Christopher Reeve: Politics Delaying Medical Research

In a snippet at HealthDay (scroll down on the page to see it), Christopher Reeve notes that stem cell and therapeutic cloning research has been significantly held back by political interference. Quote: "I think we're about five years behind where we could have been in this country because of controversy over kinds of research, particularly stem cell research." Christopher Reeve is an outstanding research advocate, and his work helps people like you and I. Take a little time to tell Christopher Reeve that you support his cause.


Seeking a Cure For Ideology

At the Palm Beach Post, an editorial on anti-research attitudes in the US administration. President Bush, the President's Council on Bioethics and other appointees are trampling over vital medical research in their rush to force ideologies into law. Researchers now claim that we're five years behind in stem cell and theraputic cloning medicine; that's five years further away from cures for heart disease, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, nerve damage, diabetes and even aging itself. We cannot let this attack on health and medicine continue unopposed! Take a few minutes today to step up and see how you can help.


Political Nonsense From the NIH

The Seattle Times carries comments from the head of the National Institutes of Health on the state of stem cell research. I might talk about baldfaced lying and political yes-men, but I'll settle for saying that Elias Zerhouni seems to be far removed from reality on this topic. Stem cell scientists - the people best positioned to know - and basic common sense have been telling us for years that current US administration policies are deliberately causing serious harm to vital medical research. No amount of political doublespeak can change that truth.


Understanding Age-Related Muscle Loss

As reported by ScienceDaily, researchers at Stanford have found a molecular link between older muscles and slow healing. This work could lead to a way to prevent muscle atrophy due to aging. This initial biomedical research is the first step in the path to a therapy, but the scientists have demonstrated that older muscles in mice can be convinced to regenerate as if young by blocking a certain molecular pathway. There is still a lot to learn, and much more research before any resulting therapy could enter initial trials, but it is reassuring to see science making progress towards fixing the various degenerative conditions of aging.


Working Towards Artificial Eyes

SwissInfo reports on progress in developing an artifical microchip retina to cure certain types of blindness. Bionics (and regenerative medicine based on stem cell therapies) for the eye have been progressing in leaps and bounds over the past few years. The outlook for people who suffer or expect to suffer from age-related blindness is certainly rosier than in past decades, but we're not quite there yet. As for all other fields of bionics and regenerative medicine, more funding and less government interference is needed.


Ireland Divided On Stem Cell Research

BioMed Central reports on the heated discussion in Ireland over funding stem cell research. The current European Union debate requires support from European science ministers, which has led to EU discussions repeated in miniature within member nations. The outcome of the final confirming vote on the EU framework looks uncertain, but the discussion over funding means that any discussion of a ban is out of the picture. This is a very good thing, as the threat of a ban on stem cell research has been causing great damage to medical progress.


Developing A Body Repair Kit From Blood?

The New Scientist examines the recent claims of advances in stem cell research by a UK company called TriStem. The research has not yet been widely confirmed by independent scientific review (and is thus suspect), but if true it is very promising indeed. In short, TriStem claim to be able to get adult stem cells to behave like embryonic stem cells. This would speed development of regenerative medicine, sidestep ethical and legislative concerns and lower costs all round. The article notes that the first peer-reviewed confirmation has just appeared, but scientists are still justifiably skeptical.


William Haseltine Supports Methuselah Mouse Prize

William Haseltine, Chairman and CEO of Human Genome Sciences, has become the latest luminary to support the Methuselah Mouse Prize through donation. We are pleased to see the Methuselah Foundation obtain this endorsement from one of the most respected names in the biotech field. Since William Haseltine believes in the goals of the Methuselah Mouse prize, isn't it time that you donated to help ensure your future health and longevity? Remember to download the new Life-a-thon software and give it a whirl - see your donations increase the prize fund in real time!


Immortality Institute Book Project

The Immortality Insitute has announced a book of essays and discussions for publication in 2004, with proceeds going towards the first Immortality Institute conference in 2005. Organization is proceeding apace, and submissions on basic and advanced issues relating to the development of physical immortality through science are being sought. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2004, but earlier is always better. If you would like to talk about the planned book or find out more from the editors, jump into the Immortality Institute forums and have your say.


Leonard Hayflick's Pessimism

This article from UPI sheds some light on part of the scientific debate over longevity and aging. Leonard Hayflick is one of the most pessimistic gerontologists when it comes to extending the healthy human lifespan; given his influence, his position on the possibility of healthy life extension is an unfortunately one. Most mainstream gerontologists - who are still too pessimistic in our eyes - disagree with Hayflick, even if they are not as directed and upbeat as Aubrey de Grey.


Activism for Healthy Life Extension

Despite widespread apathy, disinterest and ignorance of science in our society, there has been a real growth in size and sophistication of healthy life extension communities in the past few years. As a group united in our vision for a better future, we have come to the point of being able to say: "We want to live healthily for longer. We want real, meaningful healthy life extension therapies. What shall we do to make it all happen?" This is the key question!

Copyright © Devon Fowler. Based on a piece by Devon Fowler that appeared originally at Transhumanity and the Immortality Institute.

150,000 people died today, from age-related conditions that we should be working harder to cure. I'm sick of the way in which society ignores this horrid toll. Each life is precious: an individual, complex human being; wishes, desires, knowledge, experience...all gone, destroyed, 150,000 times over every day. The apathy with which we greet this ongoing holocaust is shocking. Think about that for a moment; spend a little time thinking about you, your family and your friends suffering and dying because we cannot rouse ourselves to spend the necessary funds on anti-aging medical research. Don't push it out of your mind - get angry instead! A longer life and lasting, excellent health are rights worth fighting for, and this essay is a little meditation on what you should be doing in order to obtain both of these things.

In the course of my life to date, I have met a good number of the unfocused and apathetic people in the world. They drift with the currents, follow the distractions of the moment, and are afraid or unable to take a real stand on issues. Lives are affected and changed, often for the worse, because people didn't stand up to make a difference when they had the chance. They certainly don't want to think about the falling of the ax, 150,000 times each day. They hide from this unpleasant, ugly reality. It's easy to take life too lightly - after all, the ability to kick back, joke and procrastinate in the face of adversity is a form of defense against stress - but people let real, serious issues pass by without challenge: issues such as working to fight the ravages of aging and increase healthy life span. This problem can also be seen as a form of collective apathy and lack of focus in the media and society at large. Too many chances to make a difference, to fund serious research into aging and extending the healthy human lifespan, are let slip by, year after year.

Don't be one of these people! It doesn't matter who you are or what your background is, there are ways in which you can make a difference to your own healthy lifespan and the pace of medical research. It is a truism that you have to work for what you want in this life, as individuals or a society. Nothing is free and no goal is reached without corresponding effort, but by working together we humans can build great, lasting and ingenious monuments. Widespread activism and advocacy - the small contributions of countless individuals - have always been a vital component of human progress. They continue to be so today, especially in enabling the advance of medical science.

