(From ScienceDaily). Stem cell based regenerative medicine offers potential cures for a wide range of conditions. Diabetes is one of these; in this case a cure would consist of producing new pancreatic tissue for the patient. Researchers are far along in the process of understanding how to do this. Just like cancer, diabetes as a life threatening condition appears to be on a short clock. All this research depends, of course, on the US government not enacting a ban on these technologies. The current administration has already slowed research with ill-advised legislation. Remember: you can do something about this!
Betterhumans talks about recent work on a new way to help the brain regenerate damage from stroke or neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease. This is comparatively low-tech - simply blocking a key chemical involved in regulating neural growth - and is not a path to real cures. However, researchers would not be able to make this leap without the tremendous advances in medical technology and biochemistry over the past decade. The more we learn, the more we can do. Articles like this are very encouraging.
The latest news article at SAGE Crossroads is a helpful high-level overview of recent research on the common ground shared by cancer and aging in the body. Scientists have made amazing progress in the past few years in uncovering the complex biochemical mechanisms of both cancer and aging, and we see the two ever more entangled the more we dig. Understanding always leads to the ability to act, however. Researchers will soon be able to use this new knowledge to develop far more effective therapies in the fight against cancer, and the first true therapies in the fight against aging.
The Alliance for Aging Research is getting better exposure these days, as this press release/article at Yahoo! News shows. AFAR does a very good job in the sort of advocacy that supports the advance of medical science for longer, healthier lives. They are more mainstream than most of the healthy life extension crowd, of course, but organizations like this play an important role in fighting to improve our future health and longevity.
There's no such thing as too many articles that hit all the sensible, obvious, smart points about maintaining long term health. Here's one from the Edmonton Journal. You only get one body to make it through the next few decades of medical advances in regenerative medicine, so it's best to take good care of yourself. Lose weight, exercise, take supplements, practice calorie restriction and keep up a good relationship with a physician you trust. Young or old, it's the simple, obvious things that will keep you alive and well to benefit from the future of healthy life extension and advancing medical science.
Christopher Reeve, movie star, vocal advocate for stem cell research and the potential of regenerative medicine, will be in Israel this week. (Article found via Transhumanity). There, he will speak out in support of Israeli medical researchers and the progress they have made in pushing the frontiers of the field. Reeve is one of the best known research advocates in the US today. He is understandably critical of US government efforts to slow and even criminalize the research that will lead to cures for his and many other conditions. His advocacy for better medicine benefits all of us too: you should certainly thank him for it.
Back to legislation again, on a slightly happier note this time from Yahoo! News. Spain has approved embryonic stem cell research with some moderately restrictive conditions; a far better policy than in some other European countries. Indeed, better policy than there will be here in the US if legislation currently under consideration is pushed through. Stem cell research is immensely important to future health and longevity. Effective regenerative medicine and many therapies to prevent or repair the effects and diseases of aging seem likely to result from this vital medical science.
This SFGate reporter talks to scientists from the Buck Institute for Age Research. As they say: "We are the only freestanding institute in the country devoted to basic research on aging and age-associated diseases." Researchers at BIAR have produced great work in recent years, and the article is a fascinating view of the front lines in the fight against aging. The small size of the BIAR budget illustrates of the need for a vast expansion in funding for aging and healthy life extension research. Just think of the results if aging research were funded like cancer research!
A short item at Yahoo News remarks on plans to map a large number of the proteins -- the "mechanics of life" -- inside every living thing. This, in essence, is the next big step for the biomedical community. Now that the Human Genome Map is done, we must turn to understanding how the proteins created by genes work. This understanding is fundamental to healthy life extension research. We have already reaped many early benefits from genetics, and we stand to gain far more from an understanding of proteins in the body.
According to this article reprinted at the LEF News, a Tucson company has developed artificial bone for regenerative medicine. This is very similar to the successful Chinese work on regenerative bone implants that was reported on in past weeks. Competition and parallel research already is a very good sign. This sort of regenerative medicine is very promising, offering hope for a wide range of patients. There is a lot of fascinating, useful work going on today in the borders between biotechnology, nanotechnology and material sciences.
