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Longevity Meme Newsletter, June 02 2003

LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
June 02 2003

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

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METHUSELAH MOUSE PRIZE IS LAUNCHED

Aubrey de Grey and his team at Cambridge University, UK, have launched the Methuselah Mouse Prize for anti-aging research. The official launch date is later in the month, at the next meeting of the American Aging Association.

http://www.americanaging.org/

Here is the unofficial launch announcement I received a few days ago:

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This is to let you know about a new initiative designed to further the development of truly effective anti-aging interventions, by promoting public interest and involvement in research on mammalian life extension and by encouraging more such research to be done. It's called the Methuselah Mouse Prize, and it will be launched at the American Aging Association conference on Sunday June 8th (11:45am at the Harbor Court Hotel, 550 Light Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202-6099), where we will make the inaugural award to Andrzej Bartke.

In brief, it is a prize for producing the world's longest-ever-lived mouse. The amount awarded is determined by the size of the prize fund, to which anyone can contribute, and by the margin by which the record is broken. For more details see the Prize site:

http://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/mmp/

The two things that the prize needs in its early stages are publicity and donors. Even though we will not be trying to get huge sums into the prize fund for a while, having a lot of small donations will add considerable credibility to the enterprise. Contributions can be made up-front (by credit card online) unless they are big (over $25,000) in which case we are taking legally-bound pledges. All donors will be listed on the Prize web site unless they prefer to remain anonymous.

Please publicize this initiative in any way you can!

Cheers, Aubrey de Grey
Dept. Genetics, U. Cambridge, UK
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A number of webmasters - including myself - and other groups are currently working on publicizing this prize effort. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first meaningful research prize in the anti-aging field. It must do well to ensure that further, larger prizes follow.

Why prizes for research? Rather than repeat my thoughts on this topic from two newsletters, I'll point you to an excellent article written by Simon Smith from Betterhumans and published at the same time:

http://www.betterhumans.com/Features/Columns/Forward_Thinking/column.aspx?articleID=2003-05-05-2

In summary, prizes have been proven to invigorate poorly funded and under-publicized fields of science. We can hold up the X Prize as the best and most effective current research prize:

http://www.xprize.org/

For a mere $10 million in prize money, the X Prize has spurred investments of more than $150 million in commercial aerospace development. This is a field that was moribund and near dead up until very recently. This is a great success! I'm sure that many of you have read articles in past months about the two or three teams that are closest to winning the X Prize and deploying commercial, reusable space vehicles.

It is worth noting that Dr. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, is an advisor to the Methuselah Mouse Prize. This is a very serious effort, backed by serious, competent people.

HOW WE CAN HELP THE METHUSELAH MOUSE PRIZE SUCCEED

The Methuselah Mouse Prize is a first step. It is not a large prize yet, but many wealthy people and organizations are watching to see how well the prize meets its goals. Doing well means attracting attention from the press and public, encouraging scientists to compete, and obtaining a large number of modest, tax-deductible donations from people like you and me. If this prize succeeds, there will be other, much larger prizes for anti-aging research in the future.

This is a real chance for anti-aging research to become as successful as the X Prize has made the nascent commercial space industry!

You and I, people of modest means, are unlikely to see another opportunity like this: an opportunity to make a great difference to the future of healthy life extension medicine with just a few dollars. Donating to the Methuselah Mouse Prize is like starting a rockslide with a single pebble. You will be helping to create many more prizes and far greater funding for research in the future. One dollar now could encourage thousands of dollars in prizes and funding over the next few years.

This Prize is a fulcrum, a lever, and an important point in the future of anti-aging research. We can all help to make our future health better by donating.

I, for one, am putting my money where my mouth is. I have donated $1000 to the Methuselah Mouse Prize on behalf of the Longevity Meme. I encourage all of you to donate a modest amount, as your means allow. Follow the link below for the donation page at the Prize site:

http://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/mmp/donate.htm

How else can you help? Those of you in the industry or who run industry websites are encouraged to spread the world. Everyone here can help in attracting the attention of the press, however. Talk to journalists if you know any. Send a note to the editors at your favorite science magazine, or to the health section of your favorite newspaper. Pass this newsletter on to your friends.

Together, we can make a real, meaningful difference to our future health and longevity by acting now to improve anti-aging research.

FIN

That's all for my commentary this time: a news roundup for the past two weeks follows below.

