At Betterhumans, an article on recent noteworthy research into the biochemistry of calorie restriction. As we should all know by now, calorie restriction has long been shown to extend healthy lifespan and drastically increase resistance to the common diseases of aging. It looks like MIT scientists have definitively pinned down one simple mechanism whereby calorie restriction activates a known anti-aging gene - it remains to be seen whether this is the only or principle mode by which calorie restriction operates to extend healthy life span.
The BBC notes that Professor Martin Evans, the chief architect of modern stem cell research, has received a knighthood in honor of his work. It is very gratifying to see this research - now a field promising cures for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, nerve damage, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and many more conditions - lauded rather than attacked by a governmental institution. The UK is currently one of the more hospitable locations for stem cell research, and government officials take a much more pro-research and pro-medicine line than their counterparts in the US, Germany or other European nations.
The New York Daily News takes a look ahead at the pace of medical science in just a few of many fields. Researchers are making amazing progress in the fight against the most common diseases and conditions of aging: heart disease, Alzheimer's and diabetes are amongst those mentioned in this article. Improved therapies are expected in the next couple of years, followed by impressive leaps in medical science over the next decade. One rather important omitted detail is the dependency of many of these new medical technologies on political battles currently underway. If stem cell medicine is banned in the US - as it may be if we don't speak out - then many of the promised cures will be long delayed.
As reported in Wired, it turns out that research into regenerating hair is more important to tissue engineering (a branch of regenerative medicine) than you might initially think. In a way, hair regeneration has suffered from the same problem as legitimate anti-aging research - it's a small discipline amid a sea of fraudsters, quacks and fake medicine. Real science is starting to triumph, however, and this holds out hope for the future of healthy life extension and anti-aging medicine. The article is an interesting read, so go and take a look.
Simon Smith of Betterhumans looks back at the year in technology in his latest column. Medicine and healthy life extension developments are near the top of his list - including the entry of the first real anti-aging drugs into the pipeline, and amazing developments in stem cell and genetic medicine. He should have mentioned ongoing work that keeps making computers faster and cheaper, since that trend drives the latest medical research, ever faster and ever better. Now if only the politicians would just stand back and let it all happen...
It's been a slow news weekend for topics of interest to healthy life extensionists, so take a little time to read the Longevity Meme newsletter today instead. It's a look back at what we think are the most important trends and happenings in 2003: stem cell research, bad legislation, therapeutic cloning, calorie restriction and cryonics are all in there somewhere. Our newsletter is a year old next issue, so what better time to sign up or add the RSS feed to your news aggregator? Come on in; you're all welcome.
The Japan Times reports on Japanese efforts to be at the forefront of embryonic stem cell research, with an emphasis on developing cures for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's. The final comments on bioethics regarding embryonic stem cells are telling: an island of Japanese rationality in the midst of a sea of Western hysteria. This research will lead to cures for some of the worst conditions of aging - it will lead to longer, healthier lives. We should support the hard working scientists who are striving to improve our lives and bring better medicine to the world.
(At EurekAlert). This article has been doing the rounds for a few days; scientists have uncovered the major mechanism that causes brain damage when cells are deprived of oxygen (such as from a stroke), and have a way to prevent it for up to three hours. Strokes are the second leading cause of death worldwide, and a new anti-stroke therapy could be available in three years or so. This new knowledge is also very interesting in regard to cryonics: it would be a way of ensuring that the brain is not damaged in the interval between death and cryopreservation.
Betterhumans covers the recently announced work at the Scripps Research Institute on creating stem cells via a chemical called reversine. As the Betterhumans staff notes, this potentially opens the door to lizard-like regeneration of lost body parts in humans, not to mention bypassing the embryonic stem stell debate. Some scientists and observers in the field are (justifiably) skeptical, however, and want to see wider scientific confirmation and independent verification of this new process.
