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Longevity Meme Newsletter, June 16 2003

LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
June 16 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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A REMINDER TO DONATE

Have you made a tax-deductible donation to the Methuselah Mouse Prize yet? This research prize offers a real chance for anti-aging research to become as successful as the X Prize has made the nascent commercial space industry!

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

This is a great opportunity for all of us to put a few dollars towards helping to ensure a long, healthy life. The folks at Betterhumans covered the prize launch with an article that offers a few interesting insights into the current state of anti-aging research and some good reasons to donate:

http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-06-03-4

As I pointed out in the last newsletter, 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.

BAD LEGISLATION WATCH: OMINOUS SILENCE

Not much has changed for the better since I last talked about pending and passed anti-research legislation. A theraputic cloning ban is still awaiting debate in the US Senate, and the European Parliament will still be voting on criminalizing stem cell research. The main anti-research players are still in place (the US President, Leon Kass and the President's Council on Bioethics, and so forth). These are people who have deliberately set out, in word and deed, to criminalize swathes of medical research in order to ensure that old age and death remain the threats they currently are today. Sadly, I do not exaggerate. An older, but still very relevant article on Leon Kass can be found here:

http://www.prospect.org/print/V12/17/mooney-c.html

(The author, Chris Mooney, writes frequently on aging research, legislation, bioethics and related issues. Most recently, his work has been showing up at SAGE Crossroads:

http://www.sagecrossroads.com/

and his personal site can be found at:

http://www.chriscmooney.com).

Please do visit the "Take Action" section of the Longevity Meme for more details on how to oppose bad, anti-research legislation:

http://www.longevitymeme.org/projects/

If you haven't contacted your representatives to protest these outrageous pieces of legislation, then you should absolutely do so! If passed, these bills will stop or hinder research, damage your future health and reduce or remove access to cheap, widely available, advanced medicine in years to come.

The good news is that researchers world-wide have been turning out proof of concept results, starting trials and generally doing good work to demonstrate that the first theraputic cloning, stem cell medicine and regenerative therapies can work and be made widely available within a few years. Patients in trials are already benefiting, as those of you who follow the news posted to the Longevity Meme will be aware.

As more and more concrete results are demonstrated, the harder it will be for anti-research, anti-medicine, anti-progress forces in politics to ban this wonderful work that is currently taking place in laboratories around the world.

HEALTHY LIFE EXTENSION, AS SEEN FROM WASHINGTON

Sadly, the U.S. Federal Government and associated lawmakers have a poor view of the public face of healthy life extension. This article shows that we have a lot of work to do in promoting healthy life extension and educating people in certain circles:

http://www.thehill.com/news/060403/gutknecht.aspx

It is inaccurate, biased and an example of plain old shoddy journalism, but it does reflect the view from the top. The underlying sentiments are not too far off the mark for members of other governments around the world as well, alas. (If you are interested in seeing what the Life Extension Foundation and Alcor are actually all about, you can find out more by following these links:

http://www.lef.org
http://www.alcor.org/).

What can we do to make headway in the face of these sorts of attitudes from those who hold legislative power? Suggestions are always taken, and I will explore a few ways forward in the next newsletter.

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

Free Radical Study in Wales (June 15 2003)
http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0200wales/content_objectid=13068251_method=full_siteid=50082_headline=--Health-pioneers-research-into-'free-radicals'-revolution---name_page.html
An article at icWales provides some information on a new study of the free radical theory of aging. The free radical theory is the oldest of the modern theories of aging, and has some competition from other, more recent theories. Researchers are still trying to find a "grand unified theory" of aging, so the more funded research the merrier. Understanding will lead to faster cures for the conditions of aging, and eventually aging itself.

Improvements in Replacement Parts (June 15 2003)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2983798.stm
From the BBC, news of an incremental but important improvement in the materials used to construct artificial knee joints. While it might seem prosaic in this age of biotech wonders just around the corner, artificial replacement surgeries (knees, hips, and so forth) are commonplace and very useful. As materials science advances, we can expect to see more intricate and useful devices. Eventually, this branch of medicine will merge with biotech; providing scaffolding to grow new organs, for example. This is in the early stages right now for bone and liver replacement. Medical progress is an amazing thing!

Reminder: Donate to The Methuselah Mouse Prize (June 13 2003)
http://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/mmp/
Have you donated to the Methuselah Mouse Prize for anti-aging research yet? Just a few tax-deductible dollars can help to invigorate the future of healthy life extension medicine. Wealthy benefactors are watching to see how much interest this first prize generates. Research prizes have been proven to bring money and interest to neglected fields of science, and this one directly benefits your future health! Read more on why you should donate and how it will make a difference.

Evidence for Aging "Self-Destruct Signal" (June 13 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-06-13-3
A thought-provoking piece of research detailed at Betterhumans describes recent work on mice. It raises the possibility of identifying a crucial part of the aging process: a biochemical signal or process that instructs the aging process to begin. More precisely, the scientists were looking at senescense, a particular set of processes associated with the general decline of aging. Finding the signal will be the first step towards finding a way to literally turn off aging. Wow. We live in interesting times, folks.

