LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
January 12 2004
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.
- The 2004 US Presidential Election Impacts Your Health
- Grassroots Organizations Need Your Support
- A Year of Newsletters: What Do You Think?
- Latest Healthy Life Extension News Headlines
THE 2004 US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IMPACTS YOUR HEALTH
This will be a year of politics ad nauseum in the US, as it is in every election year. Those of you who have read this newsletter for a while will recall my frequent attempts to talk less about politics and more about health during 2003 - attempts usually followed directly by the brewing of some new anti-research legislation that would block vital advances in medicine if passed.
The technical side of near term healthy life extension research appears to be well in hand. Amazing discoveries and advances are made on a weekly basis (and are noted at the Longevity Meme as they happen). The greatest near future uncertainties for health and longevity come from politics: from attempts to ban stem cell research, therapeutic cloning, and other important techniques that will - if nurtured - usher forth the first wave of real life-extending medicine. You can read a little about regenerative medicine and healthy life extension based on these techniques at the Longevity Meme:
Christopher Reeve, noted stem cell research advocate, and influential scientists have gone on record as saying that these fields have been set back five years by US and other government policies. Five years of delay in all stem cell based regenerative medicine is five more years of needless death and suffering worldwide. Approximately two thousand people die every day from heart disease in the US alone. This condition can currently be cured by a stem cell based therapy - 730,000 lives lost with every year of delay - and this is but a single application in a very broad field. If anti-research administrations and politicians around the world are not shown the door by voters, then five years of delay could become ten, or twenty. Other fields of science have languished for this long, or even longer, due to government policies and mismanagement in the past. So even if, like myself, you find mainstream politics somewhere between tiresome and repulsive, it is important that you speak out and make your voice heard.
A number of grassroots organizations in the US are doing a good job of making stem cell research and regenerative medicine policies an issue in this presidential election. One of them is the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR). I recommend that you visit their website, and read the materials there:
You can help CAMR make stem cell research an important issue by writing to your local news outlets - let them know that people care about life-saving medical research. CAMR offers a web tool that lets you do this in a matter of moments, complete with a sample letter; I gave it a whirl last week and found it easy and effective. Visit the link below and give it a try:
If we all do our bit, stem cells, therapeutic cloning and research for longer, healthier lives can become a major issue in the public eye. In the long term, this is far more important, in and of itself, than the results of any given election. In the long term, popular, well understood and widely acclaimed research will happen - this is the work funded by philanthropists, that politicians find they must support, that scientists are drawn to. This is the admirable goal we can all help to bring about: a society in which regenerative medicine is understood, desired and supported. A society well on its way to real healthy life extension medicine and open to a longer, healthier future for all its members!
GRASSROOTS ORGANIZATIONS NEED YOUR SUPPORT
CAMR is far from the only grassroots group supporting stem cell medicine or therapeutic cloning research - supporting longer, healthier lives. Two other organizations worthy of mention are StemCellAction and StemCellHelp. Visit StemCellAction to view the Portraits of Hope and sign the Stem Cell Pledge ("We pledge to vote only for candidates who support stem cell research"):
StemCellHelp provides a professionally done petition and information website. Visit and sign their pro-research petition:
As individuals, we have little say in the workings of an impersonal government. Standing together, we can make things happen. It only takes a few moments to register your opinion in support of medical research and longer, healthier lives. It only takes a few minutes to talk to your friends about regenerative medicine; it takes even less time to forward this newsletter to someone you know will be interested. Enough opinions and raised voices will change the future for the better.
A YEAR OF NEWSLETTERS: WHAT DO YOU THINK?
The Longevity Meme Newsletter is now a year old, and how the time has flown. Experience is a good tutor, but so is feedback from my readers - and there are a fair number of you now. If you have ideas or suggestions for ways in which this newsletter or the Longevity Meme can be a better resource, educator or activist, please do let us know.
That would be all for this issue of the newsletter; more health and less politics next time, I promise! 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
LATEST HEALTHY LIFE EXTENSION HEADLINES
MSNBC On Calorie Restriction (January 11 2004)
MSNBC is running a very mixed article on calorie restriction (CR), alternating between describing its practitioners as "kooks" and "followers" and giving a more responsible view of the science. As I can testify, it is perfectly possible to practice CR without being hungry - it just requires careful eating habits. People who practice CR are individually making smart, educated choices for personal health and longevity. Overall, this article was a disappointing effort: it could have been much better if the author had dropped the insults and slurs.
Microheaters For Tissue Engineering (January 11 2004)
Betterhumans looks at a novel new technology for tissue engineering, a branch of regenerative medicine dedicated to growing replacements for damaged or missing tissue in the body. The big problem of the past few years has been how to grow tissue in the right shape. Recently, researchers working on biodegradable scaffolds and engineering blood vessels have made great headway in solving this problem. It looks like this new microheater technology will help things along even more. Some observers are predicting that medical science will be able to grow new organs to order long before the end of the decade.