The influential New England Journal of Medicine has placed itself firmly in favor of stem cell research and regenerative medicine. A quote: "Of course, NEJM's move is political, and appropriately so, DeAngelis said. I have to believe that he truly thinks that this is a political way to drive the importance of stem cell research." Remember that legislation in the US and elsewhere is currently restricting this research, and threatens to even ban it. This only damages our future health, longevity and access to advanced medicine. As the article puts it: "We would hope that people will understand that you can't legislate away scientific progress."
From Tech Central Station, a fascinating article on how the US government came to be opposed to medical research and the advancement of medical science (especially in the areas of stem cell research and regenerative medicine). This is well worth a read. We should not forget that the US government is currently restricting vital medical research, and is debating further, harsher restrictions. This should certainly not be permitted to continue. Speak up for your medical rights today!
A press release from the Ascribe newswire notes that the NIH and the Alzheimer's Association are to work on creating a gene bank to help in the fight against Alzheimer's. Defeating Alzheimer's (and other common degenerative neural conditions) is of particular importance to healthy life extension. It is looking increasingly likely that replacements for all organs except the brain could be grown to order within the next few decades. Thus, we have to spend more effort on defending our brains from the effects of aging -- we only get one of those.
I'm normally wary of anti-aging drug announcements -- with good reason, since most are worthless -- but this one looks legitimate (found via KurzweilAI.net). Northestern University is reporting on research that claims remarkable success in an anti-oxidant related drug. The claims sound a little too good to be true, so we should definitely wait for peer review of the science before getting excited. Press announcements before peer review are usually a bad sign in this and most other scientific endeavors.
The Greenwich Time reminds us that moderate exercise brings enormous health benefits, especially in the elderly. "I would say there is probably no single group in the United States that has more to gain from exercise than the elderly," said William Evans, director of the Nutrition, Metabolism and Exercise Laboratory in the Department of Geriatrics at the University of Arkansas. The rest of us benefit from exercise as well. Studies consistently show benefits in health and longevity resulting from moderate, easily accomplished exercise. If you are not exercising, you should certainly talk to your physician about it.
InfoAging details recent research that may lead to a vaccine that reduces the risk of heart attacks. This can only be a good thing, but it's worth noting that waiting around for medical science to help out is no substitute for a good diet, supplementation and exercise now. Diets and lifestyle choices like calorie restriction have been shown to greatly reduce the incidence of many age-associated diseases and condition. You really have to take care of your body if you are going to benefit fully from future therapies resulting from current medical research.
A brief article from ScienceDaily notes a new theory on the evolutionary causes of aging and longevity. It doesn't look like a particularly watertight theory, but that's not the important point. The important point is that more scientists are talking about aging, thinking about the root causes, and working on genetics and biochemistry related to aging. This is, at heart, a good thing. In medical science, more discussion leads to more research. More research will lead to therapies and cures. One of the early steps in invigorating any field of research is to get scientists and researchers talking and exchanging theories.
At Reuters, a short article on the longevity discussion at the World Future Society conference. There are some disparaging comments on the ability of science to tackle aging from the normal disparaging sources. It's worth remembering this old motto: when a scientist says that something is possible, he might be right. When he says that something is impossible, he is always wrong. Right now, the scientific side of healthy life extension is looking very promising for the next few decades. It's the political and public awareness aspects that need shaking up.
Betterhumans has a better article on recent work that identified a whole set of longevity-related genes. This puts researchs a large step closer to answering the all-important question: "What are the actual biochemical processes that determine lifespan?" As the article notes, this research will provide years of follow-on work for scientists. As the basic mechanisms of aging are identified, possible therapies to prevent or retard aging will surely follow.
In an article from the Independent, male menopause is declared to be a myth, exaggerated and propped up by the companies that sell "treatments" for the condition. Research suggests that "male menopause" is simply a consequence of poor dietary and lifestyle choices that lead to weight gain. "Men who put on weight will have a fall in testosterone levels," Professor McKinlay said. "What they need to do is go on a diet and increase physical activity, not be treated with a patch." Given the many, many other unhealthy and downright unpleasant consequences of being overweight, I once again recommend looking into calorie restriction.