The Genome News Network provides an informative article on the current state of the art in tissue engineering for regenerative medicine. There is some impressive work being done at the forefront of the field: "This is not imaginary science anymore," says William Haseltine, CEO of Human Genome Sciences. "Functional tissues made from cells and biomaterials are being implanted in humans." Teams of scientists have grown and successfully implanted entire organs in the lab, using biodegradable scaffolds and the patient's own cells. This is impressive medical technology: waiting for transplants may soon be a thing of the past.
Ronald Bailey's latest article at Reason Online outlines the prominant role that animal studies have in the march towards working regenerative medicine. He also examines the strong opposition towards work on growing replacement human tissue and stem cells in animal hosts, finding it illogical and inconsistant: "What is more immoral - working to provide transplants for sick people, or blocking the development of such transplants?" This oppposition to medical progress is a part of a wider anti-research movement at work in the US today.
BioMed Central notes that nanotechnology will revolutionize medicine, starting fairly soon with improvements to diagnosis and personalised medicine. Nanotechnology is itself an enormous, rapidly growing field, and I encourage you to read up on the possibilities for astounding advances in health and longevity through nanomedicine. A good starting point is "Nanotechnology and Life Extension" here at the Longevity Meme, penned by Chris Phoenix of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology. Nanotechnology offers the eventual hope of truly low cost medicine for everyone, and will probably one day replace stem cell based regenerative medicine as the healthy life extension technology of choice.
At Nature, news of another advance in our ability to control and use stem cells. Based on knowledge gained earlier in 2003, scientists have used chemicals to control the timing of stem cell specialization. This is the beginning of the road to discard some of the very clumsy techniques currently used to this end. A quote: "If we want to make stem cells into therapies, we're going to need cell lines that were never grown in any foreign proteins. This work should help us take stem cells into that clinical setting."
(From EurekAlert). Scientists from the Scripps Research Institute are claiming success in making adult cells reverse the normal cycle of development in order to form their own precursor stem cells. If widely validated by the scientific community, this should be hailed as an amazing success in the march towards regenerative medicine and longer, healthier lives. Stem cell therapies for the degenerative conditions of aging will be far more effective if your own stem cells can be used to regenerate lost or damaged tissue. We should all keep an eye on this research to see what develops.
A release at EurekAlert proposes that the symptoms of old age are the effects of undiagnosed and possibly unrecognized diseases. As the article points out, osteoporosis (bone loss) was not recognized as a treatable condition - as opposed to "just a part of getting old" - until comparatively recently in medical history. This is an intriguing and important way of looking at things, especially since regulatory agencies like the FDA do not recognize aging as a disease or condition, and will therefore not approve treatments. A quote: "The distinction between normal ageing and disease late in life seems to a large extent arbitrary."
In this article from JTA News, Christopher Reeve discusses his recent visit to Israel and the current state of research into regenerative medicine. Reeve is a very effective advocate for the research most likely to lead to healthy life extension medicine - as well as to a cure for the nerve damage causing his paralysis - and his CRPF does good work. A quote: "What I’m fighting for is the freedom of scientific inquiry. Stem cells will probably benefit millions of people suffering from a wide variety of diseases." You should let Christopher Reeve know that he's doing a great, amazing job.
The Coalition for the Advancement of Medicine (CAMR) is a noted, active political advocacy group that is fighting for the right to develop better therapeutic cloning technologies (also known as "somatic cell nuclear transfer" or SCNT). A great deal of stem cell and regenerative medicine rests on the use of therapeutic cloning, so currently threatened bans and existing restrictive legislation are damaging a broad swathe of research. CAMR is working on your behalf to make sure that the most promising present day medical research is allowed, and that the life saving medicine of the future is permitted. You can help by taking part in their initiatives.
Nature is carrying an article on a very interesting direction in stem cell research: dehydrated storage. "Instant" stem cells could one day be used as an advanced form of first aid; just add water for regenerative medicine on the go. That is a long way off, of course, but any technique that eases storage and transport of stem cells will be a great boon to research across the board. This work is an outgrowth of proven dehydration techniques used to dry and store blood cells for transfusion. It is a good sign to see healthy progress in baseline utility technologies for stem cell medicine: better tools mean faster, cheaper, better research.