On Ice Age Genetic Longevity (January 10 2004)
An interesting piece at the New York Times discusses recent research into human genetic diversity. This research suggests that longevity and resistance to degenerative conditions in some human populations evolved in response to Ice Age conditions. These sorts of studies will lead to greater understanding of the way in which different people are affected by aging processes, and what medical science can do in the near term to improve our health and longevity. The work also suggests that overeating, now common in Western societies, is more damaging to long term health in human populations without these evolved resistances.
Stem Cell Research as a Campaign Issue (January 10 2004)
Current restrictive US stem cell policies are rising as an issue of importance in the US presidential campaign: remarks by Howard Dean are reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, and a declaration by Wesley Clark is reported by WQAD. Most of the Democratic candidates claim to support stem cell research and therapeutic cloning (with varying degrees of weasel wording), and you can find their position statements at the CAMR website. Making stem cell research and the potentials of regenerative medicine a campaign issue will help in the fight against anti-research legislation, both in the US and at the UN.
Canadian Politicians Still Dithering Over Stem Cell Research (January 09 2004)
(From Canada East). Politicians don't like to make decisions that will rouse the ire of vocal activist groups over any choice. Stem cell research legislation is stalled in the US, but has been delayed for far longer in Canada. Stem cell research in the country is stalled for lack of certainty - just as research in the US and elsewhere has been greatly damaged over the past few years. Private funding is scared away by the possibility of later government prohibitions on research, and public funding has been banned or just not authorized.
Progress at Elixir Pharmaceuticals (January 09 2004)
Elixir Pharmaceuticals is making progress on the business side of healthy life extension research, as noted at LEF News. They're licensing a patent resulting from recent research into "MTP," an aging gene uncovered in a recent centenarian study. This isn't anything major or new on the research side of things, but it is important to see progress in the corporate organization of real anti-aging research. In the long run, corporate concerns are the source of most research funding in any given field. One successful company will mean many others will soon be funded to compete...we are seeing the start of that now.
Why Lifestyle Studies Are Not All That Useful (January 08 2004)
The latest ChangeSurfer column at Betterhumans examines some of the more common studies linking particular lifestyle choices with longevity, and illustrates that these results are not all that useful. You can't choose a particular lifestyle and expect it to improve your healthy lifespan - the real reasons for study results are often buried, rarely obvious, and sometimes counter-intuitive. You have to stick with the known medical conclusions, i.e. not that getting married is good for longevity, but that eating healthily and lowering stress is good for longevity. In other words, ignore the social studies, and look at the medical reasons for longer, healthier lives.
Cryonics Institute Successfully Negotiates Continued Operation (January 08 2004)
(From ClickOnDetroit). Media interest in cryonics during 2003 sparked some unwelcome intrusions by state and local governments into the continuing operations of established providers like the Cryonics Institute. Happily, Institute staff have negotiated a settlement ("benign regulation," as they put it) that satisfies both sides. The Cryonics Institute will continue in operation more or less as before; more details can be found at the Cryonics Institute website. To find out more about the science, business and potential of cryonics, visit CryonNet.
Alzheimer's Cause Pinpointed? (January 07 2004)
Alzheimer's is one of the bugbear diseases of aging, a frightening condition that is of great concern to people who are interested in healthy life extension. Unless a cure is found, everyone who lives long enough will eventually suffer its effects. Remarkable progress is being made however, and Nature reports on the latest installment: a much better understanding of the likely cause, and a way to prevent Alzheimer's effects in mice. This is only one of a number of research efforts, resulting from new knowledge and new biomedical technologies. Progress is good!
Secrets of Cancer Metastasis (January 07 2004)
The ability of cancer to become metastatic and spread throughout the body is one of the most feared consequences of this disease. Science Daily reports on progress in understanding the biochemical mechanisms underlying metastasis. This understanding has already led to the ability to "turn off" metastatis in colon cancer cells in a laboratory environment - this is a big step forward in the fight against cancer. The flood of progress towards curing cancer is a result of decades of successful funding, activism and public education. Can we repeat these successes for the fight against aging?
Resveratrol and Calorie Restriction (January 06 2004)
This CBN article gives an overview of research on resveratrol, a compound thought to activate genes in a similar way to calorie restriction. You may recall the spate of inaccurate articles on resveratrol in 2003 when the mainstream press learned the compound is found in red wine. This piece is more responsible, but - like most articles on supplements - is uninformed with regard to the potential of near future medicine to extend the healthy human life span. Supplement researchers are generally aiming low, at extending the healthy human lifespan by a few decades. This is an admirable goal in and of itself, but supplements can only take you so far. To beat the conditions of aging (and aging itself), better medical technologies will be needed.