The Kansas City Star reports on research into the genes that repair our DNA. Since cancers and at least some of the effects and conditions of aging occur due to DNA damage, a better understanding of these "repair genes" could lead to a class of effective therapies. Don't hold your breath, however: it typically takes at least five years to get from this point to trialing treatments in the lab. This sort of basic research is the wellspring of new medicine, however. Congratulations to the researchers!
On the one hand we have regenerative medicine, on the other hand the development of artificial replacement parts. Both young fields of medicine are striving to find better ways to repair the damaged human body. Here, from Wired, is an update on the state of the art in artificial eyes. These are early days yet, just as for regenerative medicine, but developments are coming thick and fast. Advancements in all such technologies are very welcome. Repairing the damage done to our bodies by age and accident offers the possibility of longer, healthier lives.
BioMed Central reports on the launch of the promised International Stem Cell Forum. This is an important step for this vital body of medical research, as greater collaboration and coordination between scientists worldwide will hasten the end results of research. A modest quote: "It could take 15 to 20 years, but there's a good chance we could produce therapies that are really revolutionary for diseases that cripple a lot of people."
ISHARE (International Society for Healthy Aging Research and Education), Kronos Longevity Research Institute and the Oxidative Stress and Aging Association have teamed up to put together a new conference in December this year. A quote from the press release: "Despite the fact that there are numerous anti-aging products and clinical treatments on the market today, many lack scientific evidence, and the Phoenix Conference on Longevity Health Sciences has been created to help attendees separate fact from fiction, and to promote research into and implementation of legitimate practices." Good for them; high time we saw the industry starting to shake itself free from the quacks and shysters.
Betterhumans covers research that reinforces the possibility of near-future stem cell therapies for conditions like Parkinson's, paralysis or various forms of age-related blindness. It looks like stem cells from any human source can be transplanted into the brain, optic nerves or spinal cord without fear of immune rejection. There, they can start a process of regenerating damage. This is very promising indeed; it seems that the first wave of simple stem cell therapies will be as powerful as hoped.
It's become interesting to keep track of the number of new potential anti-cancer therapies in the works. This is lucky number 13 since the last months of 2002, outlined at ScienceDaily. In essence, researchers have found a sneaky way to sabotage the telomeres in cancer cells. They believe that this will cause cancer cells in a given patient to simply die out, although far more testing and experimentation is needed. This is a good example of a therapy that is made possible by an increased level of understanding of the basic mechanisms within our cells.
It seems that being overweight contributes to every degenerative disease known to man. I exaggerate, of course, but here (from MSNBC) is news of a link between weight and the onset of Alzheimer's. Excess weight has recently been linked to increased risk of cancer, and we should all know about the strong link between weight and diabetes. If you are overweight, you should certainly be looking into losing it as the first step towards living a longer, healthier life. I recommend talking to your physician and investigating calorie restriction.
(From Duke Health). Researchers have connected age-related damage and clotting of arteries (atherosclerosis) with the decline of a particular type of stem cell in the body. This raises the strong possibility of a regenerative therapy similar to that trialed successfully for heart damage in recent months. The patient's own stem cells could be extracted, cultured and returned to the body in greater numbers to help repair damaged tissue. If, that is, the FDA doesn't step in to block this therapy as well.
A long, well-written article at Wired examines the dramatic shifts in cancer therapy that have happened in the past decade and continue today. Cancer, while still a danger, is on the way out as a life-threatening disease and well on the way to becoming a mere chronic condition. Just how this came to be is told in detail in this fascinating article. We can hope that we'll be reading very similar articles in ten or twenty years time about progress in the search for a cure for aging itself. Success (in the lab, in raising awareness and in securing funding) in the fight against cancer is the model for success in the path to healthy life extension medicine.
We humans have a tendency to assume that things are easy if they are proceeding well. So it is with medical research. Research has been progressing very rapidly of late, but this is due to the hard work of tens of thousands of scientists. This article from the Memphis Business Journal shows us a small piece of the overall picture: the hard work required to solve one small part of the aging process. This is how aging will be beaten; one small step at a time, with the hard work of researchers like Malinda Fitzgerald and the support of people like you and I.