Funding for the many different fields of medical research ebbs and flows with public opinion, media exposure and the work of dedicated activists. Persistent publicity for a cause - such as fighting AIDS, defeating heart disease, funding cancer research and now healthy life extension - directly influences the money and time devoted to research. Cancer research received billions of dollars in funding precisely because public and media opinion loudly and overwhelming favored the search for a cure. It takes hard work to frame, place and keep a medical issue front and center in the mainstream of present day culture, but it unlocks purses far and wide. Venture capital, charitable, philanthropic, corporate, and government organizations all answer the popular call to fund medical research. Each group has their own reasons for doing so, but in each case, the call must be strident and widespread. If a need is shouted loudly enough, funding will be directed to answer that need.

Widespread demand for each new step of medical progress - however laudable or obvious it might be - doesn't spontaneously appear from nowhere, of course. As noted earlier, most individuals (and society as a whole) will let the most serious and pressing medical issues and opportunities pass them by. Support for medical research must be cultivated through activism, education and raising awareness: it is the advocates and public speakers who start the wheels of progress turning and help to overturn roadblocks as they emerge.

Bearing all this in mind, I can't help but feel that fundamental priorities are all mixed up for the bulk of humanity. We worship celebrities, money and sports. We eat unhealthy fast food and indulge in simple, pointless, trivial things that divert us from vital issues. Important matters such as ensuring greater quality and length of life fall to the wayside in the face of a mountain of details and distractions. For me at least, working towards a longer, better, healthier life is far more important determining who looked best at the Oscars, and far more rewarding than obsessing over sports scores.

In my eyes, healthy life extension is worth fighting for. I work to help make far longer, far healthier lives a reality. I may not be a scientist, but through writing I can convince people to feel as passionately as I do about this mission. In these early days, I can make a big difference by educating people about the possibilities and potentials of medical research, and of the need to support advances in real anti-aging medicine. I can help to kick-start and organize serious, large-scale activism, education and fundraising for life-extending medical research. It would make me happy if I lived in good health to 150 or more, but I've pledged not to become apathetic even if it proves to be impossible: there are too few years in life right now - and too great a promise in the latest medical research - to quit or lapse into despondency.

There are many others who feel the same way as I do. Despite widespread apathy, disinterest and ignorance of science in our society, there has been a real growth in size and sophistication of healthy life extension communities in the past few years. The Life Extension Foundation, the Immortality Institute and the Longevity Meme are but a few of these. We can thank the Internet, reports of new breakthroughs in medicine, and the actions of a core of motivated early leaders for this blossoming. Interest is growing as the first inklings and discussions of the future of life-extending medicine appear in the mainstream media. As a group united in our vision for a better future, we have come to the point of being able to say: "We want to live healthily for longer. We want real, meaningful healthy life extension therapies. What shall we do to make it all happen?"

This is the key question!

Healthy life extension, aging and anti-aging research is currently seriously under-funded in comparison to, say, cancer, heart disease or AIDS research. Progress is slow, since progress depends on funds. Slow progress means little media attention and public awareness, no matter how serious the cause, which in turn tends to mean little further funding will be available. It's a vicious, self-perpetuating circle. As of 2003, no healthy life extension or anti-aging medicine fundraising groups exist that are comparable in size, renown and success to the large cancer research non-profits. When you stop to think about it, this is a very strange state of affairs: everyone ages, and almost everyone is prepared to pay money to slow or halt the detrimental effects of aging. Witness the success of vendors, mystics and conmen claiming to supply "anti-aging" products of all sorts! Why is it that - with a billion dollar industry showing that people will pay for any old junk marketed as "anti-aging" - research on real anti-aging science is languishing?

One answer is that the wider public really doesn't understand the possibilities that could be opened up by well funded, near future medical research. Most people simply don't believe that aging can be beaten, and beaten soon. They have lived with the holocaust, 150,000 deaths every day, for so long that it is accepted and hidden as an immutable part of reality. Nothing could be further from the truth of course: aging is a medical condition, and as such is open to research, treatment, prevention, and, ultimately, a cure. Public confusion and ignorance isn't an insurmountable barrier - just recall what happened during the 80s for AIDS research. AIDS activists and educators at the time were well aware of the benefits future research could bring. They worked long and hard, and raised a great noise to the heavens. Lo and behold, the flow of money to AIDS research increased dramatically over the years. Today, AIDS in Western countries is almost a manageable, chronic condition rather than a death sentence. Tremendous medical advances took place across a span of only 20 years, a progression from unknown, untreatable deadly disease to vaccine trials and effective medications. When political and economic barriers are overcome, AIDS patients elsewhere in the world will enjoy the same benefits.

This same sequence of events could - and indeed should - happen for aging and its attendant life-threatening degenerative conditions. We need to overcome apathy and distractions, reorder our priorities, organize, speak to the media, educate the public and make ourselves heard! Medical advocacy is nothing new or revolutionary, and we have many past examples and a great deal of experience to draw upon. The strategies of fundraising and education for charitable causes are well known and well understood by the public - we will be following a well-trodden path while help researchers find a cure for aging.

Working hard for a cause can be difficult, especially in the medical field when tangible results can take years or decades to arrive. But I would argue that healthy life is priceless, and it is worth passionately fighting for every extra day we can get. I want to live in good health for as long as I possibly can, and I will stay as passionate and proactive as I can about healthy longevity no matter what the end result may be for me personally. Even if I eventually die from accident or disease, working for healthy life extension is still well worth it. I will have helped to gain additional time for each and every one of us, a gift beyond value.

You can help too. Keep reading.

It's worth taking a moment to think about how medicine gets better. Scientific progress is a wonderful thing; the hard work of advocacy, education and research, building the technology to make life longer, healthier and better. Progress means that we live in modern houses rather than crude huts. Progress means that we live in comfort rather than hardship. We must never forget that the vast majority of human beings who ever lived slaved just to stay alive for a few short decades, living amidst filth, ignorance, suffering and disease.

We are lucky, and we owe our longer, healthier lives to scientific and medical progress. Many people do forget the lessons of the past, however. They discount and belittle the tremendous benefits that medical science has brought to humanity. In fear of change, and at any cost, they would shackle the engine of progress and halt the advance of science. These people - luddites, conservatives, greens, bioethicists and others - have existed throughout history, but have always been defeated. A good thing too! Unfortunately, defeat often seems to mean that the next generation will live better, longer lives while fighting hard to prevent their children from enjoying the fruits of further advances.

