LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
October 06 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.
WELCOME ABOARD TO THE NEW FOLKS
This newsletter has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few months; so a warm welcome to the new folks. If you like what you read here, you'll find an archive of old newsletters if you scroll down a bit on the following page:
I also recommend reading our Introduction to Healthy Life Extension if you haven't already done so:
Healthy life extension and the Longevity Meme are so much more than staying healthy and watching the advance of medical technology with baited breath. We have to get out there and help to build the future we want to see. Be vocal in your support of medical research; donate to worthy research causes (such as the Methuselah Mouse prize fund); tell your friends about the Longevity Meme!
WALK TO CURE AGING
No one group can ever do enough in promoting public understanding of the nascent fight against aging. Few people realize that aging is just another medical condition, and that medical science is within striking distance of a cure if (IF) research is funded to the right level. Activism for healthy life extension is still in its early stages; it's an uphill fight, but there will be interesting times ahead! I'd like to share one recent proposal for fundraising and awareness with you: the Walk to Cure Aging.
The success of recurring charity events like Walk for the Cure, Walk to Cure Juvenile Diabetes, AIDS Walk and many others has firmly entrenched this form of charitable organization in our society. People understand that a "Walk For..." event is designed to raise money for a particular form of medical research.
I suggest organizing a yearly Walk to Cure Aging. This would serve a number of purposes:
1) Raise awareness of current worthy work on aging, the conditions of aging and age-retarding medicine;
2) Help to present the message that aging is a condition that can be researched and cured; it is no more or less "natural" and "part of life" than cancer, AIDS, or diabetes;
3) Raise funds for charitable causes that advance science towards a cure for aging, such as the Methuselah Mouse research prize.
Organizing charitable events of these sorts is, fortunately, not rocket science. It will be hard work, but hardly a venture into the unknown. Charitable fundraising in this fashion is well understood, and many people across the country have experience in putting together organizations to support, manage and promote fundraising walks.
I would like to hear what you have to say about the Walk to Cure Aging; new ideas and points of view are always welcome. Please post your comments to this thread in the Immortality Institute forum:
See you there!
WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE CRYONICS INDUSTRY?
Cryonics providers are companies that will freeze your body on death, in the hopes that future medical technology will be able to revive and repair you. It's a very small, tightly knit industry that has been ever-so-slowly growing since the early 1970s. Responsible cryonicists understand that cryonic suspension is an educated gamble, an ongoing scientific experiment in which the chances of success are unknown. For those who choose cryonic suspension over cremation or burial, people who are missing the medical advances promised in the next few decades, it is the only chance at a longer life sometime in the future. Cryonic suspension is, after all, only the second worst thing that can happen to you. To find out more about cryonics, you might want to peruse the following locations:
In recent months, a lot of press and local government attention has been directed towards Alcor, the Cryonics Institute and other, newer ventures in the cryonics industry. This started with the cryonic suspension of Ted Williams, of baseball fame. This would have been business as usual for Alcor, but for the high profile family fight over the will and the suspension itself. Both sides went to the press, and the press was glad to use the legal battle to sell newspapers. Since cryonics is still a largely unknown, fringe industry to most people, this media attention naturally gravitated towards Alcor and the process of cryonic suspension. A number of poorly researched, hostile articles saw print (mainly in sports sections), but I think it is a credit to the mainstream US media outlets that so many good, balanced pieces were written on Alcor and cryonics at that time.
The Ted Williams affair was dying down when Alcor started to have very publicly aired issues with a man characterized as a "disgruntled ex employee." This is still ongoing, and both sides have filed legal papers, so the less said about this the better. Alcor is a small company in the grand scheme of things, and it's a truism that these sorts of unfortunate events tend to happen in small businesses. People get very invested in what they are doing and splits are often painful. Let the dust settle before judging on the basis of second and third hand accounts.
The biggest side effect of all this publicity is the sudden attention of local governments on the cryonics industry. Local officials are capitalizing on all the media attention, trying to be seen to be "doing something." This is putting unnecessary roadblocks in the way of a new cryonics venture in Florida:
Officials are also interfering in the ongoing business of the Cryonics Institute:
A thoughtful commentary on this sudden flurry of bureaucratic activity can be found here:
As is usual in politics, noble motives are conspicuous in their absence. This is all about turf and appearances.
The title of this section is "What's going on in the cryonics industry?" The answer really has little to do with press articles, Ted Williams or Alcor's most vocal ex-employee. What is going on is business as usual, with the prospects of industry growth from new providers. Media creates storms in teacups, but cryonics providers, supporters and volunteer teams continue to work hard to give good service and improve cryonics technology. I, for one, hope that current publicity, investment and hard work mark the start of a better, larger and more professional cryonics industry. While many of us are assured of living long enough to see the fruits of stem cell research and advanced regenerative medicine, it is wrong to shut off all hope for those who will not.
