputic Cloning (February 05 2003)
http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewForeignBureaus.asp?Page=%5CForeignBureaus%5Carchive%5C200301%5CFOR20030131g.html
(I know, I'm a few days late on this one). CNSNews reports that the French senate has passed a tough blanket ban on all forms of cloning research. This includes potentially lifesaving theraputic cloning. Let's hope the French government comes to their senses, and that other governments choose not to follow this path.

Slow Aging by Preparing Early (February 04 2003)
http://www.newsnet5.com/aging/1952986/detail.html
Here's a short piece that really nails one of the essential pillars of contemporary life extension. This is how we use common means currently at our disposal: start early with the proper diet, lifestyle and exercise.

Radical Life Extension Week At Betterhumans (February 03 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com
Betterhumans is running articles on radical life extension this week, including Why Physical Immortality? by Bruce J. Klein of the Immortality Institute and Boom Time For Longevity by George Dvorsky. Take a look!

Interview With Dr. Gavrilov (January 31 2003)
http://www.src.uchicago.edu/~gavr1/Interview.html
The transcipt of a wide-ranging interview with Dr. Leonard Gavrilov can be found at his website, and the Immortality Institute offers commentary and links to an audio download. Dr. Gavrilov's comments on the future, current state and recent history of life extension and aging research are especially interesting.

Ammo For Telomere Aging Theories (January 31 2003)
http://www.infoaging.org/news_article.html?SMContentIndex=0&SMContentSet=0
InfoAging is covering a telling study that would seem to add weight to some telomere aging theories. (A telomere primer is also found at InfoAging).

Christopher Reeve Stands Up For Theraputic Cloning (January 31 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-01-30-3
Betterhumans notes that actor Christopher Reeve is standing up for theraputic cloning. It offers hope for a near-term cure for disabled people like Reeve. He has been a powerful advocate for the disabled in the past, and I certainly hope he will continue to speak out on theraputic cloning.

Folding@Home, Helping Medical Research (January 30 2003)
http://folding.stanford.edu
There are many small ways in which we can all help to support important medical research. One of the easiest is to download and run the Folding@Home screensaver. It crunches away at important protein folding simulations, vital to advanced research on diseases such as Alzheimer's. Click on the link to read more about the Folding@Home project, run at Stanford University.

Theraputic Cloning Legislation Update (January 29 2003)
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030129/hl_nm/cloning_senate_dc_1
Yahoo! News is carrying an article on the continuing efforts to criminalize theraputic cloning research. Our elected representatives want to shut down basic research in regenerative, anti-aging medicine and cures for a wide range of conditions. Time to write angry letters again, I think.

Bush Renews Call To Ban Cloning Research (January 29 2003)
http://afr.com/world/2003/01/29/FFX2J1FMIBD.html
A short snippet of an article, but I thought it worth noting that President Bush used the State of the Union address to reiterate his call for a complete ban on cloning research. This includes important theraputic cloning research for regenerative medicine. Not good.
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