Methuselah Monkeys and Aging Research (June 12 2003)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connected/main.jhtml?xml=/connected/2003/06/11/ecfage11.xml&sSheet=/connected/2003/06/10/ixconn.html
A long overview of recent aging and anti-aging research shows up in the Telegraph. As it says, "the more we know about the way the body ages, the greater the chance that we can do something about it." Fundamental research is vital to our future health and longevity, which is why it is frustrating to see governments so set on bans, restrictions and hostile legislation. Do politicians not want to lead longer, healthier lives? If not, that is their choice, but they should not try to force this choice on the rest of us.

More Children, Shorter Life (June 12 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-06-12-3
Research cited by Betterhumans would seem to indicate that bearing children reduces lifespan in humans. This has been understood to be true in animals, but this is the first study to examine humans through centuries of genealogy records. Quote from the article: "It supports the theory that if you devote energy to child-bearing, you damage the future of your own body." As for all new science (even if it sounds sensible), treat with caution until further work has been performed.

Expensive Supplement To Become Cheaper (June 11 2003)
http://scienceblog.com/community/article1730.html
ScienceBlog reports on a new method for cheaply creating Coenzyme Q 10 (or "CoQ10"), a popular supplement in healthy life extension circles. While I consider future medical technologies far more vital than supplementation in the grand scheme of things, taking supplements does play an important role in health and wellness. CoQ10 has always been far and away the most expensive part of a moderate supplement regimen. Many people will welcome a sharp drop in price.

Another Anti-Research Government Panel (June 11 2003)
http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20030611/03/
As described by BioMed Central, the new "Secretary's Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society" created by the Bush administration has a strong anti-research bias. Those familiar with the pro-death and pro-suffering pronouncements of the Bioethics Council, and the anti-research legislation that has passed in the past few years will not be surprised. The current US government is very hostile towards the fundamental medical research that will extend and improve our healthy lives. This is a something that we must fight to change. Our health depends on it!

Roslin Institute Gets Go Ahead For Stem Cell Research (June 10 2003)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/2977248.stm
From the BBC, news that the Roslin Institute (home to the team that cloned Dolly the sheep) has been given permission to work on human stem cell research. A small step in the grand scale of things, but it is a good small step. This research is fundamental to the future of regenerative, life- and health-extending medicine. The more proven teams that work in this field, the better.

Cancer, Eradicated (June 10 2003)
http://www.nj.com/newsflash/business/index.ssf?/cgi-free/getstory_ssf.cgi?f0257_BC_Introgen-Stock
A very brief note worth reading from nj.com on a new cancer treatment that is claimed to "eradicate" cancer in test animals. This sounds like the apex of virus-based methods of cancer treatment, and is very exciting if it holds up to closer examination. As I have said before, the current state of cancer research (oh so close to a cure in any one of a dozen different research directions) is a model for the future of anti-aging and healthy life extension science. We need to repeat this sort of success: the activism, the funding, the public awareness, the work and finally the cure. This is the path to a better, longer future for all of us.

Skipping Meals: Still Dubious (June 09 2003)
http://www.sciencenews.org/20030607/food.asp
It's time for the monthly caution about latching onto the very latest research again. This article from Science News Online is probably the best of a number of articles on the topic of skipping meals as a way to obtain life extension benefits. A study in mice has shown that skipping meals may have some of the life-extending benefits of calorie restriction. Like all new research, consider it dubious until much more confirmation is in. Always, always, always be a late adopter. Wait for researchers to be sure, as they are for calorie restriction, before doing anything that will impact your health.

Growing New Arteries To Order (June 09 2003)
http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,1286,59146,00.html
An article over at Wired discusses the science surrounding recent advances in growing organs (like arteries) to order for transplants or to replace damaged parts of the body. This is perhaps the oldest section in the new field of regenerative medicine, so it's no real surprise that the researchers here are further ahead than their counterparts in stem cell and theraputic cloning work. It's interesting to see how this all ties into telomeres and their role in aging and cancer: great strides in understanding the fundamental mechanisms of our healthy bodies have definitely been made in the past few years.

Strategy for Defeating Aging (June 08 2003)
http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/journalgazette/6002846.htm
From FortWayne.com, a good, balanced article on the current state of anti-aging research and healthy life extension techniques. It focuses on what is currently available to the consumer from a few businesses that run tests and offer recommendations, but also touches on research and a little of the controversy between reputable scientists/businesses and the quacks on the fringe. Remember that you must always double-check everything you read online about anti-aging medicine. Consulting with your physician is an excellent idea as well.

Regenerative Medicine For The Heart (June 07 2003)
http://www.channelcincinnati.com/health/2254898/detail.html
From ChannelCincinnati.com (found via Transhumanity), news of the first stem cell therapy for heart muscle regeneration performed in the US. Regenerative medicine using your own stem cells is out of the lab and into trials; you may recall that this same procedure has been performed successfully elsewhere in the world. As the utility of stem cells therapies is demonstrated, we can hope that the politicians who are trying to ban this research will give up in the face of public opinion. Have you protested the coming ban yet? It's your future health that's at stake!