The Methuselah Mouse Prize, launched earlier in 2003, has passed the $40,000 mark. A cause for celebration indeed! This is thanks to the many people who have come forward to be early donors, leading the way for well known donors like William Haseltine and Ray Kurzweil to make contributions and endorsements. We see a great future ahead for the Methuselah Mouse Prize; it is growing faster than the X Prize did in its early days back in 1996. You can help the future of the Methuselah Mouse Prize and of anti-aging research: donate today!
EurekAlert covers another potential cancer cure in the works. There has been a recent trend, enabled by advances in basic medical technologies, towards smarter ways of fighting cancer: targeting only cancerous cells for destruction, for example. In this case, a genetically engineering cold virus attacks only cancerous cells. The latest cancer research is essential to healthy life extension, and the variety of potential cures is a demonstration of what solid funding and public backing can do. We need to do the same for anti-aging research!
(From Betterhumans). In an important step forward, researchers have grown embryonic stem cells into fully formed blood vessels. The need to create blood vessels has been a stumbling block on the way to culturing large amounts of replacement tissue (such as organs for transplant), and now it looks like this problem is well on the way to being solved. The ability to grow new blood vessels as required opens the door to a range of advanced regenerative medicine, such as transplants for age-damaged organs that are grown from a patient's own cells.
As noted by BioMed Central, the European Parliament has rejected attempts to adopt a blanket ban on the medical use of cells created via therapeutic cloning. The adopted legislation (largely dealing with safety and quality issues in human tissues for medical use) defers to member states on stem cells and therapeutic cloning. "Regarding cloned human embryos, it was agreed that existing legislation in the member states should remain into force. This directive does not interfere with these states' decisions concerning the use or non-use of any specific type of human cells, including germ cells and embryonic stem cells."
An article by Chris Mooney at CSICOP reveals the way in which normally healthy skepticism is abused to cast doubt on valid scientific advances towards longer, healthier lives. A quote: "There are lots of cranks out there pushing unproven anti-aging remedies today. And as Shermer rightly notes, leading gerontologists have issued statements condemning such quackery. But many of those same scientists think we will be able to slow or even reverse human aging in the relatively near future." Healthy life extension cannot be dismissed or left unfunded simply because there is fraud in the "anti-aging" marketplace.
Wired is running a fascinating report on a successful advance in therapeutic cloning technology at Advanced Cell Technology (ACT). ACT uses therapeutic cloning to create sources of stem cells, essential to regenerative medicine research. Like many companies, ACT has been hit hard by the hostile political atmosphere in the US; the article should make it quite clear that current administration policies are badly damaging vital research. There could be worse to come, so make your voice heard!
The LEF News has a little more on the science behind the promised new antioxidant supplement from Ceremedix and Lifeline Nutraceuticals. I normally wouldn't spend so much space on supplements - since other medical technologies show so much more promise, and their marketplaces are not filled with frauds and wastrels - but people have been asking, and this sort of material isn't easy to dig up from the primary scientific sources. For those who are interested, you should be able to follow up further from the facts presented in this article.
(Reported in Newsday.com). Despite opposition from conservatives, New Jersey approved a bill permitting stem cell research in the state. It is very good to see at least a few states standing up to the anti-research legislation in the Federal government. A quote: "Organizations that sponsor research for terminal illnesses praised the bill as a major step forward for finding cures and lessening painful symptoms of deadly diseases." Stem cell research offers near term hope for extending healthy lifespan and saving many lives through regenerative medicine; the ability to repair the damage caused by aging and injury.
Ray Kurzweil, influential inventor and futurist, has given his stamp of approval (and a modest donation) to the Methuselah Mouse Prize. This effort is an ambitious, well-received attempt to revive scientific anti-aging research. By encouraging scientists, educating the public and stimulating funding, we can help to make near term anti-aging therapies a reality. The prize was also recently endorsed by William Haseltine, CEO of Human Genome Sciences and Bob Gelfond, MagicQ founder. Donations are currently being matched 1:2 by a challenge grant, so now is a great time to make a tax-deductible donation. Let's help get the prize to the first $50,000 milestone!