Today, humanity stands on the brink of real, meaningful anti-aging medicine. Scientists talk of 200-year life spans, of defeating cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's. Far longer, far healthier lives are possible. Readily available therapies to repair and prevent the cellular damage of aging could be twenty years away with the right funding and research choices. Yet, people in positions of influence and power - President Bush, Leon Kass of the President's Council for Bioethics and Francis Fukuyama, to name but a few - devote their time to blocking research and speaking out openly against extended health and life. We cannot dismiss these efforts. While Leon Kass is helping (in his own backwards way) to raise awareness of the possibilities of healthy life extension, he and his politician cronies have demonstrated a real ability to damage and hold back medical research. Kass and other bioethicists offer the rubber stamp justification for legislation - under debate in 2003 - that would shut down or criminalize vast swathes of anti-aging research in the US. Politicians in France, Germany and other EU nations have already done just this: it's not as though we can pretend that it can't happen elsewhere.

This isn't an isolated disagreement over research, nor is it merely a matter of distaste in some quarters for advances in medicine and healthy life extension. These political battles are part of a bigger war against change and scientific progress. We see it in the globalization debate and arguments over genetically modified foods, stem cell research and therapeutic cloning. Politicians and influential, well-funded factions are working to stop or even turn back the clock of health and progress for everyone. While they could live as they choose in their own lives, they should have no right to force their views - and shorter, less healthy lives - on the world. Alas, they continue to try.

For my part, I say that we humans have spent more than enough time being self-destructive and afraid of change, striving to tear down scientific and medical advancement. Our history - thousands of years of terrible wars, horrible plagues, short and brutish lives - should have us seeking to be better than that. Tens of thousands die today, and every day, for want of cures that might already exist if there were less opposition and more resources devoted to extending the healthy human lifespan. For the sake of the dying, for our own sake, we simply cannot afford to lose these battles over medical research. Cures for cancer, regenerative medicine for nerve damage, working anti-aging medicine, and all the other possible medical miracles in the near future are by no means a done deal. Human science is capable of achieving so much that has simply not been done. We could have built permanent bases on the Moon, visited Mars, irrigated the Sahara, reforested the Americas and catalogued all life on the deepest ocean floor over the course of the last four decades. We have not. Likewise, there is no guarantee that advances in medicine will bring healthy life extension rapidly enough to help those of us reading this now.

This is why we must stand up and support the future that we believe in: more funding, more medical research, better medicine and far healthier, far longer lives. Too many people today, like Leon Kass, seem to worship death, but I know that each human being also possesses a strong instinct for life. Between public apathy and political opposition, we can't afford to look at healthy life extension as simply a cool health trend, or as hobby activism. It is a necessity, and the more I learn about it the more I feel that this is true. Healthy life extension encompasses everything we do as individuals; without health and life, we cannot enjoy any of the things we value - friends, occupations, interests, and so much more.

If you feel lazy, apathetic or distracted about the future of your health and longevity, snap out of it! Live runs out on us all too quickly. Healthy lifespan is shorter still, but you, I and everyone else can devote a little time to enabling longer, healthier lives. Activism for medical progress can have real results in these days of rapidly advancing science. So do something to support this cause! Read the Longevity Meme; join the Immortality Institute; follow the latest news; send a supportive message to an advocate or researcher; write angry letters to anti-research politicians; post to healthy life extension forums online; sign up for the Life Extension Foundation; donate to the Methuselah Mouse research prize. Perhaps most importantly, talk to your friends and convince them to help you.

Active advocacy groups don't exist in a vacuum: they are the sharp edge of a larger supporting community. The Longevity Meme, the Life Extension Foundation, A4M, the Immortality Institute, the CR Society and other diverse healthy life extension organizations, commentators, and online communities didn't spring into existence from nothing. They interact with and are encouraged and supported by many overlapping communities interested in healthy life extension. Every extra person who contributes directly increases all our chances of living a much longer, healthier life. Everyone can help, and it doesn't take much effort. Every wall is built one brick at a time. Have you mentioned healthy life extension to your friends today? Show the Longevity Meme to a neighbor, introduce someone to the Immortality Institute, or mention the Life Extension Foundation at the office. Post Longevity Meme newsletters to bulletin boards and online groups. Go ahead! You'll be helping people and helping yourself.

There is no question as to the importance of healthy life extension - it may not be a matter of life and death for you today, right now, but it is for many people. One day, all too soon, you will one of them. Personally, I've grown sick of the distractions. I want more individuals to look at this problem head on and say: "Too many people suffer and die in this country, let alone the world. I'm angry because people who should be alive today are dead. Aging and death are an ongoing tragedy, a horror that we must fight." I want to see this said on CNN and the BBC, a loud acknowledgement of this unpleasant reality that we can - indeed, must - work to change.

The huge increase in AIDS research funding in the 80s and 90s is the crowning victory of this sort of grassroots activism and organization. In comparatively few years, AIDS moved from obscure disease to the center of media attention. The floodgates of research funding opened and AIDS progressed from death sentence to manageable condition for those with access to treatment. We can repeat these same successes in the fight against aging! In short, healthy life extension is not a niche or an oddity anymore, and hasn't been for a while. Fighting aging - fighting to stop the horrid ongoing toll of suffering and death - can produce real results in your lifetime. So let's stop avoiding the subject! If I can do it, so can you: stand up and take part in ensuring your future is long and healthy. Join the healthy life extension community and talk to your friends about this serious issue. Unending health and an unlimited, rosy future could be ahead...all it would take is for everyone to join in and help make it happen.

Activism For Healthy Life Extension

The latest Longevity Meme article is a punchy piece on the role of activism in healthy life extension. Once you've stood up and decided that a far longer, far healthier life is what you want, what next? Read the article and then see how you can take action to help ensure the development of real anti-aging medicine and a longer, healthier future for all of us. Remember: the third step of healthy life extension is supporting medical research. Your future health depends as much on the advance of medicine as it does on staying healthy in the here and now.


Red Sea Urchins "Almost Immortal"

This story (reported here by the BBC) has been doing the rounds for the past week or two. It's certainly interesting, even if it doesn't have immediate relevance to healthy life extension research. Examples of natural healthy longevity - extreme longevity in this case - in the animal kingdom are an open invitation to study the biochemistry and genetics of these species. By doing so, we might gain further insight into how best to fight aging in humans. At the very least, those who decry longer, healthier lifespans as being unnatural can be pointed in the direction of the very natural and very long-lived red urchin.


Download Methuselah Mouse "Life-A-Thon"

The Life-a-thon is a useful little Java desktop application that keeps you up to date on the latest healthy life extension news and the Methuselah Mouse prize progress. The Methuselah Foundation likes to put its own spin on fundraising efforts, and this is an example of something new and interesting. You can also use the Life-a-thon to chart the projected effects of the prize on your healthy lifespan and make donations to help these projections actually happen. More new and helpful functions are promised in the future, so try it out!


