From Globe Technology, an update on legislative battles over embryonic stem cell regulation in Canada. The debate has been a long one. Whether or not the current bill passes, Canada will still have a supportive atmosphere for this research in comparison to the US and much of the EU. Embryonic stem cell research is, as we should all know by now, essential for the rapid development of regenerative medicine for longer, healthier lives. Blocking and hindering this research directly impacts our future health, longevity and access to advanced medicine.
MyrtleBeachOnline reports that the South Carolina state lottery will be funding research into regenerative medicine to the tune of $6 million once matching funds are raised. This will be a collaborative project between three universities, resulting in the S.C. Center for Regenerative Medicine. Regenerative medicine (such as stem cell therapies and other strategies for stimulating healing and regrowth of damaged organs) is an important part of healthy life extension research. It is encouraging to see money invested in this field. Being able to fix damage caused by aging and injury will help us all to lead longer, healthier lives.
As Betterhumans notes, nanomedicine - a vital component of future healthy life extension therapies - has officially arrived. Work has been going on for a while, of course, but the scientific community is realizing that positive publicity is important in this age of strong and influential anti-progress, anti-technology groups. The article includes quotes from Robert Freitas, who has a commentary here on the Longevity Meme. "The near-term benefits of nanomedicine are enormous. In the longer term, nanomedicine will be the keystone of 21st century health care."
From Yahoo! News, an informative press release on recent work building on heart regeneration via stem cell therapy. Despite the heavy hand of the FDA, work is proceeding rapidly and with impressive results. Barring further government interference and restriction, we should be able to expect these sorts of results to be extended to the regeneration of other organs. Simple and to the point: "This study indicates that the body will work to heal itself if it has the right tools available."
The Guardian is publishing diary excepts by Mike May, the man who had his sight restored and injured eye regrown by stem cell therapy after 43 years of blindness. We can expect many more stories like this if stem cell research is allowed to proceed unimpeded by hostile legislation. This is a glimpse at the human side of advances in regenerative medicine, advances that strong conservative factions within the US government are trying to prevent. Stand up for a better, healthier future through advanced medicine and speak out today!
(From the Monterey Herald). In the wake of publicity for cryonics, Michigan state officials have ordered the 30-year-old Cryonics Institute (CI) not to perform more cryonic suspensions. This looks very much like opportunistic, publicity-seeking behavior on the part of state officials. CI plans to fight the order. "What we do is not what a mortuary does and not what a cemetery does," said David Ettinger, lawyer for CI. "We've been doing it openly in the state of Michigan for nearly 30 years."
Chris Mooney discusses the background and possible benefits of recent research into progeria at Sage Crossroads. Insight into this rare and terrible condition of accelerated aging could lead to better understanding of (and therapies for) the normal aging process. As Chris Mooney and others point out, this has happened numerous times before: research into a rare condition leads to progress in the fight against common conditions that share the root genetic causes. This progress translates to treatments and therapies that can help millions of suffers. So full steam ahead on progeria research!
From the BBC news of partial success in stem cell based regenerative therapy for blindness. The damaged parts of the eye were regrown for a man blind since early childhood. Reading between the lines, it sounds like the tissue regrowth was a complete success, but the man had not developed the necessary neural structures during childhood to make full use of the eye. Still, this is another amazing step forward for regenerative medicine. Kudos to the researchers involved.
An article from CNN on the life-extending properties of compounds in red wine is a fairly good example of the way science gets mangled on the way to the mainstream press. This is really a continuation of the article posted earlier at the Longevity Meme on research into the biochemistry of calorie restriction. As soon as you mention red wine, however, mainstream journalists lose focus and head off in completely the wrong direction. Drink lots of red wine and you'll be adding lots of calories to your diet, which will not be a good thing.
This article from GoMemphis.com gives a brief bio and background to the CEO of Alcor. There's no shortage of individuals and characters in and around the life extension efforts of the past few decades, and I like to highlight the real people behind the science. Dr. Lemler has certainly led an interesting life. He has accomplished great work for cryonics and those who have signed up with Alcor.
Betterhumans has published an excellent interview with aging researcher Aubrey de Grey on the topics of research, attitudes and healthy life extension. He is bullish on the future of medicine for extending healthy lifespan, but at the same time calls for more funding for research in this field. Aubrey de Grey feels that with the right level of funding, we could see real age-retarding therapies (that at least double the current average healthy lifespan) in 25 years. It is an optimistic but quite possibly realistic estimate; read the article to see why.