This research (reported on here by Betterhumans) has gone largely unnoticed by the mainstream press. I'm informed by those in the know that this new technique for isolating stem cells and their genes is a very important advance. It has the potential to greatly speed up further new work on stem cell therapies. With techniques essential to stem cell research under legislative threat worldwide, greater speed is essential. Working cures are the only thing that will stifle talk of banning medical research, so full speed ahead I say!
Due to a temporary glitch in our outgoing mailserver, you may have been unable to sign up for or remove yourself from the Longevity Meme Newsletter for the past few days. If this is the case, and you have not already heard from us directly, please go ahead and try again now that the problem is fixed. Apologies all round, but at least the rest of the move to a new server went smoothly. The next newsletter is sent out on Monday 15th, so now would be an excellent time to sign up!
The Age briefly notes that a Japanese government panel has recommended allowing limited stem cell research on human embryos. This is better than no research, but it appears to be limited to treating serious hereditary diseases. Japanese scientists have made notable progress over the past year in a number of stem cell therapies related to heart and eye regeneration, amongst others. These laudable efforts might be excluded. Still, this is a preliminary step; futher political discussions will come before any final conclusion and legislation.
The Immortality Institute book project is accepting submissions until January 15th, 2004. A number of well-known names have offered contributions, including David Brin, Damien Broderick, James Halperin and Ray Kurzweil. The Institute is still looking for texts and high quality forum posts for inclusion, so feel free to jump on in if you think you can contribute. The book will focus on the scientific path to physical immortality, including topics on advanced medical research, healthy life extension, transhumanism and the associated culture and communities. It's an exciting project, and looks to be an exciting final product.
The Arizona Republic reports on the Phoenix Conference on Longevity Health Sciences in this article. The conference, currently underway, is hosted by the Kronos Longevity Research Institute, and covers a wide range of topics. Quote: "Kronos' stated aim in holding the conference is to separate fact from fiction amid a growing volume of scientific and non-scientific information on aging." More information is available at the conference website. Frequence and size of conferences are a measure of the health of any branch of science, and it is gratifying to see more happening in aging and healthy life extension research.
IOL reports that scientists have uncovered another biochemical longevity mechanism in nematode worms. The "TOR" protein is present in plants, animals and humans; it regulates metabolism and energy. By removing it, the life span of nematodes is nearly doubled. Scientists suggest that TOR may be involved in the mechanisms of calorie restriction, which have not yet been fully explored (although people are working on it). Knowledge is power. As science uncovers the mechanisms of longevity, we get closer to developing true anti-aging and healthy life extension therapies.
Health and Age is reprinting some common sense advice on dealing with the "anti-aging" marketplace and working on your natural longevity. Some of the comments even mirror the way we at the Longevity Meme feel about these things: be a late adopter, use scientifically proven methods only, and stay healthy to benefit from the future of healthy life extension medicine. The most important thing to can do is to help ensure that medical progress continues unimpeded - your future health depends on the development of new and better medical technology!
The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research has been a strong voice in the political debates over stem cell research and therapeutic cloning. They have made their views known in the UN debate, and are working to make these issues central in the 2004 US election. CAMR is doing a great job in defending our rights to research better medicine and cures for degenerative diseases of aging: they deserve your support and help. Visit the CAMR website and see how you can take a few minutes to help ensure a longer, healthier future. If we don't make our views known, we stand a good chance of having the most promising medical research - and cures already demonstrated in the laboratory - banned outright.
BioMed Central has more on the latest back and forth at the UN over therapeutic cloning, a foundational technology for stem cell therapies. This is a vital topic for medical research, especially for people in nations like the US, where the administration is attempting to bypass US senate deliberations to enact an ideological agenda. It is horrifying that so many politicians are dead set on preventing cures for heart disease, nerve damage, Parkinson's and much more. We must speak out and make our views known! Our future health and longevity is at stake.