An article from AME Info notes that the American Association of Anti-Aging Medicine is gearing up to launch a new conference event in the Middle East. A4M already runs a number of large, influential events around the world. Unfortunately, they have been overrun in past years by the bad side of the "anti-aging" marketplace: quacks, miracle pills and potions. I understand that the scientific, honest side of the industry as a whole (and A4M specifically) are trying hard to clean up their act in this respect. Something certainly has to be done within the next few years before the shysters wreck the legitimate scientific industry that feeds them beyond any chance of repair.
Current legislative efforts to ban research into regenerative medicine, stem cell therapies and other healthy life extension medical technology are part of a larger battle. Those who oppose progress and change (such as bioconservatives) face off against those who desire a better world for all of us (such as transhumanists). Nick Bostrom has penned a great article on the arguments currently taking place. Our corner of the wider battle will determine future longevity and access to cheap, advanced medical technologies. It is a fight we must win.
An article at the New York Times discusses the book "Merchants of Immortality." A catchy title for a book about recent and near future medical advances that will enable us to live longer, healthier lives. This is placed in the context of "political idiocy" (as the review puts it) surrounding this medical research. Regular readers will be quite aware of all of this; bad, anti-research legislation is a common topic of discussion here.
MSNBC is running an article on the link between being overweight and an increased risk of cancer. This falls into the common sense and general health category: there are already so many health reasons to keep yourself at a sensible weight. Research has shown that being overweight -- even just a little overweight -- will cut years or decades from your healthy lifespan. All the more reason to investigate calorie restriction!
While we are on the subject of stem cell therapies, here is an article from Betterhumans on the subject. Research shows that stem cells cultivated from a patient could be used to treat regenerate muscle lost to degenerative conditions. Unlike similar work that regenerates damaged heart tissue (and was recently blocked by the FDA), this muscle regeneration is in the very early stages. Still, it shows that there should be a wide range of regenerative therapies resulting from stem cell work that should be available before the end of the decade. This is very promising indeed, and could have very beneficial effects on our future longevity. This is why we must stand up to support and defend medical research; it is in our own best interests to age in a world with stem cell medicine rather than one without.
As reported in Cordis (found via Transhumanity), the EU is leaning towards allowing funding for embryonic stem cell research. This is something of a big fuss and bother over what is really a non-event. EU member countries can (and will) ignore EU guidelines. Both France and Germany already either ban or strongly restrict this promising research, while the UK would be funding it in any case.
An excellent article from Dr. Mercola's site asks this question. A quote: "Your answer to this question can increase or decrease the quality and length of your life, so consider carefully: Who is responsible for your health?" This is very, very true. We are individually responsible for our health and longevity. We cannot sit back and hope to be healthy, just as we cannot sit back and hope that the future of medical science turns out to be rosy. We must work for a positive outcome both in our personal health and in the future of medicine.
One of the grails of regenerative medicine is the ability to grow organs for transplant from the cells of the recipients. There would be no need for donors and far fewer medical complications during a transplant. As this article from the New Scientist makes clear, researchers are getting closer to this goal. A cheap, unlimited source of replacement organs for everyone will be a very important step in the road to extending our healthy lifespans.
An easy-reading article by Chris Mooney at SAGE Crossroads discusses twin studies and what they can tell us about genetics and aging. Ongoing studies of twins and centenarians illuminate the way in which some genetic combinations can help us to live longer lives. As the article points out, however, good genes are usually no substitute for good medical care and a healthy lifestyle! It will take more research and advances in medicine before we can have our cake, eat it, and still live to be 100.
Betterhumans is hosting a bioethics debate in late August in Toronto. Amongst the topics is radical life extension, but most other advanced medical technologies (nanotechnology, genetic engineering, and so forth) will have a strong bearing on our health and longevity as well. It looks to be an interesting event given the distance between the positions argued by the two sides. It should be very similar to the recent Stock vrs McKibben debate (which is well worth reading). Publicity materials are available in PDF form for those who want to help out with spreading the word.
You may have thought that the dispute over Ted William's cryonic suspension was over and done with, but apparently not. This article from the St. Petersburg Times brings us up to date on recent happenings. From where I stand, it looks like the man made a rational choice to be suspended. The heirs who disagree should respect that choice rather than continue to try and have him cremated to satisfy their own selfish desires. The article also notes naive and uninformed efforts by someone unrelated to Ted Williams to have Alcor investigated for fraud! This will hopefully come to nothing.