Generating Adult Stem Cells For Regenerative Medicine

An MIT researcher has discovered how to temporarily make adult stem cells multiply like embryonic stem cells. This will be very useful when building stem cell lines for research, and gives further insight into the way in which such cells work. A quote: "If we want to do cell replacement therapy with stem cells, we have to be able to monitor them and avoid mutations that cause tumors in people." This research is a great step forward in that direction. You can learn more about stem cells at


Skeptical On Calorie Restriction

A snide human interest article from the New York Times on calorie restriction appeared today (in the Fashion and Style section of all places). The author interviews a number of long-time practitioners of calorie restriction; unfortunately choosing to focus on quirks, skipping over the overwhelming scientific evidence for the health benefits of low calorie diets. Snide articles aside, calorie restriction is well worth investigating. It is the only currently proven method of extending your natural healthy longevity.


Confirmation Of Adult Stem Cell Heart Regeneration

(From A Canadian doctor has confirmed that adult stem cells can be used to regenerate muscle tissue. In a sign of the times, much of the article is taken up with the doctor's desire to avoid having his work politicized: "I want to make sure I am cautious enough so this research will not be used for political reasons." "Nobody should exploit it to say we should stop studying embryonic stem cells." Politicians should stop interfering with medical research - they are slowing progress and damaging our future health and longevity.


Never Too Old For Exercise

Moderate exercise is key to extending your natural longevity, along with a low-calorie diet, sensible lifestyle choices and modest supplementation. This article from reports on scientific studies showing that moderate exercise, even at a late stage in live, has a tremendous positive effect on cognitive skills and general health. A quote: "We saw significant cognitive improvement in people 55 and older over just six months." Working exercise into your schedule is essential to a healthy life - you really cannot afford to skip it, even if you are living healthily in other ways.


Aubrey de Grey at SAGE Crossroads

SAGE Crossroads have posted the transcript of the November 5th webcast debate involving Aubrey de Grey, cofounder of the Methuselah Mouse Prize. Dr. de Grey speaks his mind on the desired path forward for medical science, the possible obstacles and the timeline. He presents a coherent set of arguments for other scientists to build upon or argue with, and the comments from the other side of the debate are also interesting. All in all, an excellent debate - well worth reading and thinking about. Have you donated to the Methuselah Mouse Prize yet?


Working Towards The Bionic Body

An article at MSNBC underscores just how far medical science has come with prosthetic artificial replacements for worn body parts. Devices such as these are just as much medicine for longer, healthier lives as stem cell or therapeutic cloning therapies. It is fascinating to watch these two branches of medicine advance towards solving the same human problems. It looks likely that artificial replacements will contine to be important for joints and small bones even as regenerative medicine to repair age-related damage in softer tissues is brought to market.


Ceremedix To Make Pills In Scotland

According to this article from, Ceremedix are planning to manufacture their new high-power antioxidant supplement in Scotland (it will be marketed by Lifeline Nutraceuticals). Regular readers will recall that this supplement did impressively well in laboratory tests, but we're still waiting for confirming science. Everything that can extend healthy life span - even a little - is a good thing, but remember that radical life extension will require more advanced medical technology: regenerative medicine, stem cell therapies, and much more funding for aging research.


Anti-Cancer Gene Therapy Available in China

Betterhumans notes that the first of the new wave of effective cancer therapies is now commercially available in China. A big step forward in the fight against cancer! This one is a gene therapy that has performed very well in putting particular forms of cancer into remission; it is also expected to do well against other forms of cancer. Defeating cancer is one of the essential victories we need in order to extend healthy lifespan far beyond current limits. The prospects look very promising in this field right now.


Concerns Raised Over Medical Patent Provision

In a recent press release, the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research raises concerns over an anti-patent provision in an upcoming appropriations bill. The provision would ban most medical patents pertaining to the field of therapeutic cloning and stem cell research - which would lead to a sharp decline in investment from the largest funders of such research. Less investment means less medical progress towards regenerative medicine for longer, healthier lives. CAMR sees this undebated provision as "a hasty, back-door attempt to stifle therapeutic cloning research."


European Parliament Backs Stem Cell Research

(From the New Scientist). In a reversal from just a few months ago (when the European Parliament was well on the way to a stem cell research ban), MEPs have voted to support embryonic stem cell research with EU funds, rejecting restrictive and crippling amendments put forward by German MEPs. I think that we can consider this a victory, even though this is only a preliminary ("consultative") vote. It does seem that we are out of the woods in regard to any ban. EU research ministers will meet later for a final decision on this funding proposal.


Discover Magazine On Staying Alive

Here is a good, long article from Discover on the recent history of mainstream scientific opinion regarding aging and extending the healthy human lifespan. This is an interesting quote: "while there may be no biological limits to the human life span, there are practical ones. In addition to luck, these include the amount of money society is willing to invest in antiaging research." As a society, we are investing too little in medical research. This barrier must be overcome by activism and education if we are to benefit from real antiaging and healthy life extension therapies.


More On No Fixed Maximum Lifespan

The Ledger is running an article with a few more tidbits on Dr. James Vaupel's longevity data. He describes himself as "middle of the road" in terms of his predictions for increasing lifespan, but I and many others think that he is failing to take into account near future advances across the board in regenerative medicine. Regardless, his analysis - that there is no fixed maximum lifespan - should inspire us all to get out there and help the advance of medical science. If progress is faster, we live healthily for longer!


First Steps To Stem Cell Paralysis Cure

Betterhumans reports that a human trial has reported minor success in using stem cell therapy to treat paralysis. Patients regained some feeling, which while not a cure is a far better result than other therapies have achieved. This type of stem cell therapy has been refined to show more impressive results in mice, but this is the first set of trial results for spinal cord injury in humans. Overall, this is a very important step forward in learning how to regenerate nerve damage (age-related or injury-related) in humans; CRPF staff must be very pleased right now.


Mapping Out Longevity Research

From SAGE Crossroads, an article on recent attempts by the NIH to get aging researchers and gerontologists communicating more often and rowing in roughly the same direction. A proposed roadmap for research will assist in coordination between diverse groups. Modern medical research has grown so large and diversified as a field that scientists are often unaware of relevant work by other organizations or from other specializations. Better communication and organization are necessary to speed the advance of medical science.


CR Society Starts New Online Community

The CR Society, a friendly, supportive group of folks interested in calorie restriction, have started up a new "CR Community" mailing list: read the announcement and then go ahead and sign up. If you found the main CR Society communities were a little too focused on calorie restriction, facts and techniques, then this may be just the thing for you. Calorie restriction, as you might have noticed, has been showing up much more often in the press of late. This can only be a good thing, especially for companies currently investigating the underlying science.


Dr. Mercola On Maximizing Natural Longevity

An interesting column from Dr. Mercola on methods to maximize your natural longevity via diet and lifestyle choices. He doesn't mention calorie restriction, as he did in a recent column, but he does cover a few good suggestions: cut out grains and sugars, include antioxidants and focus on preventing the effects of aging. We must remember, however, that this extension of healthy lifespan is small compared to what will be possible through stem cell and regenerative medicine.