As noted at Wired, the UN has again voted to postpone any consideration of a global therapeutic cloning ban (which would also ban most work on stem cell therapies for cancer, Parkinson's, nerve damage, and so forth). This time the delay is only for a year, but it looks like the anti-research forces led by the US administration are going to have to accept this defeat. As damaging legislation is put off, scientists working on stem cell and therapeutic cloning medicine can demonstrate amazing payoffs. This said, it's is a sad statement on human nature that we are even fighting political battles over whether or not to cure deadly diseases.
"Labs around the world are crawling with prodigiously long-lived flies, worms, and mice." Starting from that comment, SAGE Crossroads proceeds to debunk the idea that increased longevity requires a trade-off in some other aspect of life or health. While there are always dissenters, it doesn't look like the naysayers have a very compelling case in this instance. Research to date does indeed present a good case that - through advances in medical science - we could have it all: radically increased healthy life span with no significant downside. Of course, this is dependant on funding and public support, which is why we need activism and education.
An article at ScienceDaily (found via Transhumanity) discusses a new potential cancer cure currently in the labs: number 18 since we started keeping count in late 2002. The cancer therapy field is poised for a real explosion in effectiveness and range of therapies. This one is especially novel: stem cells seek out cancer cells and produce biological killing agents on site. It is even capable of attacking metastasized cancer - an amazing breakthrough in the field if verified. Defeating cancer is vital to healthy life extension, and enormous strides are being made.
Navigating through the morass of information relating to healthy life extension is a horrid process, especially if you are new to it all. Most of it is worthless, or even dangerous, put out by "anti-aging" groups trying to make money from products that don't work. It can take years to sort out the good from the bad, who to avoid and who to trust. This was one of the reasons for founding the Longevity Meme - to provide a better starting point. When doing your own research, Quackwatch is a good, solid, conservative resource.
Continuing the hormone supplement theme, here is a Reuters article on false advertising and bad science in the human growth hormone (HGH) "anti-aging" marketplace. The scientific backing for the effectiveness of HGH in extending healthy lifespan is nowhere near as solid as vendors would have you believe (see Quackwatch on this topic, for example), and the supplement products don't actually put HGH into your system in any case. That a widespread and wealthy industry exists to market these worthless products is a part of the problem facing real anti-aging and healthy life extension research. The fraudsters and quacks make it hard for potential funders to identify useful efforts from nonsense, and so funding remains at a low level.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes the uncertainty that surrounds the use and biochemistry of DHEA, a hormone supplement. Like growth hormone (HGH), it is heavily promoted in the "anti-aging" marketplace, but reliable, solid science to support the claims (as in the case of calorie restriction) just isn't there. A quote: "We don't know what the normal function of this hormone is in young adults, and we have no idea why we have this hormone." The article also offers some links to further resources on the topic.
An article in the Denver Post sheds some more light on what Lifeline Nutraceuticals and CereMedix have been up to with their new antioxidant supplement. There is talk of a human trial next year, which would be the first step towards the needed widespread scientific confirmation of their claims. This article is also a telling insight into the damage that the snake oil "anti-aging" industry has done to the prospects of any legitimate product. We all have to be skeptical (of Lifeline as well) because so many hucksters, frauds and suave marketing departments make millions by selling worthless junk.
It's always good to see healthy life extension concepts making it into the mainstream media in a well-balanced way, as recently happened with the ABCNews coverage of calorie restriction. If you want to find out more about calorie restriction, you should read our introduction here at the Longevity Meme, and then saunter over to the CR Society for more information. The society members are a friendly, helpful crowd and their website provides all the useful calorie restriction resources you'll need.
Wired is carrying an article with more information on the possible repeat attempt to enact a UN ban on therapeutic cloning. Therapeutic cloning is a core technology for new and very promising regenerative medicine research - cures for many degenerative conditions of aging appear to be possible in the near future. It is clear that pro-medicine, pro-research groups need louder voices at governmental and international levels. These attacks on medical research can only lead to more death and suffering as better therapies are postponed or banned.
The Independent discusses extending the healthy life span and research on nematode worms in this recent article. A quote: "these findings in the nematode show that remarkable lifespan extensions can be produced with no apparent loss of health or vitality, by perturbing a small number of genes and tissues in an animal." The article stops short of advocating increased overall life span in humans, but I think it's clear that healthy life extension ideas are now mainstream. So tell a friend about the Longevity Meme today!
