LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
February 09 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.
- Read "Fight Aging!"
- The Methuselah Foundation and Human Longevity
- Bloggers Can Support Real Anti-Aging Research
- How Could I Not Mention John Sperling?
- Latest Healthy Life Extension News Headlines
READ "FIGHT AGING!"
As regular visitors to the Longevity Meme will already know, we recently launched a collaborative weblog called "Fight Aging!" The Longevity Meme news has had a weblog flavor to it for a while now, but the format is very limiting in certain respects. Running an actual blog will allow us to present more interesting discussions, notes and reports on healthy life extension - in much the same way as this newsletter does - on a daily basis. Some noteworthy folks from the scientific, blogging, futurist, healthy life extension, nanotechnology and transhumanist communities have agreed to contribute to Fight Aging!, and I for one am quite excited by the prospect of taking the blogging community by storm.
Follow the link below to peruse our first week of posts and comments - a sneak peek at a new Methuselah Foundation initiative, my comments on bootstrapping, Aubrey de Grey on mammals versus worms, Phil Bowermaster's punchy "Death Sucks," and more:
Highly active social networks like the blogging community are a wonderful place to be putting forward the latest ideas and views on healthy life extension. The very nature of this publishing technology enables the rapid spread and acclaim of ideas. As you probably all know by now, I believe that a very important foundation to scientific progress is widespread support and understanding in society. Real healthy life extension therapies will be far slower in arriving if we fail to successfully advocate and educate. Fight Aging! (and the wider blogging community) will be another way to help us succeed in our goals.
Do you run or contribute to a weblog yourself? If so, you can help our cause by linking to or commenting on Fight Aging! Help us to build the web of references that will lead more people to understanding and supporting healthy life extension. The more the merrier, and in the long run we'll all benefit from a larger healthy life extension community.
THE METHUSELAH FOUNDATION AND HUMAN LONGEVITY
The Methuselah Foundation is the organization behind the Methuselah Mouse prize for anti-aging research - a project often seen mentioned in this newsletter, usually directly followed by an exhortation to give generously to this very worthy cause! The Foundation now has its own website, thanks to the generous donation of time and expertise from Kevin Perrott and other volunteers. The website eloquently presents the ideas and goals underlying the real scientific quest for longer, healthier lives: you should all take a look.
Of particular note are comments by Methuselah Mouse prize donors, myself included. Read them all in the donor list on the Foundation site, and see if they don't get you thinking.
Information about competitors and some of the enrolled mice has been added to the Methuselah Mouse website since I last mentioned the prize in this newsletter. A round of new antioxidant supplements, such as those in the works from Ceremedix, coupled with National Institute on Aging funding for tests on the anti-aging properties of some common drugs, has swelled the field of potential competitors.
Lastly, I'll note that the NASA is now devoting significant funding to replicate the success of the X Prize (the well known and very influential research prize for sub-orbital flight) in generating technology breakthroughs. If donor generosity ensures that the Methuselah Mouse prize follows the same growth path as the X Prize did, we can expect the National Institute on Aging to be funding research prizes itself in five years or so. Food for thought indeed.
BLOGGERS CAN SUPPORT REAL ANTI-AGING RESEARCH
The Methuselah Foundation volunteers have turned out a couple of animated Flash stamps for bloggers who want to show their support for the Methuselah Mouse prize. Featuring an updated prize total, it easily fits into weblog templates. You can see it action at Fight Aging! and a few other places besides.
Download the Methuselah Mouse blog stamp today and fly the flag for better medicine and longer, healthier lives!
HOW COULD I NOT MENTION JOHN SPERLING?
The healthy life extension community is certainly talking about the recent Wired article on John Sperling, the wealthy philanthropist who is engaged in building a business and research empire to defeat aging. Unlike those who have preceded him in previous decades, he is wealthy enough, and science has progressed far enough, that this effort might just succeed. Follow the links below for articles, thoughts and comments:
The original article:
My comments at Fight Aging!
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, or post a copy 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
US Administration Alienating Republicans on Stem Cell Policies (February 08 2004)
An article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel puts names, faces and actions to the alienation that many republicans are feeling after years of anti-research policy from the current administration. For example, Jim Kress' foundation has given millions to stem cell research, but "after a lifetime of giving to Republican candidates and causes, Kress vows to give 'not another dime' to the GOP until it changes its tune." It is very gratifying that even the strongest backers of the current administration are starting to see the damage being done to our future health and longevity. This means that the work of the advocates is beginning to pay off.
Details For The 2004 Longevity Conference, Sydney (February 08 2004)
Dr. Gavrilov was kind enough to remind us about the Longevity Conference, and note that the final program is now available. It looks like a lot of interesting presentations are being given (as well as some of dubious value, at least to my mind). Some of Dr. Gavrilov's work is explained here at the Longevity Meme as it happens, but the conference encompasses a wider range of aging and anti-aging science. Our vote for best session title goes to "Hormones: Do They Really Have the Power to Prevent Ageing or is their Promise of Eternal Youth Rapidly Evaporating into the Landscape of Unfounded Promises?"