DISCUSSION

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

Reason

Founder, Longevity Meme

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RECENT NEWS

Step Forward For Regenerative Medicine (June 01 2003)
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/05/31/health/main556381.shtml
CBS News reports on another advancement in the field of regenerative medicine. Cells in the ear that normally do not regrow have been successfully regenerated in adult guinea pigs. This is a good companion to recent successful trials on regeneration in the eye in Asia. We can hope that as more specific applications of regenerative medicine are demonstrated, opposition to these new tools of medicine will vanish. There's certainly all too much opposition to stem cell therapies right now, and this is blocking rapid advances towards healthy life extension medicine.

Methuselah Mouse Prize Launched (May 31 2003)
http://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/mmp/
The first in a series of research prizes for anti-aging research has been launched. The Methuselah Mouse prize rewards researchers for discovering new ways of extending healthy life in mammals -- and then applying them to us humans. The project will benefit greatly from your tax-deductible donations, and you are unlikely to see a better use of your money for aging research in the near future. I have donated $1000 on behalf of the Longevity Meme, and I encourage you to donate what you can. See this Betterhumans article for more information on the enormous benefits that research prizes bring to scientific endeavors.

Interview With Dr. Richard Miller (May 31 2003)
http://www.sagecrossroads.com/transcripts/052803transcript.pdf
The PDF format transcript of the latest SAGE Crossroads webcast is now up. It's a wide-ranging interview with Dr. Miller, a gerontologist of note. If you want to know what the aging research community does, thinks about and is working towards, you'll find this article very informative. He touches on everything from calorie restriction through to legislation and public opinion on aging research. It's interesting to note that Dr. Miller runs into the same problem that I see in the public: that people think aging research will prolong frail, unhealthy elderly life, rather than extend healthy, active life. This is a false perception, one that we have to fight.

Cloned Mule Gives Aging, Cancer Insights (May 30 2003)
http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s868113.htm
I certainly wasn't intending to post about the recent scientific success in cloning a mule, but it seems that this research has unearthed some useful insights into cancer and the aging process. We will probably see more of this sort of fortunate discovery. As researchers learn to manipulate cells and genes more adeptly, they can't help but learn more about other processes in the body.

Brain Tangles and Memory Loss (May 30 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-05-30-1
In contrast to a recent article suggesting that "natural" memory loss due to aging was a consequence of social differences, here is one from Betterhumans proposing a new biochemical cause. In essence, researchers are suggesting that an early symptom of Alzheimer's (these "brain tangles" made up of a damaging protein) is more widespread than thought, and is largely responsible for minor age-related memory imparement. This is certainly intriguing: as for any purely physical cause, it is open to prevention and cure. It seems quite possible that the fight against Alzheimer's may lead to the end of memory problems and a much greater understanding of the underlying physic basis of thought and memory.

Key to Stem Cells Discovered (May 30 2003)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A55817-2003May29.html?nav=hptop_tb
From the Washington Post: scientists have discovered the master gene in stem cells that gives them the ability to form all other types of human cells. This means we are closer to being able to create stem cells from any human cell, which means we are closer to the grail of true regenerative medicine. If we can understand the mechanisms that make stem cells work, therapies for many diseases and conditions of aging will soon follow. All in all, even though it is early, basic research, this is very good news. More on stem cell basics can be found at InfoAging.org.

Could You Live To 100? (May 29 2003)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2946890.stm
From the unusual starting point of Bob Hope, this BBC article lightly touches on all of the current major scientific developments in healthy life extension. Calorie restriction, advances in general healthcare, genetic studies and regenerative medicine. The cryonics industry even gets a mention near the end. These are exciting times: we are very much at the beginning of the birth of a new medical industry, one that will benefit all of us enormously. The promise of longer, healthier lives is ahead of us, and we have to reach out to support the research that will lead there. As one researcher says in the article: "We have just opened the box - and now we are peering in."

Centenarians on the Rise (May 29 2003)
http://www.sacbee.com/content/lifestyle/seniors/story/6745838p-7696920c.html
From the Sacremento Bee, an article on the rising numbers of centenarians. That the number of centenarians is doubling each decade is a mark of rapid advances made in medicine. The article discusses current research into the causes of longevity: the genetics and lifestyles of centenarians are under scrutiny. This will hopefully lead to a greater understanding of aging and the promise of longer healthy lives for all. The existence of hale and active 90-year-olds indicates that frailty and disease are not a fundamental part of the aging process.