From the Washington Post, and article on recent research aimed at stimulating a recently recognized anti-aging enzyme in cells. This research builds on recent examinations of the root causes and mechanisms of healthy life extension associated with calorie restriction. These scientists have a candidate for the underlying mechanism, and they have been trying to boost that mechanism in studies. They are meeting with some success, it would appear, and have an ambitious roadmap ahead of them. We wish them luck and speed in developing therapies based on this research.
This article (found via Transhumanity) describes a breakthrough in growing lung cells from embryonic stem cells. This lays the groundwork for the development of regenerative therapies for a wide range of many deadly lung conditions like cystic fibrosis and lung cancer. All in all, this is a good year for regenerative medicine; scientists have been making astounding progress in understanding and using stem cells to grow replacement tissue and organs. We can only hope that this keeps up!
Despite rapid and encouraging progress in many fields of aging, regenerative medicine and healthy life extension, there are countless vitally important areas in which we are still in the dark regarding the workings of our own bodies. This article from the BBC highlights one such area; changes in the brain that occur with aging. How do they affect us? How can we retain the plasticity and ability to learn that young people possess? These are questions without answers, just a few amongst many. Much more research needs to be done to allow us the level of control we would like over the changes in our bodies that happen with age.
From the Harvard Gazette, an examination of the gains we can all make to our healthy lifespans through sensible health measures and risk avoidance. Gaining nearly a decade of additional healthy life may not sound like much in the context of what is expected from future medicine, but every little bit counts until that future medicine is here and ready for use. Working to stay alive, active and healthy while scientists perfect healthy life extension is the way to go!
(From Betterhumans). As I have mentioned before, effective therapies for curing and preventing neurodegenerative diseases are a must for long term healthy life extension: the brain is the only part of the body that can't just be replaced when medical technology allows organs to be grown to order. Interestingly, this potential Parkinson's therapy builds on research on GABA that only made the press a few months ago; the medical research process seems at times to be speeding up (at least when it is not being legislated to a standstill).
From the National Review, a careles article and example of someone who doesn't want to live a longer life. Now, this is a fine personal choice; the freedom to choose whether or not to live a longer life is the very freedom that healthy life extension research seeks to give us, after all! It is unfortunate that so many commentators who would choose short lives for themselves feel the need to force that choice on everyone else as well.
A Newsday.com article illustrates the place that many people find themselves when considering healthy life extension: trapped between uncertain science on one side and outright snake oil on the other. For all the touting of growth hormones, the underlying studies and science are just too uncertain. There is only one scientifically sure method of healthy life extension right now, and that is calorie restriction. Everything beyond that is a gamble of one type or another: better to stay sensibly healthy and work towards supporting the healthy life extension medicine of the future.
Dr. Klatz of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine discusses the prospects for healthy life extension therapies in this reprint from the LEF News. As the article points out, even the beginnings of stem cell and regenerative medicine are showing great potential. Currently deadly diseases and conditions will one day be manageable or cured, and as Dr. Klatz says: "Turning heart disease and cancer into chronic conditions rather than killers will add 13 years to the average lifespan, and that's just the beginning."
The scientific focus on Alzheimer's is starting to bear interesting fruit. This article from ScienceDaily discusses research supporting a new theory that predicts the biochemical causes of Alzheimer's to be reversible. From the article: "It might be possible to not only slow down memory loss, but to actually reverse it, to bring memory function back to normal." Progress in the fight against neurodegenerative conditions is very important for healthy life extension: the brain is the one organ that can't be replaced or renewed using near-future stem cell based regenerative medicine.
SAGE Crossroads have put up the transcript of an interesting interview with Steven Hall, author of Merchants of Immortality. The state of healthy life extension research is discussed, and the transcript gives a good primer on the results of existing and threatened anti-research legislation. We have entered a time of tremendous medical opportunity and progress, progress that strong factions within the US and other governments are attempting to squash. We must not let this happen, so stand up and take action!