More On New Stem Cell Lines is running an informative article about a recent expansion in the number of available stem cell lines for research. As the article puts it, this is "the most dramatic achievement to date in a burgeoning international movement to circumvent restrictions on stem cell science set by the Bush administration and other governments." The search for cures would be progressing so much faster without government interference! A complete ban on this sort of research is still pending in the Senate; please do contact your senators to express your opinions.


The Skinny On Calorie Restriction

CBS New York investigates calorie restriction. It's always very pleasing to see aspects of healthy life extension pushing their way into the mainstream; this raising of awareness can only help generate more widespread support for medical research. In many ways, simply acknowledging the possibility that you can lengthen your healthy lifespan is a major step forward for the mass media. If you are not currently practicing calorie restriction, you should certainly look into it for the sake of your future health and longevity. You'll find a helpful introduction here on the Longevity Meme.


On The Mechanisms Of Calorie Restriction

The Genome News Network offers some greater insight into recent research on the underlying biochemical mechanisms of calorie restriction. Research over the past year has brought several mechanisms to light, and scientists are starting to pull the pieces together. This article ties together threads on calorie restriction, organic compounds in some foods (like fruit and red wine) and sirtuin proteins in the body. This progress bodes well for development of therapies that mimic the life-extending effects of calorie restriction (such as those worked on by BioMarker).


Regenerative Medicine Cures Diabetes In Mice

As reported by the BBC, scientists in Massachusetts have managed to cure type 1 diabetes in mice by regenerating islet cells in the pancreas. Research into curing type 2 diabetes, a prevalent degenerative disease of aging, should also benefit from this breakthrough. I think we can all agree that the march of medical progress is a wonderful thing, and we should be supporting researchers as best we can. With more publicity and funding, medical science can advance further and faster.


Reviewing Progress Of Stem Cell Research

Christopher Reeve and some of the first scientists to work with stem cells review progress in research on the Voice of America. The dominant theme of the article is that we could be much further ahead if not for government interference and anti-research legislation. It's frustrating to see so much political effort go into blocking the development of cures for the diseases of aging and regeneration of serious injuries. As Reeve says, he "never thought that politics would get in the way of hope." Please think about contacting your elected representatives to express your frustration with their attacks on your future health and longevity.


One From The Naysayers

I post this short opinion piece as a reminder of the widespread opposition to healthy life extension and medical research. The title of this article is "live better, not longer," setting up a false choice right at the outset. Advancing medical science enables us to live both better and longer; it's not one or the other. Is aging, suffering, disease and death really so desirable to some, supportable by the flimsy principles outlined in this piece? We, as advocates for longer, better, healthier lives through science, have a lot of work to do.


Longevity, Science, Mysterious Centenarians

A long, mixed, informative article from the Seattle Times covers the breadth of current scientific research and insight into aging and how to work towards preventing it. If anything, it reinforces the impression that healthy life extension science is just getting started. We've just dipped our toes in the ocean of knowledge, and there is a great deal to learn and accomplish yet! The naysayers (like Leon Kass of the President's Council on Bioethics) should be given short shrift: full steam ahead with the science, we say.


Another Longevity Gene Identified

At Betterhumans, news of the discovery of another longevity gene and a theory for the way it operates in the body. Genetic studies targetting centenarians (performed in this case by Elixir Pharmaceuticals, a healthy life extension research company that successfully closed series B venture funding last month) are starting to yield useful results. Identifying longevity genes and mechanisms of operation is an important first step towards developing therapies that act directly on aspects of the aging process. Knowledge is power, and the more we know about aging, the more we can do to fight it.


Do No Harm To Basic Research

An article at Tech Central Station examines the ongoing damage inflicted on vital medical research by US government policies, especially those of the current anti-research administration. Stem cell research and regenerative medicine, the basis for extending healthy lifespans in the near future, are being squashed. Your future is being cut down as you read this, made shorter and less healthy by a small faction of misguided politicians and bioethicists. You should stand up and make yourself heard! I encourage you to contact your elected representatives and ask them why they actively harming medical research.


Report on Testosterone Therapy

From Yahoo! News, an article on testosterone therapy, which has been touted as having "anti-aging" benefits. As it turns out, as for human growth hormone, the science is very uncertain: true risks and benefits are not yet known. What is certain is that we should not be looking to these last generation one-size-fits-all chemical therapies for healthy life extension - we should be looking ahead to personalized therapies, stem cell and regenerative medicine. The few trialed therapies in this new branch of medicine have already proven themselves far more effective and useful in fixing specific age-related damage.


Seattle Times On Calorie Restriction

The Seattle Times discusses calorie restriction today, interviewing a range of practitioners along the way. As the article notes, calorie restriction is currently the only scientifically proven way to extend healthy lifespan. It provides additional health benefits beyond that, including weight loss and resistance to the common degenerative conditions of aging. It's certainly something that you should look into, and the CR Society is a good place to start. They're a friendly, helpful, active online community and the CR Society website provides access to a wealth of useful resources.


No Fixed Maximum Lifespan

An article in the New York Times reports on demographic research that confirms there is no fixed upper limit to healthy lifespan. Even in Japan, the country with the longest lifespans, the average life expectancy continues to increase by a quarter of a year each year. This represents the effects of current biomedical progress. To reach indefinite healthy lifespans, the ultimate goal of healthy life extension, this rate of increase must be boosted. We believe that regenerative medicine will make this possible, which is why funding must increase and legislative interference cease.


When Will We Control Aging?

In the wake of the latest webcast from SAGE Crossroads, here is a piece by Chris Mooney on "heated debate over the forseeability of human life extension." Varying from optimists like Aubrey de Grey (of the Methuselah Mouse project) to pessimists such as Leonard Hayflick, it's a short insight into the current state of biogerontological thinking. While reading, it's worth bearing in mind this old truism: when a scientist says something is possible, he might be right, but when he says something is impossible, he is almost always wrong.


More On Stem Cell Heart Regeneration

CNN reports on successful German trials in heart regeneration using adult stem cells. It is a comparatively simple procedure: a low cost fix for heart disease could save 50,000 lives a day worldwide, and scientists seem to have this in their grasp. The technique has already been successfully trialed in the US, but is currently blocked by the FDA. I encourage you to contact your elected representatives and ask them why they are letting thousands of people die rather than allowing this successful stem cell therapy to proceed.


Transhumanism and Healthy Life Extension

A George Dvorsky column at Betterhumans discusses the philosophy of Transhumanism and its implications for day to day living and extending healthy lifespans. Transhumanist groups (like those listed in the Longevity Meme resources) and a variety of colorful characters have been at the leading edge of advocacy for healthy life extension for decades. If you believe in working for a better future and an improved life, you should certainly take a look at transhumanist organizations and writings: they've been working hard to see us all live longer, better lives.