Immortality Institute Book Submission Deadline on the 15th (January 06 2004)
As a reminder, the deadline for the first call of submissions for the Immortality Institute book project is January 15th. There may be a second call, and there will almost certainly be a second book, based on the volume and quality of submissions to date. Well known writers, futurists, journalists and transhumanists are amongst those who have offered texts. Do you have musings on healthy life extension you'd like to see published? Now would be the time to pull them together and make a submission to the book project.
Oxidative Stress and Aging (January 05 2004)
SAGE Crossroads is printing an article that summarizes the current state of oxidative stress and free radical theories of aging. There are currently a number of competing theories of aging, all with some good looking science to back them up. It is seeming increasingly likely that a single unified theory of aging could be found to fit current theories into a seamless whole. A quote: "It's not that oxidative stress causes aging; it's a component of aging. We're moving away from the idea that there's a single cause of aging; there are probably multiple causes."
Presidential Candidate Stem Cell Positions (January 05 2004)
Since we're on the topic of presidential candidates, we should point out that the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research is asking candidates for their positions on stem cell research. You can view the responses received to date at the CAMR website. A lot of shifty political doublespeak makes its way in there, so tread with care. You can also use the CAMR website to write to local media and help make stem cell research an issue in the 2004 presidential election. Go ahead and take a few minutes to do this: it's a worthwhile investment of time.
Lieberman Would Repeal Bush Stem Cell Restrictions (January 04 2004)
Near the end of this Guardian article, US Senator Joe Lieberman promises to repeal the current restrictive Bush stem cell research prohibitions if he is elected. Everything that candidates say at this stage in the process has to be treated with skepticism - politicians, like lawyers, are basically professional liars - but it is encouraging to see that groups like CAMR have succeeded in making this an issue in the 2004 election. Bush's anti-research policies are widely acknowledged to have set back progress in regenerative medicine by five years - five more years of death and suffering while potential cures are blocked by government fiat.
NJ Stem Cell Law Finally Signed (January 04 2004)
As reported by Newsday.com, New Jersey is now the second US state to pass legislation explicitly allowing stem cell research. The state governor signed the law into effect in the company of Christopher Reeve, one of the most effective advocates for stem cell research. Last minute opposition to this law from anti-research groups has been strong and vocal, but fortunately ineffective. Stem cell research is the shortest path to real, effective therapies that will lengthen healthy lifespan and defeat the diseases of aging, and every piece of positive legislation is welcome in the current political climate.
Gene Linked to Growth Hormone Action (January 03 2004)
(From the Life Extension Foundation News). A genetic mechanism for the effects of growth hormone has been discovered, relating it to a gene that is known to regulate many aspects of cellular activity and longevity. This is a very specific result, linked to liver regeneration, but will no doubt soon be referenced by sellers of human growth hormone (HGH). The science and studies supporting HGH are nowhere near as solid as those supporting calorie restriction (to pick an example) and this most recent research does nothing to change that.
Stem Cell Policies and Players (January 03 2004)
As an item of interest, the Genome News Network maintains an infrequently updated overview page on legislation, government policies and notable researchers in the stem cell field. While the most important stem cell news and developments are usually pointed out here as they happen, it's good to see some overviews being put together. Even partial lists of what is going on around the world are better than nothing: this one omits developments in Japan, China and South Korea, for example.
Australian Legislation Blocks Research (January 02 2004)
This article from smh.com.au is a good illustration of the damage done by restrictive stem cell research legislation enacted to try and prevent human cloning. Research on embryonic stem cells in Australia is a mere shadow of what would otherwise be possible. This means that Australia's vast medical research resources are not working towards regenerative medicine and cures for the diseases and conditions of aging. Sadly, this picture is repeated in all too many countries worldwide. The US may enact even more restrictive anti-research legislation in the coming year.
South Korea To Restrict Stem Cell Research (January 01 2004)
The Washington Times reports on South Korean government restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The full effects of the legislation are unclear, but it looks like only very limited research for curing disease will be permitted. It is disappointing to see the policitians of yet another country with strong medical research resources block the most promising path to curing the degenerative conditions of aging. Unfortunately, even more restrictive legislation is pending in the US and elsewhere. The chance of a healthier, longer future will be taken away from us if we do not act and speak out.
More on New Jersey Stem Cell Politics (January 01 2004)
An editorial at South Brunswick Post covers the last minute political battles over the New Jersey stem cell research legislation, yet to be signed into law by the state governor. Anti-research groups are lobbying hard, employing scare tactics and hyperbole. From the editorial: "Sign the bill, governor. Show the president, the Assembly Republicans and the three congressmen who would have you do otherwise that you will give hope to those victims of preventable illnesses and curable diseases. Do it because they are living, breathing people. And they have a right to life."
Mechanism of Calorie Restriction Revealed? (December 31 2003)
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.
Stem Cell Architect Knighted (December 31 2003)
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.
An Age of Medical Miracles (December 30 2003)
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.
The Significance of Hair Regeneration (December 30 2003)
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.
Year In Review At Betterhumans (December 29 2003)
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...
Looking Back On 2003 (December 29 2003)
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.
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