(Found via Transhumanity). BusinessWeek goes in depth on the development of cancer vaccines, treatments that trick the immune system into destroying cancer cells. A surprisingly large percentage of all new research and a number of industry heavyweights are focused on vaccines at the moment, so results may just be a matter of time. A lot of money is being poured into this research, as well as into understanding the biochemical cellular mechanics that will make it all possible. This fundamental understanding should bring long term gains in other fields of biomedicine. All in all, a very interesting and informative article.
BusinessWeek posts an article on the use of bionics and hybrid cellular-electronic apparatus (such as advanced machines that help patients survive liver failure until a donor can be found). This field of endeavor is producing some real success stories, both as a stepping stone to real regenerative medicine and as a source of therapies for serious illness or damage to the human body. Regaining lost capabilities and preventing deaths due to organ failure are amazing advances indeed, and all a part of the larger medical advance towards enabling longer, healthier lives.
A good, balanced article from The Age gives an overview of current research and opinions within the scientific community on medical research that will lead to (effectively) physical immortality. Many commentators feel that a crude form of physical immortality - based on stem cell therapies, replacement organs grown to order and other forms of regenerative medicine to repair the effects of aging - may be only a few decades away. This is, of course, provided that the US and other governments do not continue in their misguided, damaging attempts to hinder or ban these forms of medicine. Read the article; some food for thought and sensible advice.
As reported on the Life Extension Foundation website, BioMarker Pharmaceuticals is on the path to obtaining first round venture funding. They have a strong case and I'm certainly rooting for them. BioMarker, as you might recall, is working on translating proven healthy life extension via calorie restriction into genetic therapies for longer, healthier lives. This is one to watch, since venture firms tend to invest in sets: if BioMarker gets funding, there will likely be a dozen more real anti-aging research companies funded within the next few years.
From azcentral.com, a "just the facts" article on Alcor and its history that might provide useful background information for those of you unfamiliar with cryonic suspension. More information can be found at Alcor's website. As has been noted before, Alcor is no stranger to the media circus. More publicity for the practice and theory of cryonic suspension can only be a good thing. For many people -- the very old, the terminally ill -- cryonics provides the only slim chance there is for a much longer lifespan.
Cryonics is very much in the news of late. We can hope that this will result in more attention being paid to other aspects of life extension as well. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that a new cryonic suspension provider is to open in Florida. We can chalk this up to increased public awareness of cryonics and the way the market works. As soon as any business is widely commented on, someone somewhere will decide to join in. This new company ("Suspended Animation") is certainly welcome; more competition in any industry leads to better service, lower prices and greater public awareness of the services offered.
(Found via Transhumanity). Australian researchers have successfully used stem cell medical technology to grow organs in culture. Admittedly, their choice of organ would not be the first one I would have worked on, but nonetheless they have made some important breakthroughs. Specifically, they have found how to grow a blood system within the organ, vital to create working transplants. The researchers are very optimistic about the potential of their work to produce available therapies within the next decade: this is encouraging indeed.
Research (and working therapies in China) to regenerate bone has been much in the news lately. ScienceDaily remarks on funding for another new method using gene engineering to encourage the body to regrow bone and heal traumatic damage. Bone loss is an unfortunate but currently unavoidable consequence of aging, osteoporosis and many traumatic accidents. Low cost, reliable therapies for regenerating bone are a vital step forward on the path to longer, healthier lives.
Scientific progress has been described as a series of successful educated guesses followed by a lot of hard work. Here is one of those successful educated guesses (from Science Daily): a researcher has found that a single dose of anti-oxidant nanoparticles quite considerably extends the life of brain cells. This is a very dramatic demonstration of the free radical theory of aging at the cellular level, much more impressive than anything achieved to date. This is very early work of course, but the researchers are already talking about developing therapies for age-related disorders based on these findings. A number of people in the healthy life extension community will be watching this work with great interest.
A more balanced MSNBC article sheds a little light on what is going on. It looks like a disgruntled ex-employee of Alcor is behind this round of bad press; it's a great pity, but things like this occasionally happen. Looking on the bright side, there's no such thing as bad publicity for a process or business model (like cryonic suspension). The more we see it in the news, the better. We hope Alcor weathers this storm as it has others in the past and improves its ability to offer suspension services as a result.