From the Boston Globe, a good article on the way in which cancer has been tamed over the past decade. Incremental but significant advances in medicine have brought us to this point. I bring cancer up often, as the past 30 years of fighting cancer is the model for the next 30 years spent fighting aging. What we see now - cancer almost a mere chronic condition and nearly cured - is the fruit of success in activism, funding and hard scientific work. This can happen for aging as well: we merely have to work for it.
The Arizona Republic discusses the move towards business realities by many medical research centers, including those working on aging and age-related diseases. This is a very good thing to see; this short of shift happens as a field becomes more legitimate and profitable therapies are seen as being closer to hand. It opens up reserves of funding that would otherwise go elsewhere. It encourages faster development and commercialization of new medicines and therapies. All in all, it should make us all very happy to see more articles like this in print!
InfoAging is reprinting a couple of items on the recent government study on the effectiveness of vitamins. The mainstream press didn't emphasise that this was a narrow, short single study. In short, the results aren't all that useful or meaningful unless repeated in a lot more studies. It's always best to take a wait and see approach to recent research. The results in this study related to smoking are odd: if you want to lower your cancer risk, quit smoking, not taking vitamins!
You may recall recent news of Chinese advances in bone regeneration. It is are working well and has been successfully used dozens of patients. This article from Small Times notes that commercialization is only a few years away. Commentators seem optimistic that it will get through FDA approval rapidly; we can hope. A normal outcome is for a new medical technology to be blocked by the FDA for anything up to a decade. The pioneer of this technology is currently looking at regeneration of other body parts using similar techniques.
An article from Boulder News offers a look at the practice of taking hormone supplements in an attempt to retard aging. There are some interesting quotes; I think that the important lesson to take away is that the science is very uncertain. There are unknown risks associated with the long-term use of hormone supplements. This is one of the reasons I advise people to stick to proven healthy life extension strategies. (Like calorie restriction). It is worth noting that the people who try strategies like hormone supplementation usually take very good care of their health in other ways as well. They may look healthy and young, but it is hard say why.
From Reuters AlertNet, news that lifestyle changes in Okinawa are eroding the famous Okinawan longevity. This longevity is attributed to the local diet and customs that encourage a form of mild calorie restriction and moderate exercise. Changes to a more "Western" diet and lifestyle are shortening the healthy lifespan of Okinawans. We can look at this process and learn a lot about the way in which we should be living in order to live healthily, for longer. It is worth remembering that these current, more "natural" ways of extending your healthy lifespan will still leave you old and dead in the end. We must look to the future of medicine and stand up to support medical research if we want to live in good health and spirits for far, far longer.
From SpaceDaily, a longer, better article on the recent research into the set of genes that promote longevity in roundworms. This really is an impressive set of work that opens a whole set of doors for further investigation into genetic and biochemical ways of lengthening healthy lifespan. The impressive speed of this study is due to equally impressive advances in biomedical technology. It has not been long at all since the original target longevity gene in this research was discovered.
From Betterhumans, news that severe depression is linked with a shorter life. This is probably not news to anyone who has experienced depression or cared for someone who suffered the condition. Depressed people do not take care of themselves. If you don't take care of your body (take supplements, exercise, eat well, have a good relationship with your physician, and so forth), then your health will not stick around. It's just like taking care of a car; proper maintenance makes all the difference to healthy lifespan.
Ronald Bailey (writing for Reason Online) was at Transvision 2003, and has an interesting report ready. Much of the focus of this conference was on the fight between those who want to prevent all progress -- in healthy life extension and other fields -- and those who want to see the human condition improved through technology. Quote: "...if a cure for cancer that would otherwise have been available in 2020 is delayed to 2030...that means tens of millions of people who would otherwise have been alive would be dead."
An article at Betterhumans talks about stress and the biochemical way in which it damages your health. Researchers (and everyone else, for that matter) have long known that stress is bad for your health. Bad health means a shorter, less happy life. Here now, is the mechanism that explains how stress leads to a faster rate of age-related damage to your body. Perhaps this will provoke some of us into taking steps to reduce the level of stress we subject ourselves to.