Secrets of Longevity (May 29 2003)
http://www.health24.co.za/news.asp?action=art&SubContentTypeId=5&ContentID=22496
Health24 tells us some of the not so secret secrets of longevity. In essence, keeping your weight down and staying active are key to natural longevity. But we all knew that already, right? Of course, natural longevity is only going to get us so far -- we want more. Supporting medical research for healthy life extension is vital! The key to much, much longer lives is the medicine of the future, not the natural techniques of today.

Turning Off Genetic Disease (May 27 2003)
http://www.uiowa.edu/~ournews/2003/may/052703disease-causing-gene.html
A group from the University of Iowa have shown that it is possible to turn off or silence mutant disease-causing genes without affecting the behavior of the normal gene. This is a very important finding: it lays the groundwork for genetic approaches to many, many different diseases and conditions of aging. This includes cancer; so this is yet another possible cancer therapy in the works (we're up to about ten or so announced in the last twelve months, I think).

Bringing Stem Cell Therapies to Market (May 27 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-05-27-4
(From Betterhumans). There are many necessary steps in bringing a new therapy to the market. One of the most basic ones is demonstrating that you can do many times over what you have already accomplished a few times in early trials. It looks like stem cell therapies are over this cost-effective mass production hurdle, which is very encouraging. As you should all know by now, stem cells and theraputic cloning look to be the strongest basis for powerful near-term regenerative therapies: the medicine that will extend our healthy lives.

Facing up to Death (May 26 2003)
http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/05/24/1053585744403.html
Continuing todays theme, here's a short article on attitudes towards death and life extension from The Age in Australia. Once again, I disagree with the points made: we should always fight to extend healthy life while respecting individual choice. I think that the interesting thing to note here is that a series of small professional meetings on life extension matters have been held over the past few weeks in Australia. Kudos to the organizers; we certainly could see more of that here in the USA.

Death and Immortality (May 26 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com/Features/Columns/Transitory_Human/column.aspx?articleID=2003-05-26-6
An article over at Betterhumans examines views towards death in the life extension community. I have to say that I don't really agree with the author on many of his points. I personally feel that death is an unacceptable risk to the continuation of my existence. I want absolutely certainty in the future of my existence, therefore I don't want to die. I am uncertain about religion, afterlife and pattern identity theory, therefore I fear death in a sane and rational way. This attitude doesn't render me any less capable than the author of this article when fighting effectively for healthy life extension and the medicine of the future.

Overview of Dendritic-Cell Cancer Vaccines (May 24 2003)
http://www.nj.com/newsflash/business/index.ssf?/cgi-free/getstory_ssf.cgi?f0061_BC_WSJ--CancerResearch&&news&newsflash-financial
An article from nj.com looks over the past decade of research and trials in a particular -- and very promising -- class of cancer vaccine. I've said before here that cancer is no longer a grave threat to life in developed countries. The end result of decades of well-publicized research and high levels of funding has finally come: numerous effective therapies are about to arrive in the market. This success story can be repeated for anti-aging research and regenerative medicine, but only if we manage to make these fields as popular and as well funded. Activism and advocacy are very important.

UK Aging Research Program (May 24 2003)
http://icliverpool.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0100regionalnews/page.cfm?objectid=12963845&method=full&siteid=50061&headline=Stay%20young%20with%20JMU
Here's one I missed from earlier in the month. The John Moores University in Liverpool, UK is undertaking a large study on aging. The stated intent of the research is to help in slowing or reversing the aging process. This is very fundamental research aimed at filling in the gaps in scientific knowledge of the aging process. It is good to see more projects like this one launching place around the world. It is a sign that more and more people in science are taking anti-aging research seriously.

SAGE KE (May 23 2003)
http://sageke.sciencemag.org/
The Science of Aging Knowledge Environment (SAGE KE) is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the latest research and the people behind it all. (You've no doubt seen links to the SAGE Crossroads sister site on the Longevity Meme in past months). The articles and other information fall somewhere between a popular science magazine and a scientific journal in readability, so it should be of interest to a broad segment of the audience here.