Holy Grail For The Drug Industry

The New York Times tells us that "if the drug industry has a commercial Holy Grail, it might be an anti-aging pill, one that would let you live longer and prolong your youthful vigor." The article spends some time on the difficulty of measuring anti-aging effectiveness - this is, as is noted, "a bear of a problem." Determining the effectiveness of therapies is vital to the process of developing and commercializing new medicine. This topic was brought up in an article at SAGE Crossroads fairly recently as well, and you'll find more information there.


Regenerative Medicine For Teeth

The Times Picayune reports on an NIH grant for stem cell based tooth regeneration. The scientist in question has already managed to grow new tooth buds in mice, and believes he can produce a therapy to do the same in humans. Regenerative medicine based on stem cells and theraputic cloning offers the hope of regrowing and repairing age-related damage to all parts of the body, thereby greatly extending healthy lifespans. This field should be receiving far more funding and attention, rather than legislative attempts to block and ban the underlying technologies.


Massachusetts Senate Votes For Stem Cell Research

Federal legislation is having a crushing effect on medical progress, but some US states are voting to allow embryonic stem cell research. Massachusetts is now one of them, as this Daily News Transcript notes. This battle over vital medical research - in the US, in other countries, at the UN - is still in the comparatively early stages, and anti-progress forces are doing far too well. We must fight loudly and fight hard to ensure that medical progress continues. The future of health and longevity depends on therapies still in development; the diseases of aging can only be cured if politicians stand aside.


CNN On Calorie Restriction

CNN discusses calorie restriction in an introductory fashion - it's a good article to give to your friends as general health advice. Calorie restriction has been proven to extend healthy lifespan in mammals, and there is strong evidence that does the same in humans. (It is surmised, for example that Okinawans have a form of mild calorie restriction to thank for their famed longevity). The article also mentions the large national CALERIE study, funded by the NIA - this study should soon be turning out more data in support of calorie restriction as the smart choice for living healthily for longer. Less calories, more life!


Suspended Animation Rebuffed

As the Sun Sentinel reports, Suspended Animation, Inc. didn't fare well during a review from the Boca Raton's Planning and Zoning Board. Despite the outpouring of support, the board recommended rejecting the application to build a cryonics research laboratory. This will go on to the City Council early next year for a final vote. This is an unfortunate setback, as cryonics is the only chance at a longer, healthier life in the future for many people. Cryonics as an industry needs ongoing research, and we hope that Suspended Animation can find a way forward in the face of anti-research opposition like this.


Further Explorations of the Biochemistry of Aging

(Found via Transhumanity). Scientists are making good progress in uncovering the biochemical mechanisms of cellular aging, as reported by Cancer Research UK. This has implications for cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as for aging research. The work builds on recent studies involving telomeres, protective caps on the end of chromosomes. Scientists have now uncovered the mechanisms that prevent a cell from further dividing once telomeres have worn away. This is an important step forward, hopefully the first of many more.


Dodging a Bullet at the UN

(From MSNBC). It looks like we all dodged a bullet today, as the UN narrowly avoided adopting a global theraputic cloning ban. Theraputic cloning is a vital technology for regenerative medicine; a ban would have amounted to banning cures for Parkinson's, nerve damage, heart disease and many other demonstrated successes in the laboratory. In other words, shorter lives and more suffering by legislative fiat. The UN has put off any further consideration until 2005, but please note that the US and other governments are still set on banning this technology. Please take a few minutes to to see how you can help.


The Reeve Factor

We've talked before about the ways in which Christopher Reeve is helping healthy life extension research through his advocacy. He is a very impressive character, a genuine American hero, and his work is making an impact on the legislative threat against stem cell medicine and theraputic cloning research. This article in the New Yorker touches on all of these points. Don't forget to thank Christopher Reeve for his crusade against anti-research politics and advocacy for stem cell medicine. His efforts are helping you to see a longer, healthier future; it's only right that you take a few minutes to help him in return.


More On Suspended Animation, Inc.

The Sun-Sentinel is carrying a piece on Suspended Animation, Inc. and their fight with the Boca Raton City Council and animal rights activists. You can find out more about cryonics in the Longevity Meme resources section. As a reminder, you should take a few minutes to help out Suspended Animation, Inc. in their fight to perform needed medical research. Caving in to anti-research activism is a sure path to shorter, more unhealthy lives: our future health depends on advances in medicine, in this and many other fields. Don't let the anti-progress crowd win!


European Parliament Moving Away From Stem Cell Ban?

(From BioMed Central). The European Parliament is starting to sound a little more reasonable about stem cells, but this long, drawn out process will at best lead to "strictly regulated" research. Most European nations still have or are introducing very restrictive laws regarding stem cell research. Recent developments can only be painted as a good thing in comparison to a complete ban: this research is still being blocked, held back and slowed by politicians. For an introduction to stem cells and healthy life extension, you might want to read our introduction here at the Longevity Meme.


Yet Another Potential Cancer Cure

This would be number sixteen in the past year, as noted in this press release at Yahoo! The broad range of possible cancer therapies currently in the works as an example of success in medical research advocacy, support and funding. These many amazing developments did not spring from the void: they are the result of decades of hard work by activists, scientists and funders. Serious money is only devoted to medical research when a large segment of society clamors for the results. Cancer research is a success story that we can and should repeat in the fight against aging. With hard work, indefinite healthy lifespans can be within reach.


Sirtuins, Low Calorie Diets and Longevity

An article at Betterhumans examines ongoing research into the genetic and biochemical causes of longevity through low-calorie diets (like calorie restriction). Practicing calorie restriction is currently the only scientific, proven beyond a doubt method of extending healthy life span. The goal of this research is to produce drugs and therapies that mimic - and improve on - the healthy life extension effects of calorie restriction. Companies like BioMarker are looking hard at this sort of thing, alongside academic groups such as the one mentioned in this article.


Help Suspended Animation Before November 6th

This action item is time critical and you must act before November 6th! Suspended Animation, Inc. is a cryonics research company that is attempting to start work in Boca Raton. The operation has been setting up for a while, but recent publicity centering on the cryonics industry has led to a concerted effort by small special interest groups to block Suspended Animation, Inc. from operating. If successful at this late stage, it would most likely lead to the closure of the company. Cryonics is a legitimate business that should be allowed to continue unmolested: please make your views heard.


Add Methuselah Mouse Banners To Your Site

Now you can easily show your support for the Methuselah Mouse prize effort on your website or weblog by adding one of their animated banners. Supporting the prize (and donating) is a great way to help ensure your future health and longevity. This prize is doing a wonderful job of attracting attention and commentary on healthy life extension and medical research in the mainstream press. Once wealthy donors start giving, we can expect to see a flurry of new research aimed at providing longer, healthier lives for all!