(From the Sun-Sentinel). Cryonics research company Suspended Animation have dropped their efforts to fight the Boca Raton city council. It looks fairly clear that the expected result in January will be another refusal, so the company will focus on finding a new Florida location for their research. A victory for the luddites here, unfortunately - but the efforts of everyone who wrote, called and turned out in support are greatly appreciated. Research into cryonics is vital to the growth, professionalism and validity of this industry; it is a great pity that short sighted and unscientific opponents think otherwise.
I like to post reminders about general health and natural longevity every so often. Here is one from EurekAlert that discusses recent studies on the effects of sensible diet and exercise. As we should all know by now, losing weight and engaging in moderate daily exercise greatly improves health at all ages. By improving health in this way, you improve your natural longevity. By improving your natural longevity, you stand a much better chance of being healthy and active to benefit from future anti-aging medicines. Your health is important, so work on it!
As noted at Science Daily, researchers have further explored the biochemical link between growth hormone and a gene that controls at least some tissue regeneration. From the article: "Growth hormone levels decline as we grow older; as a result, the Foxm1b gene stops working and our bodies are less capable of repairing damage." This is early work (in mice) and certainly not yet an endorsement of growth hormone therapies - which have had mixed results in scientific studies.
Understanding why and how damage to our genes accumulates with age is the first step towards preventing this part of aging. This article from ScienceDaily describes some very clever work that advances our knowledge of the way in which genes are damaged in cells with worn telomeres. A separate article at the LEF News notes an advance in understanding why DNA repair becomes less efficient in older cells. All in all, very interesting stuff. The path to doing something about blocking the genetic mutations that lead to age-related conditions is becoming clearer with each year of funded research.
An article at SAGE Crossroads comments on recent report from the President's Council on Bioethics. The report starts by giving a promising view of the developing technologies of healthy life extension, but then falls off the cliff into fear of change and advocacy for suffering, shorter life spans, and death. Leon Kass, chair of the Council, is strongly opposed to allowing healthy life extension of any sort - a cruel and ugly position to be advocating, but one that suits the current anti-research US administration just fine. Fortunately, it seems that at least some bioethicists are sensible enough to oppose Kass and his ilk.
As reported by EurekAlert, scientists are coming to a better understanding of the mechanisms that link aging, atherosclerosis and heart disease. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center believe that the ability of the body to repair age-related damage through bone marrow stem cells determines health in later life. Serious problems do not start to arise until this natural regenerative capacity - which is believed to be finite - runs out. With the current research focus on stem cells, this new viewpoint offers further obvious avenues for work towards anti-aging therapies.
Michael Fumento offers an overview of the past few years of healthy life extension research and associated opinions at Tech Central Station. He dings naysayers in the scientific community (Hayflick and Olshansky) on the grounds of circular reasoning and invalid extrapolation of past trends - a point that needs to be seen in print more often. Research is accelerating, and we cannot look to the past to predict the future. On the topic of political opposition from the likes of Leon Kass, he notes that "like all biotechnology, lifespan extension is merely a tool. It's up to us how it's used."
AlertNet reports that the Bush administration is still trying hard to push a global ban on stem cell research and therapeutic cloning at the United Nations. The body recently voted (by a narrow margin) to delay any such proposal until 2005, but the US may try to overturn that vote. A ban on stem cell research would have devastating consequences on our future health and longevity: this field is a cornerstone in the search for regenerative medicine to cure the degenerative conditions of aging. Write to your representatives today!
Tissue engineering is a branch of regenerative medicine devoted to growing complex replacement organs from scratch, using stem cell techniques. ScienceDaily notes that UIC researchers have engineered a joint from adult stem cells, with the correct structure, bone and cartilage. This is an impressive step forward, and offers the hope of - for example - completely organic hip replacements using the patient's own stem cells. There is, of course, much more work to do yet; hence the need for more funding and more public awareness for these sorts of advances.