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
More On Cleveland Stem Cell Center (October 05 2003)
It's a funny thing, but buildings are often more significant than people when tracking long term funding trends in science. In this respect, it is very reassuring to see the construction of stem cell research centers happening throughout the US, despite pending anti-research legislation. This article from the Plain Dealer goes into more detail on the Cleveland Center and attempts to create a local stem cell industry in that area. For a briefing on stem cell medicine and how it can help us live longer, healthier lives, you might want to visit InfoAging.
The Front Lines of Cancer Vaccine Research (October 05 2003)
A Motley Fool article on Geron provides an interesting view of the front lines in the war on cancer. As research progresses, it becomes increasingly apparent that cancer and aging are connected in one or more ways at the cellular and biochemical levels. Scientists don't have a full picture yet, but all research into cellular mechanisms will useful in developing healthy life extension medicine. Defeating cancer, just like defeating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, is an essential part of a medical foundation for indefinite healthy lifespans.
Cryonics Institute Challenges State Order (October 04 2003)
A short article from ClickOnDetroit notes that the Cryonics Institute is challenging recent regulatory attempts by the local state authorities. These would, fairly deliberately, place the Institute into a regulatory regime that would effectively prohibit it from carrying out cryonic suspensions. The Institute, along with Alcor, has a long, successful history in this business. The only reason for all this current attention is recent publicity over Alcor; these are not exactly noble actions from state officials.
NIH And Congress Discuss Stem Cell Research (October 03 2003)
An article in the Guardian covers meetings between NIH representatives and Congress. Both sides are being disingenuous on the harm being caused to medical research in the US by anti-research legislation. (Although money is still flowing in the private sector to expand stem cell research centers). If you would like to see the US government allow research into the future of healthy life extension, you have to raise your voice. Contact your elected representatives today to ask them why they oppose improving health and saving lives.
Canadian Stem Cell Debate Continues (October 03 2003)
The Globe and Mail notes the continuing debate in the Canadian parliament over stem cell research legislation. As in the US, uncertainty over the legal future of research is damaging progress. Funding for stem cell based regenerative medicine is much lower than it might otherwise be in both public and private sectors. Longer delays from current and threatened legislation mean more death and suffering before working stem cell therapies can be widely commercialized. I encourage you to raise your voices in support of medical research; ask your elected representatives why they are blocking vital, promising research.
Regenerative Medicine Gaining Recognition (October 02 2003)
Regenerative medicine is gaining widespread name recognition as a legitimate, promising field of medicine; the 1st World Congress on Regenerative Medicine is this month, the fourth annual Regenerative Medicine conference is next month, and meaningful funding is starting to flow. The NIH is recognizing the field, and was congratulated for doing so by the Alliance for Aging Research. Stem cell medicine is simply one part of a broad advance towards "rebuilding the body, restoring function." This is the medicine of the future that must be supported and encouraged to fight aging and extend our healthy lifespans.
Israel Stem Cell Therapy Consortium Underway (October 02 2003)
Israel21C notes that the Israel Stem Cell Therapy Consortium, a group of medical companies and academic research facilities, is now underway. The consortium is embarking on a $15-20 million program to develop the tools and techniques for widespread development of stem cell based therapies. This is the sort of initiative that we need to see more of elsewhere in the world: determined, sensible, well-planned steps towards creating the healthy life extension medicine of the future. The will is there in the US and Europe, but current and pending anti-research legislation is scaring away funding and investment.
An Introduction to Cryonics (October 01 2003)
Since we're talking about cryonics today, here's a great introduction from the Palm Beach Post (found via Transhumanity). When did cryonics start up, what is it all about, and - most importantly - what does it offer for you? Read the article and find out; it's a very human view of this young industry. If this catches your interest, you can find resources and a friendly online community at CryoNet. The Alcor web site also provides a great deal of useful information about cryonics and cryonic suspension.
More Controversy For Alcor (October 01 2003)
The Arizona Tribune carries an article on the latest developments in the ongoing Alcor stories. Detectives are investigating a 1992 cryonic suspension as a result of materials submitted by a disgruntled ex-employee; you might remember the initial filing of lawsuits and throwing of dirt in that matter not so long ago. All in all, it looks fairly messy, but it's important not to judge too quickly when looking at two parties throwing claims and counter-claims. Wait for the dust to settle. As I have said before, I hope that this unpleasantness and the associated publicity help to pave the way to a more professional, businesslike cryonics industry.