UN Theraputic Cloning Ban Debate Gets Messier

This article from the Straits Times notes the addition of a third camp to the debate; now we can choose between "ban," "mostly ban" and "ban later." It looks like the enormous near term medical and health benefits that will result from theraputic cloning (fundamental to regenerative medicine) are just there to be ignored. It is tremendously frustrating to watch small groups of privileged people blocking the development of new medical science, cures for the incurable and extended healthy livespans for all. I encourage you all to express your opinions to your elected representatives.


New York Times On The Methuselah Mouse Prize

The New York Times comments on the Methuselah Mouse Prize in this articles (from the arts section, for some reason). Dr. Aubrey de Grey, one of the founders, has much the same opinions on the degenerative conditions of aging as we do here at the Longevity Meme: "Aging really is barbaric. It shouldn't be allowed. I don't need an ethical argument. I don't need any argument. It's visceral. To let people die is bad." Have you donated yet? These guys are working hard to help ensure you live a very long, very healthy life.


Stem Cells, Regenerative Medicine, and Tissue Engineering

Treatments classed as regenerative medicine help our natural healing processes work more rapidly and more effectively. These technologies can enable regeneration in missing or damaged tissue that would not ordinarily regrow, producing at least partial regeneration, and in some promising animal studies complete regeneration.

Strategies presently either under development, in clinical trials, or available via medical tourism include stem cell transplants, manipulation of a patient's own stem cells, and the use of implanted scaffold materials that emit biochemical signals to spur stem cells into action. In the field of tissue engineering, researchers have generated sections of tissue outside the body for transplant, using the patient's own cells to minimize the possibility of transplant rejection. Regenerative therapies have been demonstrated in the laboratory to at least partially heal broken bones, bad burns, blindness, deafness, heart damage, worn joints, nerve damage, the lost brain cells of Parkinson's disease, and a range of other conditions. Less complex organs such as the bladder and the trachea have been constructed from a patient's cells and scaffolds and successfully transplanted.

Work continues to bring these advances to patients. Many forms of treatment are offered outside the US and have been for a decade or more in some cases, while within the US just a few of the simple forms of stem cell transplant have managed to pass the gauntlet of the FDA in the past few years.

What Are Stem Cells?

Some of the most impressive demonstrations of regenerative medicine since the turn of the century have used varying forms of stem cells - embryonic, adult, and most recently induced pluripotent stem cells - to trigger healing in the patient. Most of the earlier successful clinical applications were aimed at the alleviation of life-threatening heart conditions. However, varying degrees of effectiveness have also been demonstrated for the repair of damage in other organs, such as joints, the liver, kidneys, nerves, and so forth.

Stem cells are unprogrammed cells in the human body that can continue dividing forever and can change into other types of cells. Because stem cells can become bone, muscle, cartilage and other specialized types of cells, they have the potential to treat many diseases, including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes and cancer. They are found in embryos at very early stages of development (embyonic stem cells) and in some adult organs, such as bone marrow and brain (adult stem cells). You can find more information on stem cells at the following sites:

Embryonic and adult stem cells appear to have different effects, limitations and abilities. The current scientific consensus is that adult stem cells are limited in their utility, and that both embryonic and adult stem cell research will be required to develop cures for severe and degenerative diseases. Researchers are also making rapid progress in reprogramming stem cells and creating embryonic-like stem cells from ordinary cells.

Progress in Stem Cell Research

Stem cell research is a growing, well-funded field, and as a result it is also a hot topic in the press. Not a week goes by without the announcement of a new and amazing advance, but these days most simply slip by without comment. The pace of progress is rapid, and so what would have been trumpeted in the popular science press a decade ago is now routine, carried out in scores of laboratories worldwide.

The first crop of simple stem cell therapies for regenerative medicine has reached widespread availability in the developed world. "Simple," because these therapies are on the level of transfusions. In most cases stem cells are obtained from the patient, then grown in a cell culture and the greatly expanded number of cells injected back into the body. New medicine doesn't get much simpler than that in this day and age. This is merely the start of a revolution in medicine, however, one will grow to become as large and as influential on health as the advent of blood transfusion or the control of common infectious diseases.

If you read enough of the literature, stem cells from your own body begin to sound like a miracle cure-all: extract them, culture them, return them to the body, and injured tissue begins to heal. It isn't anywhere near that straightforward, however, and this throwaway summary hides the many years of hard work by thousands of scientists required to bring us to this point, as well as the further years of hard work that lie ahead. Research continues, with a tone of excitement coming from the scientific community. They know they are onto something big.

Creating Recellularized Organs

Researchers have found what may be a shortcut to the growth of replacement organs from a patient's own stem cells. Called recellularization or decellularization, the process takes a human or animal donor organ and chemically strips the cells from it, leaving only the scaffolding of the extracellular matrix behind. Stem cells from the recipient are then used to repopulate the scaffold, and following the chemical instructions issued by the matrix they create a functioning organ ready for transplant that has little to no risk of rejection.

Since pigs could be used as a source of organs for transplantation, being of about the right size, decellularization is one potential way to eliminate donor organ shortages. The use of animal organs is still some years away from practical implementation, however. Human transplants have moved ahead, and in recent years decellularization has been used in the transplantation of tracheas and bladders in clinical trials. Meanwhile in the laboratory researchers have successfully transplanted decellularized lungs, kidneys, and hearts in mice and rats.

Ultimately decellularization is a stepping stone technology. It is necessary and useful because researchers cannot yet create an entirely artificial scaffold for a complex organ such as a kidney or a heart, complete with all of the chemical cues, fine structure, and mesh of capillaries necessary for its full function. That will become possible, however, at which point donor organs will no longer be needed.

Rejuvenating Aged Stem Cells

Stem cells in the adult body gradually relinquish their job of repair and maintenance with age, eventually causing tissue and organ failure. Based on the past decade of research, this occurs because stem cells become dormant in increasing numbers as rising levels of age-related cellular damage change the mix of chemical signals propagating through tissues. This reaction probably reduces the chances of cancer due to a damaged stem cell running amok, but at the cost of failing tissues. Researchers have found that by restoring signals to a more youthful mix, such as through infusing old tissue with young blood, aged stem cell populations can be restored to action and some of the impact of aging on our tissues might be reversed.

In recent years some of these stem cell activating signals have been identified. Researchers already regularly manipulate the genes and biochemistry of stem cells taken from patients for use in trials of new therapies: there is every reason to expect that future medicine will involve the repair and restoration of aged stem cells either prior to transplant or for existing cell populations within the body.

Regenerative Medicine and Human Longevity

Regenerative medicine will help to produce extended healthy longevity. In the decades ahead clinics will be able to repair some of the mechanical damage caused by aging, such as occurs in worn joints, but more importantly also reverse the decline in function of our stem cells, restoring stem cell maintenance tissue by tissue and organ by organ. At worst a regenerative treatment would be the replacement of a failing organ with a tissue engineered organ built to order from the patient's own cells, thus requiring major surgery, and at best such a treatment would adjust the cells within the failing organ, instructing them to repair the damage, with no surgery needed.