The rancorous legal dispute amongst the children of Ted Williams has produced a fair amount of bad press for Alcor. (Including another article from earlier in the week). It's hard to say what's really going on behind closed doors, and remember that what ends up in the press is what various parties want to end up in the press. At least half of Williams' family wants his body released for cremation, and have bad-mouthed Alcor in the past. It's best to wait and see what comes out in the wash rather than jump to conclusions.
From the BBC: the first UK line of embryonic stem cells has been created. This is an important step forward to enable research in the UK and further afield. Of the more scientifically capable European countries, the UK has the least restrictive legislation regarding stem cell research. Regenerative therapies for diseases of aging such as diabetes and Parkinson's are one important goal. As research in the US and Japan has demonstrated, a wide range of other conditions and damage are open to stem cell therapies as well.
The New Haven Register prints an easy-reading article on some of current attempts to unravel the genetic underpinnings of calorie restriction and aging. Calorie restriction is a demonstrated, effective means of extending healthy lifespan. Understanding the genetic effects associated with calorie restriction offers the hope of therapies that radically extend healthy lifespan without any associated diet and lifestyle changes. Biomarker Pharmaceuticals is a venture-funded company currently attempting to capitalize on this sort of research. Its existence is a sure sign that the larger medical research market is taking this very seriously.
I can't help but feel that some important threshold in public awareness has been passed when a New York Times article on the science behind greatly extending healthy lifespan is a topic for discussion on Slashdot. The article quotes Aubrey de Grey of Methuselah Mouse Project fame; he's been getting a fair few column inches of late, which is also a good thing. Slowly but surely, healthy life extension and aging research is moving closer to the spotlight.
ScienceBlog discusses some fascinating research into reversing the effects of autoimmune diseases (often resulting from aging) such as arthritis and type-1 diabetes. This work incorporates many of the touchstones of next-generation medicine: personalization of therapies to individual patients, regeneration of damage, genetic therapies and tests that can accurately predict the course of a disease years ahead of time. The results in mice are very impressive indeed, and it seems that these researchers are already embarking on bringing therapies to human patients.
This article from LEF News updates us on research into a longevity gene first reported last year. Researchers believe that the FoxM1b gene has a strong effect on cell regeneration and overall longevity, and are conducting experiments in mice to verify this. The theory is that some of the effects of aging are due to a decline in expression of this gene, leading to a similar decline in the ability of the body to repair damage. This research appears to be at a very interesting stage, with the scientists observing a new set of gene-engineered mice to see what effect enhancing this gene has on their overall healthy lifespan. Exciting stuff!
(From Yahoo! News). Hot on the heels of a recent successful human trial of a stem-cell based therapy for heart damage (that was promptly stopped by the FDA), here is news of research on another way of achieving the same result. A number of different research teams are all attempting to use stem cells as the basis for true regenerative medicine. Cheap, widely-available medicine that can regenerate damaged or age-weakened vital organs is the end goal of this research; this would certainly lead to longer, healthier lives.
An article from the Berkshire Eagle is a good illustration of the benefits of name recognition to Alcor. The cryonic suspension provider has been getting a lot more press since taking on Ted Williams, a famed baseball player. Cryonics is valuable: the current indications are that we as a society are within decades of fighting aging to a standstill. For many people, however, this is not soon enough. Their only hope for a longer life is to take the chance on cryonic suspension.
Nanomagazine is carrying an interview with Max More, founder of the Extropy Institute. He and the Institute have been bullish on healthy life extension and medical research for decades. Alongside the Life Extension Foundation, the Institute was one of the earliest serious promoters of life extension concepts and activism. This interview covers a range of transhumanist and futurist topics, and a discussion on life extension and current advances in medicine occurs closer to the end. Readers who are interested in learning more about the support given to healthy life extension by the transhumanist philosophy and movement can find resources for further reading here at the Longevity Meme.
Here's an article from earlier in the year at GBN. It carries a strong, simple explanation of the damage currently being done by current and pending restrictions on stem cell research in the US (not to mention the threat of criminalization and outright bans). Some what-if questions applied to the microprocessor revolution of the 80s clearly show what we have to lose if we do not speak out in support of fundamental research into stem cell medicine. It is our best shot at real, near-term regenerative and healthy life extension medicine.