Building Motor Neurons for Regenerative Medicine (June 06 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-06-06-3
Betterhumans comments on recent important research that details an efficient method for prompting stem cells to change into motor neurons. A method of producing motor neurons is an essential part of any regenerative therapy that will address spinal injuries and degenerative conditions of aging like Parkinson's. It is good to see the pieces of the puzzle coming together, one by one. Scientific understanding is leading to results, and results lead to therapies that will enable us all to lead longer, healthier lives. Support our researchers!

Regenerative Medicine From Immortalized Cells (June 06 2003)
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/06/030606080223.htm
From ScienceDaily: research on telomeres and their mechanisms has enabled scientists to grow arteries from adult cells where this was previously impossible. This is an amazing step forward! It opens the door on a second path to personalized regenerative medicine (the first being stem cells and theraputic cloning techniques), growing new tissue from your own cells to replace damaged organs and body parts. It is a very good sign when researchers start to find multiple ways of doing something: it shows that a field is expanding and becoming serious.

NIH Moves Ahead With Bioinformatics (June 05 2003)
http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20030604/03/
BioMed Central notes that the NIH has finally assigned a director for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. Why is this important? Because bioinformatics is the fast lane to a greater understanding of the complex genetic and biochemical mechanisms of aging. The NIH is still the major benefactor of aging research in the US, so this indication of priorities is a good thing.

Testimony on Increasing Life Expectancy (June 05 2003)
http://www.lef.org/news/aging/2003/06/03/eng-ascribe/eng-ascribe_122515_2372585069036137560.html
(From the LEF News). There was a senate hearing on the future of longevity earlier this week ("The Future of Life Expectancy: How Important Are Markets and Innovation?"), at which this testimony was given. Professor James W. Vaupel expressed justifiable concern at the slowing rate of progress in health and longevity science in the US. This is a point that worries a lot of us, and current government attitudes and efforts are hindering as much as helping (witness the attempts to ban promising medical technologies and research over the past year, or the luddite positions of the President's Council on Bioethics). We need to oppose research bans and support our researchers!

Why We Still Have A Lot of Work Ahead of Us (June 04 2003)
http://www.thehill.com/news/060403/gutknecht.aspx
This inaccurate, shoddy article from The Hill is a good illustration of the uphill battle that healthy life extension faces in many areas. The US government doesn't like or understand life extension, between the FDA and the Bioethics Council. Sad to say, but this article is how politicians, wonks and even most reputable people see the healthy life extension movement. It all appears to be supplements, mumbo-jumbo, legal battles, and other tall tales from the fringe. I would love to see the supplement industry marginalized in coming years by real advances in genetic therapies, regenerative medicine and theraputic cloning for healthy life extension. We can hope and speak out for what we want.

More on the Methuselah Mouse Prize (June 04 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-06-03-4
Betterhumans is running a good story on the recently launched Methuselah Mouse Prize. As you all know, I think that this is a very important effort. Research prizes have a strong beneficial effect on scientific progress, and here is the first useful opportunity for you and I to contribute to one. Your money will encourage other donations, and help to invigorate the underfunded field of anti-aging science. Visit the prize site today and make a tax-deductible donation to help ensure the speedier arrival of real anti-aging medicine!

Important Stem Cell Advance (June 03 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-06-03-2
As reported at Betterhumans, researchers have taken an important step forward in understanding stem cells. They have discovered how to reliably prompt stem cells to develop into one specific type of adult cell: nerve cells in this case. This is an big step forward in the march towards true regenerative, healthy life extension medicine. The research can even be repeated to find out how to change stem cells into other adult cell types as well. Therapies that allow us to regenerate from injury and the damage of aging are inching closer: we must continue to support our researchers!

Stem Cell Research Collaboration (June 03 2003)
http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20030602/02/
Stem cell research collaboration is going global, according to this article from BioMed Central. There is a great deal of interest in this field (important for future healthy life extension medicine) and scientists are enthusiastic about setting up resources and organizations to ensure cooperation in research. Collaboration and information sharing in fundamental research is very important. It speeds up the overall process by reducing duplicate work and preventing important research from slipping through the cracks.

Mice, CR, and Growth Hormones (June 02 2003)
http://www.lef.org/news/aging/2003/05/26/STJR/0000-2677-KEYWORD.Missing.html
This fairly long (and a little rambling) article from the LEF News discusses the research of Andrzej Bartke, first recipient of the Methuselah Mouse Prize for anti-aging research. It's always fascinating to gain an insight into the thoughts and work of one of the luminaries in the field. I don't think that the article gives enough weight to calorie restriction over growth hormones: the former is proven beyond a doubt to extend life and improve health, while the latter is still a little in dispute.

$12M To Cellular Therapy Research (June 02 2003)
http://cait.cpmc.columbia.edu:88/news/press_releases/Berrie.html
The Russel Berrie Foundation has given $12 million to Columbia University to fund a branch of regenerative medicine research. This particular grant is aimed at finding a cure for adult diabetes, but the research should also have a wide range of applications. The therapies that greatly lengthen our healthy lives can only be built on a solid scientific foundation. You should all feel free to contact the foundation to express your appreciation for their generosity.

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