Aging damages every part of our bodies, however, including the stem cells required for regenerative therapies! Thus regenerative medicine on its own is not the full solution to aging: researchers must also address the root causes of age-related degeneration, the damage that accumulates within the molecular machinery of cells, and the metabolic waste products that accumulate in and around cells.

To add to this list, clinics must also become capable of reliably preventing and defeating cancer in all its forms, and also able to repair age-related damage to the brain in situ. Increasing risk of cancer with age cannot be prevented with regenerative medicine, and the brain cannot be removed and replaced with a new tissue engineered organ as will be the case for a liver or even a heart.

All in all these tasks will be a mammoth undertaking. Nonetheless, like all great advances in medicine, this is a worthy and noble cause. Today, hundreds of millions of people live in pain and suffering, and will eventually die, as a result of degenerative conditions of aging, many of which will be alleviated or even cured with near future advances in regenerative medicine. We stand within reach of the means to prevent all this death and anguish. We should rise to this challenge by supporting the researchers and research programs most likely to lead to meaningful progress.

Last updated: May 10th 2014.

The Role of Research Prizes

Historically, prizes awarded for scientific progress have had tremendous beneficial effects on the advancement of science and human progress. Research prizes in other fields are currently proving very beneficial, so perhaps it is time for a prize for aging and healthy life extension research.

The Ansari X Prize was perhaps the best known prize of recent years: $10 million was awarded to Burt Rutan's team for safely launching a reusable suborbital spacecraft twice in two weeks. The Ansari X Prize received so much press attention because it worked - more than twenty serious attempts were made to win the prize or develop spacecraft for the post-prize aerospace industry. That represented a great deal of funding, time, and expertise: perhaps $160 million by some estimates. This multiplication of funds is one of the reasons to support a research prize. Great things can happen when we harness self-interest and competition. The Ansari X Prize was created to jump-start a languishing area of research and human endeavor, and in that it succeeded spectacularly.

A Little History

This is by no means the end of the story, however. A research prize can stimulate or help form an entire industry. We can look back to another famous prize to see this illustrated: the Orteig Prize of $25,000 was offered in 1919 for the first non-stop transatlantic flight from New York to Paris. Eight years of hectic, breakneck aviation development passed before a certain Charles Lindbergh made that flight.

That was a time of enormous progress. Great strides in aviation technology took place during the 1920s, due in no small part to the motivation provided by Raymond Orteig's philanthropic gesture. Aircraft moved from rickety to reliable, from toys and war machines to travel and transport aids that brought great benefit to modern civilization. Many commentators expect to see the same happen for orbital spacecraft in the years ahead, largely as a result of the initial motivation provided by the X Prize.

Projects like the Orteig Prize and the Ansari X Prize serve to direct and focus the engines of business, competition and entrepreneurship to the betterment of all. They provide a way for philanthropists to revive and excite poorly funded and neglected fields of research and development. A comparatively small prize can bring tremendous change.

We need an Ansari X Prize for the application of longevity research. To quote biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey: "Aging research is fashionable, but serious anti-aging research is not. We feel that a major reason for this is that the general public do not think that substantial human life-extension will occur in at least their or their children's lifetimes; hence it is effectively science fiction, having entertainment value but not being worth agitating for. This fatalism on the part of the public leads inevitably to lack of public funding for anti-aging work, and thence to lack of advocacy of anti-aging work by experts, which in turn serves to maintain public pessimism."

This is as good a summary of the central problem in longevity research as any you are likely to read. Little research on defeating aging means little progress. Little progress means less public interest. Less public interest means that funding goes elsewhere, which means that there will continue to be little research. This is an unfortunate trap, to say the least! If we cannot help the industry escape, it will mean old age, crippling medical conditions and death for all of us.

The Two Decade Promise of Longevity Science

If research into engineering greater human longevity could break out of its current ghetto, it might be a matter of twenty years or less to obtain the first working therapies. Just look at the fantastic progress made in the Western world in turning AIDS from a mysterious death sentence to a manageable chronic disease - in only 20 years! Look at the results of 30 years of well funded cancer research and advocacy: it seems like not a week goes by these days without some new potential cancer cure announced by a cutting edge biotech company. These are the results that can be achieved with funding, public awareness, advocacy, and hard-working researchers.

If only the nascent field of longevity medicine could be taken as seriously. This is why we need an Ansari X Prize for the application of aging science to extending healthy life. Longevity research is analogous to the aircraft industry following World War I. It is the tiny private commercial aerospace industry of a decade ago. With an Ansari X Prize for longevity research, we would have the chance to turn that all around: publicity, competing researchers, goals that the public could understand, appreciate and cheer for. In short, it would be a fine step forward.

In 2003, Aubrey de Grey and David Gobel come up with an ingenious plan for a longevity research prize: the Methuselah Mouse Prize (or Mprize) for researchers who work on healthy life extension in mice. The Mprize manages to hit every point that it needs to: it's easily understood by the layman, and attractive to researchers in the field. The prize can be awarded multiple times as researchers compete with incremental improvements in science. Efforts to win the prize need not take more than a few years, since the work depends on the life span of laboratory mice; this is always an important consideration.

The Mprize is only a first step, despite passing $3.5 million in pledged donations - but many wealthy potential donors are watching to see how well the prize meets its goals. In this context success means attracting attention from the press and public, encouraging scientists to compete, and obtaining a large number of modest, tax-deductible donations from people like you or I. If this prize succeeds, there will be other prizes for longevity research in the future, such as the NewOrgan Prize for tissue engineering launched in 2010.

Initiatives like the Mprize provide a real chance for meaningful longevity research to grow and succeed - just as the Ansari X Prize has helped the nascent commercial space industry.

You Can Help the Mprize Grow and Succeed

You and I, people of modest means, are unlikely to see many opportunities like this: an opportunity to make a great difference to the future of longevity medicine with just a few dollars. Donating to the Mprize is like starting a rockslide with a single pebble. You will be helping to create many more prizes and far greater funding for research in the future. One dollar now could encourage thousands of dollars in prizes and funding over the next few years.

This prize is a fulcrum, a lever, and an important point in the future of longevity research. We can all help to make our future health better by donating. I, for one, have put my money where my mouth is. I have joined The Three Hundred and donated to the Mprize. I encourage all of you to donate a modest amount, as your means allow:

How else can you help? Those of you with blogs and other websites can spread the word - but everyone can help in attracting the attention of the press and other donors. Talk to your friends. Talk to journalists: send a note to your favorite blogger, to the editors of your favorite science magazine, or the health section of your daily newspaper. By acting now to support longevity research, we can make a real, meaningful difference to our future health and longevity.

Last updated: December 7th 2010.