LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
July 14 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.
PROTEST OVERZEALOUS FDA INTERFERENCE
There is a new action item up at the Longevity Meme "Take Action!" section, with thanks to Dean Pomerleau for prodding me into getting it done.
The FDA recently blocked a new stem cell therapy for heart damage that has proven very successful in trials. The therapy uses stem cells from the patient's own blood, directly analogous to using your own blood for transfusions in surgery. This sort of overzealous reaching on the part of the FDA carries a staggering cost; 50,000 lives every year are lost in the wait for heart transplants or a working therapy for heart disease. We must protest this sort of FDA interference if we are to benefit meaningfully from advanced medical technologies currently in development.
The US Food and Drug Administration has a long and checkered history of failing to live up to its mandate, covering up mistakes, blocking good therapies and drastically increasing the cost of bring new medicine to the marketplace. References for those who are interested can be found at the FDA Review:
Please visit the web page for this action item for more information. Read, form your own opinions and compose a short, sharp letter to your representatives. As always, faxes and short, clear, polite points are the key to communication with politicians. A sample letter is included on the web page for this action item:
You can find out more about who your representatives are and how to contact them at the following websites:
One day, you may be one of the people who are sick, suffering or dying because the FDA acted as they did recently for this stem cell heart therapy. It's time to rein them in before they trample on further important medical research.
A REMINDER ON OTHER ACTION ITEMS
Those of you who are new to the newsletter may not have visited the "Take Action!" section of the Longevity Meme yet. Please do so, and take a moment to see how you can help to ensure a future of longer, healthier lives for all.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR HEALTH?
When it comes down to it, you and you only are responsible for your health. Not your parents, not your friends, not your doctor and certainly not any given government employee. There is a distressing tendency in modern society for individuals to drop the ball when it comes to fundamental rights and responsibilities. You can be as assured as you please in the belief that someone else will care as much about your health as you do, but you will be wrong. They don't: not parents, nor friends, nor your doctor and certainly not government functionaries.
If you give away your responsibility, your health will suffer. Here is a wonderful article on this subject from Dr. Mercola's web site. It deserves far wider distribution; feel free to forward this on to your friends:
Responsibility for your own future health and longevity is at the heart of the Longevity Meme: Live Healthily, Fight Aging, and Extend Your Life.
Take responsibility for your own health. Do the research and use the best techniques available today to slow the damaging effects of aging. Build a relationship with your physician, exercise, take supplements and practice calorie restriction.
Responsibility also means taking action to ensure a better, longer, healthier future. Don't just passively wait and hope! A little effort from each one of many people will make a large difference. Hastening the arrival of medicines that will ensure decades (or more) of healthy life for all of us is of vital importance. This medical technology could easily arrive too late for those of us reading this. Medical research into stem cells, aging and regeneration requires support and encouragement. Anti-research legislation and anti-progress groups must be defeated. Many, many people have yet to hear the healthy life extension message. Do your friends a favor and explain the Longevity Meme to them today!
Extend Your Life
Living a longer, healthier life is a decision. You choose to do it; health and longevity are not accidents for most of us. Like all things worth having, they must be worked at and fought for. That decision is your responsibility.
STEM CELLS IN THE NEWS
Stem cell research has been in the news non-stop for the past few months. Not a week goes by without some new amazing result. It seems that the first blush of simple stem cell therapies for regenerative medicine might be only a few years away. I say simple, because these therapies are literally on the level of transfusions. Stem cells are cultured from the patient's own tissue and then injected back into the patient. New medicine doesn't get much simpler than that in this day and age; we could be on the verge of seeing a revolution in medicine akin to that connected with early successes in blood transfusion and control of infection.
It almost seems like stem cells from your own body are the miracle cure-all; inject them anywhere and things start to fix themselves. Of course, this throwaway statement hides the many years of hard work by scientists that has brought us to this point. This hard work continues. While stem cell therapies for heart damage and eye injuries are demonstrated successes (here in the US in Japan, respectively), scientists are still hard at work to bring the similar therapies to bear on nerve damage and degenerative diseases like Parkinson's.
The future of this first wave of simple stem-cell-based regenerative medicine looks rosy from the technical side of things. Unfortunately, the political establishment in the US and other countries are doing their level best to hamper progress. A ban on a broad swathe of stem cell medicine is pending in the US:
The FDA, as noted earlier in this newsletter, has forbidden further trials of successful stem cell therapies for heart damage:
We are responsible for our own future health. This responsibility extends to telling our elected representatives that what they are doing is wrong.
That's all for my commentary this time: a news roundup for the past two weeks follows below.
Have comments for us, or want to discuss the newsletter?
Founder, Longevity Meme
Seeking Answers To Age-Related Blindness (July 13 2003)
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.
A4M In The Middle East (July 13 2003)
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.
Bostrom on Those Who Oppose Human Advancement (July 12 2003)
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.
"Merchants of Immortality" Discussed (July 12 2003)
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.
Cancer and Fat, Once More (July 11 2003)
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!
Stem Cell Therapies For Muscule Degeneration? (July 10 2003)
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.
EU Moving To Permit Stem Cell Research (July 10 2003)
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.
Who is Responsible For Your Health? (July 09 2003)
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.
Building Replacement Organs To Order (July 08 2003)
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.
Of Twins and Centenarians (July 08 2003)
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.
Debating The Future of Life Extension (July 08 2003)
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.
Ted Williams Cryonics Dispute Continues (July 07 2003)
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.
Taming Cancer (July 06 2003)
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.
Aging Research Becoming Entrepreneurial (July 06 2003)
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!
Vitamin Study Creating Confusion (July 05 2003)
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!
More on Bone Regeneration (July 05 2003)
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.
On Hormones, Aging and Risks (July 04 2003)
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.
Okinawans Losing Their Longevity (July 03 2003)
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.
More on the Genetic Roots of Longevity (July 03 2003)
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.
Depressed People Die Younger (July 02 2003)
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.
Notes From Transvision 2003 (July 02 2003)
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."
How Stress Shortens Your Life (July 01 2003)
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.
Another Ethical Source of Stem Cells? (June 30 2003)
The New Scientist comments on recent work that raises the possibility of obtaining stem cells from amniotic fluid. There are still many questions to be answered about stem cells from non-embryonic sources, such as whether all these different types of stem cells are the same, and whether they can be used in therapies or regenerative medicine. Still, it is heartening to see so much progress in this field of medicine despite attempts to ban and criminalize it. This is where the life-extending and heath-ensuring medicine of the future will come from.
Unusual Regeneration Via Stem Cells (June 30 2003)
In another example of stem cells leading to neural regeneration in unusual ways, researchers have found that these cells release molecules that aid neuron survival and improve motor ability. (Article from Betterhumans). This was something of a suprise. There was impressive regeneration and recovery in the studies carried out on paralyzed rats, but it was not occurring for the expected reasons. Still, the researchers are excited: this is yet more proof that stem cell therapies can cure a wide range of degenerative conditions of aging.
Do you have comments for us, or want to discuss the newsletter?