LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
December 15 2003
The Longevity Meme Newsletter is a biweekly e-mail containing news, opinions and happenings for people interested in healthy life extension: making use of diet, lifestyle choices, technology and proven medical advances to live healthy, longer lives.
- Ray Kurzweil Endorses Anti-Aging Research Prize
- Kurzweil on Radical Life Extension
- How the Politics of Medical Research Affect You
- Support CAMR and Fight For Better Medical Research
- Latest Healthy Life Extension News Headlines
RAY KURZWEIL ENDORSES ANTI-AGING RESEARCH PRIZE
Ray Kurzweil, the influential inventor, entrepreneur and futurist, has long had a strong interest in healthy life extension and the associated development of new, advanced medical technology. I am very pleased to see that he has endorsed the recently launched Methuselah Mouse Prize for anti-aging research. Ray Kurzweil is a respected voice in many fields, and his endorsement and the accompanying modest donation will do a great deal of good. You can read more below:
Given the high-powered endorsements of the Methuselah Mouse Prize of late, isn't it time that you donated? The current matching fund will add one dollar for every two dollars donated until the first $50,000 total is reached. Follow the link below to make your tax-deductible donation:
Consider it a small down payment on better medicine and a longer, healthier future!
KURZWEIL ON RADICAL LIFE EXTENSION
You might be familiar with the KurzweilAI website, and this is a very good place to learn more about Ray Kurzweil's fields of interest. The KurzweilAI website sports an interest selection of articles and discussions on radical life extension and the medical technologies that will be needed to make it all work. I recommend you devote some leisure time to browse and take it in:
From this and other resources, it should be clear that the medical, scientific path to extending our healthy life spans is well marked and well understood by at least some scientists. As usual, politics and human nature are what provide the uncertainty in our future.
HOW THE POLITICS OF MEDICAL RESEARCH AFFECT YOU
I would love to be able to spend more time talking about science and longer, healthier lives and less time talking about the politics of medical research. Unfortunately, it really does seem that the length and quality of our lives depend ever more on the outcome of political battles currently in progress.
Stem cell medicine and therapeutic cloning are the technologies most likely to produce real anti-aging medicine in the near term. They are the medical technologies most likely to produce cures for the degenerative diseases of aging in the near term, including cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, nerve damage, diabetes, inflammation and heart disease. These are also the technologies under greatest attack. The research is very promising, but anti-research factions are trying very hard to enact bans. You can read more about these technologies and their relevance to healthy life extension at the following pages:
Every year in which anti-research groups and politicians succeed in holding back healthy life extension research is another year in which you, I and everyone else will have to suffer the effects of aging and degenerative diseases.
Attacks on stem cell research and therapeutic cloning have led to a short stalemate in the US. Stem cell research and funding is damaged by existing Federal legislation, but an outright ban on therapeutic cloning (passed by the House in 2003) is halted, awaiting Senate debate:
Christopher Reeve and eminent scientists estimate that US legislation has set the field of regenerative medicine back by five years. That's five more years of suffering, aging, disease and death that could have been cured or prevented.
On the international stage, the US administration and its allies have been pushing hard for a UN global ban on therapeutic cloning research over the past few months. They came within two votes of getting it in November, but the motion was postponed for two years until late 2005. The US aggressively tried to overturn this stay in early December, succeeding in bringing the delay down to only one year before the matter is voted on again. Read more at the following page:
I'm sure that I don't have to tell you all just how damaging a UN ban on this vital research would be. Anti-research forces within many countries have already succeeding in choking progress and stifling research into using stem cells and therapeutic cloning to cure disease and extend healthy life span. Your voice in these debates counts: you can make a difference by contacting your elected representatives to make your views known. Ask them tough questions: why are they trying so hard to prevent cures from being developed for the diseases of aging? Why are they endorsing the continuing, terrible human suffering that results from these diseases and degenerative conditions? Tell them that you vote, and that you vote for medical progress.
SUPPORT CAMR AND FIGHT FOR BETTER MEDICAL RESEARCH
The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR) has been doing a great job in taking on the anti-research forces in US politics. Their website is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to speak out in favor of stem cell and therapeutic cloning research. You can learn more about the topics and the underlying science, read precise summaries of the positions, and make your voice heard by contacting elected representatives:
In addition to opposing the potential US ban on therapeutic cloning (and hence on a great deal of stem cell research), CAMR intends to make these issues central to the 2004 election. You can help them do so: visit their website to see how.
That would be all for this issue of the newsletter. The highlights and headlines from the past two weeks follow below.
Remember - if you like this newsletter, the chances are that your friends will find it useful too. Forward the newsletter on by all means, or post it to your favorite online communities. Encourage the people you know to pitch in and make a difference to the future of health and longevity!
Founder, Longevity Meme
Ray Kurzweil Endorses Methuselah Mouse Prize (December 14 2003)
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!
Important Stem Cell Breakthough (December 14 2003)
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!
Longevity Meme Mailserver Glitch Fixed (December 13 2003)
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!
Japanese Government Recommends Limited Stem Cell Research (December 13 2003)
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.
Reminder: Immortality Institute Book Project (December 12 2003)
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.
Reporting on the Phoenix Conference (December 12 2003)
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.
Another Longevity Mechanism Uncovered (December 12 2003)
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.
Shopping For Longevity (December 12 2003)
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!
Visit CAMR and Take Action (December 10 2003)
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.
More On UN Therapeutic Cloning Ban (December 10 2003)
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.
UN Puts Off Therapeutic Cloning Ban Again (December 09 2003)
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.
Yes, We Can Have It All (December 09 2003)
"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.
New Stem Cell Based Cancer Therapy (December 09 2003)
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.
Quackwatch Is Your Friend (December 08 2003)
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.
HGH Supplement "Bait and Switch" (December 08 2003)
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.
Study Underlines Unknowns Relating to DHEA (December 07 2003)
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.
Lifeline Nutraceuticals and CereMedix (December 07 2003)
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.
ABCNews Covers Calorie Restriction (December 06 2003)
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.
More On Repeated UN Therapeutic Cloning Ban (December 06 2003)
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 on Healthy Life Extension (December 05 2003)
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!
Suspended Animation Drops Boca Raton Effort (December 05 2003)
(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.
It's Never Too Late To Start Exercising (December 04 2003)
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!
Links Between Growth Hormone and Regeneration (December 04 2003)
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 Genetic Damage (December 03 2003)
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.
SAGE Crossroads on Errant Bioethicists (December 03 2003)
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.
New View of Link Between Aging and Artery Disease (December 02 2003)
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.
There's More Future in Your Future (December 02 2003)
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."
Bush Administration Still Trying For Global Stem Cell Ban (December 01 2003)
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!
Startling Progress In Tissue Engineering (December 01 2003)
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.
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