A short article at Medinews.com notes research success in a simple stem cell therapy to regenerate stroke damage in rats. This is very similar to a therapy for heart damage that was trialed successfully in humans earlier in the year (before being halted by an overzealous FDA). This first generation of simple stem cell therapies, in which the stem cells are more or less just injected into the patient and left to their own devices, are proving very promising. We could certainly see widely-available therapies by the end of the decade, assuming that the US government and others refrain from banning this vital medical technology.
From Science News Online, a very readable piece on the last decade of research into the genes that control aging in the humble worm. This work has had an enormous impact and is arguably responsible for the current wide range of studies on the genetics of aging and healthy life extension. These methuselah worms are the start of a process that will lead to gene-based healthy life extension therapies for humans. We need to be supporting researchers rather than legislating their research out of existence!
The New Scientist reports on work aimed at a low-cost fix for the most common consequence of aging in human eyes. Progress in prosthetics and materials science are opening the door to a wide range of effective repairs to the human body. This field of study is advancing in step with stem cell medicine and other regenerative research strategies. These are the small steps that are essential to obtaining longer, healthier lives for all. One bit at a time, not all at once, is the way progress happens. Fixing aging eyes has been a topic much in the news of late; this is the fourth potential therapy for age-related eye conditions I've seen mentioned in recent months.
Aubrey de Grey is an aging researcher of note and one of the founders of the Methuselah Mouse Prize project. The Speculist is currently running an interview with de Grey on his views and work relating to understanding aging and enabling healthy life extension. Well worth reading to see what people on the front lines of research are thinking. A quote: "What Aubrey has to say is explosive - aging is curable. The answer will soon be in our grasp if we devote the necessary resources to going after it."
From the Straits Times, a good general interest article on genetics research aimed at giving us all much, much longer, healther lives. It is very encouraging that media worldwide are showing an interest in the prospects offered by current research. From the article: "I am absolutely convinced we are going to be able to extend human life," Dr Johnson says. "This is not science fiction." Now if we could just convince the US and European governments to stop trying to ban and criminalize this vital research, things would be looking promising indeed.
From Breakthrough Digest, an article that reminds us of the importance of exercise and vitamin supplements, especially as we age. While looking ahead to the future of healthy life extension medicine, we must also take care of our bodies here and now. Fortunately it's not hard. Based on decades of scientific studies, the simple trio of calorie restriction, modest exercise and supplements appears to be the way to go. Everything else you see advertised or read about is either still in development or substantially less certain in the eyes of science. Read more about this in our introduction to healthy life extension.
Simon Smith's column at Betterhumans this week is an interesting commentary on the polarization of views on life extension in the media. Most of what you read is overly optimistic or overly pessimistic. As Simon Smith points out, it is important to focus on overall progress in research rather than the up and down of individual articles. Personally, I think it's wonderful that we can be commenting on life extension in mainstream media at all.
One of the important unifying threads in current medical research (as illustrated by this EurekAlert article) is the discovery and understanding of basic biochemical signalling processes with cells. Getting a handle on a specific signal is the first step to devising a therapy. In this case, it is signals regulating embryonic stem cell death, and researcher are clearly excited about the potential for therapies for neurodegenerative diseases of aging such as Alzheimer's. These are all small, important steps on the road to medicine that will lengthen and improve our healthy lifespan.
The Globe and Mail is running a good general interest article on researchers and progress in the fight against aging. Progress is both medical and in changing atttitudes towards aging; seeing it as a treatable (and ultimately curable) medical condition, rather than as something that simply is. Many of the recent developments in aging and healthy life extension research are touched on, and some notables who oppose extending human life are quoted too. A quote: "for the first time in human history, an intense and methodical quest is under way to turn off aging with proven science, instead of snake oil."
This article from Betterhumans demonstrates that a complete genetic understanding of longevity is still a long way away. We've learned so many important things, many of which will lead to therapies, but there is so much yet to do. In many ways, modern genetics is a field just getting underway now that the proper tools - fast computers, better materials science - are in hand. Genetics is a vastly important field, but stem cell medicine (and its intersection with genetics) seems to offer a better chance of quick payoffs and effective therapies for healthy life extension in the near future.
Apologies for the two day downtime; our host had something of a router meltdown. As long-time readers will know, hosting the Longevity Meme seems to have been the kiss of death for many providers. We've moved four times in the past two years, far above the average. We've been happy with the present provider (Chicago Webs) up until this point, so hopefully things will get back to the normal level of fine service in the future.