Ovaries Play a Role in Mammalian Aging (May 23 2003)
http://www.lef.org/news/aging/2003/05/23/eng-ascribe/eng-ascribe_142519_5095525706333110500.html
From the LEF News, a fairly brute-force study concludes that we should be looking into the functions of the ovaries in mammals for more clues to biochemical controls involved in the aging process. Scientists have already determined that a small number of genetic changes (which lead to differences in biochemical processes in the body) extend life in nemotode worms, flies and mice. This research is complementary, indicating other avenues of investigation. It's certainly a sign of the times that it seems crude to be performing experimental transplants rather than genetic therapy or biochemical assays.

Stereotypes of Aging Memory (May 22 2003)
http://www.ncsu.edu/news/press_releases/03_05/151.htm
Quite the interesting find from NC State University News. Researchers have looked into age-related decline in memory and are suggesting that it really doesn't have as much to do with the mechanics of aging as we thought. Instead, they suggest that it also has a lot to do with the way in which older people think, react and interact with society. It also may be the result of artifacts in the way in which memory tests are given and monitored by researchers. This is a thought-provoking article, to say the least: but no reason to stop advocating research on ways to reduce the harm done by aging, of course!

Alzheimer's: How Close is a Cure? (May 21 2003)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/global/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=P8&targetRule=10&xml=%2Fglobal%2F2003%2F05%2F20%2Fhalz20.xml
I talk about Alzheimer's fairly often here, since it's representative of a class of conditions that are of great concern to healthy life extensionists. Conditions of the brain, and conditions caused by buildup of misformed proteins are worrying for those of us who want to live longer, healthier lives. As the medicine becomes available to keep us healthy and physically younger, we have to worry about encountering these aging conditions. This article from The Telegraph gives a promising view of the current state of Alzheimer's research and medicine.

The Personal Cost of Aging (May 21 2003)
http://www.osu.edu/researchnews/archive/helthsav.htm
This is an interesting article (from OSU Research News) about the costs of managing failing health caused by aging. The personal costs (financial and otherwise) are tremendous. This is exactly the sort of thing that younger people try very hard not to think about. You should be thinking about this, however. This is your future unless we all band together to help change it! While the article focuses on health insurance, the real way to minimize the costs of aging is the development and introduction of widespread, low-cost anti-aging medicine.

UTHSC To Expand Aging Research Center (May 20 2003)
http://news.mysanantonio.com/story.cfm?xla=saen&xlb=180&xlc=998827
I occasionally post administrative stories as they seem appropriate and representative; this one caught my eye and I thought I'd share. The University of Texas Health Science Center (in San Antonio) will add another $50 million building to its center for the study of aging. It is good to see this sort of article in the press, because it reminds me of similar articles about academic nanotechnology research centers five years ago or so. Just look at where nanotechnology is now! You can chart the course of research by the buildings that go up -- so this article is an indicator of positive things to come.

Sympathetic Cryonics Article (May 20 2003)
http://australianit.news.com.au/articles/0,7204,6449109%5E15397%5E%5Enbv%5E,00.html
AustralianIT is carrying an introductory-level article on the current state of human cryonic suspension. Gratifyingly, unlike many recent articles following the suspension of a certain sports figure, it is positive and realistic in tone. Suspendees recognize that cryonics is an experiment that may not succeed, but any shot at a long, healthy future life is vastly better than decaying to nothing in the ground. Those of us in the community over a certain age have to give at least some serious consideration to cryonics: if anti-aging medicine doesn't come fast enough, it's the best of the two remaining choices.

What's Next for Longevity Research? (May 19 2003)
http://www.sagecrossroads.com/news.cfm
A much better feature article is up this week at SAGE Crossroads. The current state of aging, anti-aging and longevity research is examined, with an emphasis on calorie restriction and understanding basic cellular mechanisms. (Regenerative medicine doesn't get much of a mention). It's a good article: some well-made points in there about the detrimental effects of snake-oil salesmen in the "anti-aging" industry. I certainly can't argue with anyone who makes their main point a call for more funding and legitimacy for longevity research.

Boost For Telomere Aging Theories (May 19 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-05-19-6
Betterhumans reports on research that gives more support for telomere theories of aging. These state, in short, that telomeres -- junk DNA that caps the ends of our chromosomes -- protect our DNA from damage until they are "worn away" with the passing of time. After that, our cells start to accumulate defects and damage more rapidly. A good explanation of the basics can be found over at Wikipedia. It is interesting to keep track of the different theories of aging as they move forward; it is very likely at this stage that all are correct in some sense. The overall picture is still elusive, however.

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