A Reminder As To Why We're Here (September 30 2003)
The Longevity Meme, in addition to serving up news and showing you the best way to live a longer, healthier life now, is devoted to raising awareness and supporting the medical research that will extend our healthy lifespans. Being informed is a very good thing, and I encourage you to use this site as a stepping stone to a greater understanding of healthy life extension. However, being informed is simply the first step. To ensure our future health and longevity, we must also take action to support and encourage medical research. We try to make activism accessible here at the Longevity Meme, so I encourage you to take a look and see how you can help.
Premature Aging Syndrome Linked to Normal Aging (September 30 2003)
At Betterhumans, exciting news from the Baltimore National Institute on Aging labs. It seems that the genetic changes and damage caused by Werner's syndrome, a premature aging condition, are very similar to those caused by normal aging; close enough, in fact, to say that Werner's syndrome is probably an acceleration of the normal aging process. This presents an immediate opportunity to learn far more about the mechanisms of aging, and I predict that we will be hearing more on this topic in the year ahead.
Bioengineering Our Way to Longer, Healthier Lives (September 29 2003)
A very forward-looking article at Salon discusses the revolution just getting underway in medical research today. As the author correctly points out, we are on the verge of a flood of advancements in artificial body parts and biomedicine, designed to improve our quality of life. While many of the ideas are further into our future, the article gives a good idea as to the range of research going on today, and the near term improvements that will result.
Slight Funding For Stem Cell Research (September 29 2003)
From this Reuters article, it seems the the US government (the National Institutes of Health in particular) is still providing a very small amount of funding for stem cell research. Any money to further this vital foundation for regenerative and healthy life extension medicine is welcome, but far more is needed. Stem cell therapies offer the prospect of cures for many, possibly all, degenerative diseases and effects of aging. Given the ongoing death toll from aging, shouldn't we be funding and supporting this research far more eagerly?
The War Over Anti-Aging Medicine (September 28 2003)
The transcript of the latest SAGE Crossroads webcast, a discussion on the war over anti-aging medicine, is now online. In essence, the quackery, false claims and over the top marketing associated with much of the commercial "anti-aging" industry has damaged the legitimate, scientific fight against aging. Funding for meaningful research rests on public opinion and public understanding of the near time possibilities of healthy life extension. Large segments of the commercial "anti-aging" industry have muddied the waters, engaged in unethical practices and generally made life harder for the rest of us. Unless this problem is overcome, we will all suffer the consequences: less funding, less research, less progress, shorter and more unhealthy lives.
Alzheimer's: Searching for a Cure (September 28 2003)
From BreakThrough Digest, a long article on Alzheimer's and the current state of medical research. Despite a flurry of small breakthroughs in Alzheimer's research over the past few years (not all of which are mentioned in this article), widely available options for therapy are still thin on the ground. As yet, there is no cure in humans. The best defense against developing Alzheimer's appears to be - as it is for so many diseases of aging - to adopt a good diet, lose weight, take supplements, exercise your mind and body, and stick to that regiment. Remember: nothing tastes as good as being thin feels!
New Florida Cryonics Firm Blocked (September 27 2003)
From the Palm Beach Post (found via Transhumanity), news of a legislative block to the hopes of a new cryonic suspension provider. Local government wants to regulate the business under funeral parlor rules that would effectively prevent cryonic suspensions from being performed. Some pro- and anti-technology views from locals round out the article, but all in all this is a disappointing setback for the nascent cryonics industry as a whole. It could take years to sort this mess out, and the cost would likely be prohibitive to most new cryonics companies.
Stem Cell Heart Therapy Standoff in Germany (September 26 2003)
BioMed Central reports on the debate over administering working stem cell therapies for heart damage in Germany. Oddly enough, given current restrictive Germany legislation, work appears to be progressing further in Germany than in the US. Here, the FDA simply stepped in to block treatments and human trials. Studies and human trials in the US, Japan and Germany have shown that this therapy works extraordinarily well; it saves lives that would otherwise be lost to heart disease, damage or failure. Despite this evidence, German and US government regulatory bodies are still blocking or attempting to block human trials.
Commentary on Regulating Alcor (September 26 2003)
(Found via the Speculist). There have been rumblings in Arizona about regulating Alcor, a cryonics provider. Some people in the cryonics community view government regulation as a necessary or desirable stepping stone towards a larger, more professional, stable cryonic suspension marketplace. This commentary from Rand Simberg is more middle of the road; it is a sensible examination of the current situation, and points out some of the pitfalls and possibly unethical actors in this play.
Yeast Offers Insight into Aging and Cancer (September 25 2003)
Yeast, mice, rats and flies are the tools of basic research into aging and related conditions. Today, it's yeast. This article from Betterhumans discusses recent work that will lead to a better understanding of the link between aging and cancer. The chance of developing cancer increases rapidly after a certain age, suggesting a biochemical trigger of some sort. This research puts scientists on track to find - and then hopefully fix - this mechanism in humans. As I have said before, scientists are at the stage where any and all new information can be turned to positive use in the fight against aging.
California Approves Stem Cell Research (September 25 2003)
The Mercury News notes that the California governor has signed bills approving stem cell research in that state. State funding is as yet not in the picture, but this approval should help to dispel some of the miasma over all stem cell research, private and government-funded, caused by current and pending Federal anti-research legislation. Stem cell research is the gateway to the first effective therapies that will repair the effects of aging, cure degenerative conditions and extend healthy lifespan. Any delay in developing this new field of medicine leads to more suffering and more death, all of which could be prevented.
More on Starting Low Calorie Diets (September 24 2003)
(From azcentral.com). If something is worth saying, it's worth saying a few times: it's never too late to start a low calorie diet (like calorie restriction). Health benefits and a longer healthy lifespan are possible even if you start a low calorie diet later in life. The article offers cautions, but calorie restriction is still the current gold standard of healthy life extension, with decades of scientific research and positive studies behind it. This will help you live healthily for longer, but remember that is just a stepping stone on the way to far longer lives: we need to support medical research for the future of healthy life extension!
Ronald Bailey on Supplements, FDA, LEF (September 24 2003)
This article at Reason Online is somewhat tangential to the real business of healthy life extension, but the FDA and Life Extension Foundation are influential players in the ongoing battles over research, supplements and consumer rights. From where I stand, the FDA is one of the most outrageous examples of government waste and senseless obstruction. The FDA, alongside anti-research legislation, is causing great harm to the development of age-retarding pharmaceuticals, stem cell therapies and regenerative medicine - all essential first steps towards indefinite healthy lifespans.
US Legislation Continues to Block Vital Research (September 23 2003)
In an article in Wired, the continuing effects of US anti-research legislation are spelled out. Stem cell research is still suffering in the US due to existing legislation that blocks federal funding and fear of pending legislation that would ban most current stem cell work. This research has already produced working therapies for heart disease and regenerative medicine that can cure Crohn's Disease or alleviate Parkinson's symptoms. I encourage you to write to your representatives and ask them why the US government is trying to block this promising, successful medical research.
Faster Worm Screening for a Longer Life (September 23 2003)
(From NanoAging). Occasionally, I like to illustrate the amazing advances in automation that drive biomedical research. It's easy to forget that the current rapid pace of research rests on decades of hard work by toolmakers. This article discusses a recent advance in screening potentially life-extending compounds on nematode worms; seemingly boring tools like this can speed up the whole drug-discovery process by a factor of a hundred or more. That end result is certainly not boring!
More Methuselah Mouse Press (September 22 2003)
The Methuselah Mouse Prize is garnering more press, this time from the esteemed science journal Nature. The prize also gets a mention in Slashdot and a Telegraph article on telomeres and healthy life extension. From the Nature article, the prize "draws attention to some very worthwhile research." The Methuselah Mouse prize is gathering momentum! This is very heartening, as it is indeed drawing attention to vital groundwork in the fight against aging and age-related conditions. Have you made a donation yet? You can read more about research prizes and the reasons to donate here at the Longevity Meme.
A New Cryonics Lab in Florida (September 22 2003)
A mixed article in the Miami Herald (found via Transhumanity) on cryonics and the opening of a new provider. The Life Extension Foundation funds a lot of the new cryonics activity in the US, as well as more conventional healthy life extension research. It's important to remember that cryonic suspension is an educated gamble in scientific research, made by people who do not want to die but have no other medical options. It is unproven, but a far, far better option than the alternative. Most of the critics of cryonic suspension would no doubt be more receptive if they themslves were dying of old age or uncurable disease.
Theraputic Cloning Shown to Cure Parkinson's In Mice (September 22 2003)
Science Daily delivers this good news. Theraputic cloning has been shown to cure mice suffering from the mouse equivelant of Parkinson's. Getting a treatment to work in mice is a big step forward in developing a working therapy for humans. Given the similarities between Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases, this family of therapies should have broad applications. This advance is exactly the sort of high profile breakthrough needed to help block anti-research legislation. As a reminder, a bill banning theraputic cloning research is still awaiting a final Senate vote. I encourage you to write to your senator in protest.
Do you have comments for us, or want to discuss the newsletter?