California to Become Stem Cell Hub? (February 07 2004)
SFGate comments on continuing efforts to allocate significant state funding to regulated embryonic stem cell research in California. Large sums of money, billions over the next decade, are mentioned, although the small print would seem to indicate that this will not kick in for a few years even if the necessary funding measures are passed. California is in the midst of a budget crisis in any case, which would seem to make any such long term planning speculative at best. If the Federal government carries forward with plans to ban this research, there could certainly be fireworks.
Business Jumps on the Youth Bandwagon (February 07 2004)
Red Herring is back on its feet, and talking about the near future market for real, working anti-aging therapies. Note that most of what passes for "anti-aging" in the marketplace these days is cosmetics, junk, nonsense, scams and adventurous marketing - but a small core of new ventures are working on real medicine that could extend the healthy human lifespan. The most interesting thing to take away from this article is that business commentators are now seeing that there is a bandwagon, and can separate the old, bad anti-aging market from the new, real anti-aging market. This bodes well for venture funding in the future.
Methuselah Yeast, Worms (February 06 2004)
An article from last month in PLoS Biology reviews work by David Sinclair on the biology and genetics of aging in yeast and Cynthia Kenyon on aging in nematode worms. Both have managed significant (one might say radical) healthy life extension in their test subjects, although science is still far from taking this knowledge and using it to extend the healthy human life span. The more we know, the closer we get, however: every step forward is a step taken towards longer, healthier lives for you and I. If you're scientifically minded, don't forget to scroll down past the references to read the interesting end comments as well.
Building Better Calorie Restriction (February 06 2004)
Also from Wired, an examination of modern aging research that takes calorie restriction as a starting point. Several groups (like BioMarker Pharmaceuticals) are searching for a way to develop life-extending medicine that has the same effects as a calorie restriction diet, but without the need to eat less. Extensive calorie restriction science now points the way to biochemical and genetic mechanisms within the body that can, in theory, be targeted by therapies. It is possible that therapies could even do better than calorie restriction itself, but that remains to be seen.
Wired on John Sperling (February 05 2004)
John Sperling is the guy who will probably save (and greatly extend) your life, even if you didn't know it up until now. He's what the healthy life extension movement has always needed; an enormously wealthy, savvy person who is prepared to go out and do what needs to be done. This Wired article gives an overview of John Sperling's projects to date, and some speculation on the future. We bow before the master, and hope that we at the Longevity Meme can achieve one hundredth of this level of progress towards our goals. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what the start of a medical revolution looks like.
EuroStemCell Project to Launch (February 05 2004)
The Scotsman reports on the launch of the new EuroStemCell project. The project leaders aim to build a European stem cell research industry to rival those in the US and Asia. This is a good thing, needless to say, but the project participants face many of the same uphill battles against anti-research legislation experienced in America. Germany and France have enacted particularly restrictive laws that prohibit most promising research in this field, and the UK is one of the few European countries in which meaningful stem cell research can proceed at all. Regular readers may recall attempts in 2003 to ban stem cell research in the European Parliament, efforts that fortunately met with failure.
Enhancing Natural Muscle Regeneration (February 05 2004)
(From EurekAlert). One branch of research into regenerative medicine seeks to replicate, restore or enhance the existing ability for the body to regenerate damage. This Italian research identifies a mechanism by which muscle tissue is regenerated, thereby presenting the opportunity for a therapy, as well as insight into why this regenerative capability declines with age. This is early stage work, far from any potential medicine, but all new knowledge of regenerative mechanisms helps to provide a vital basis for the next generation of therapies.
Transcript of "Is Aging a Disease" (February 04 2004)
SAGE Crossroads has posted the transcript of their latest debate, "Is Aging a Disease" held last month between Art Caplan and Rick Moody. It's one of their best yet, and I recommend you take the time to read it (scroll down a bit on that page for the transcript). In the end, both sides agree that we need to be putting more money into aging and real anti-aging research in order to see meaningful results. There are a lot of great quotes in there, far too many to print here - go and take a look.
More on the Boston Study (February 03 2004)
InfoAging reprints a much better article on the Boston work into regenerative medicine for cardiac problems. A quote: "This has real promise for a disease that affects 6 million people. This is a very serious and very grim condition for which we have not had much to offer our patients." Approximately 2000 people die each day in the US due to heart disease of some sort. Anti-research groups who work so hard to oppose stem cell work, regenerative medicine and therapeutic cloning should stand aside. We must support medical researchers in their work to produce the therapies that will save millions of lives.
Adult Stem Cell Study Launches In Boston (February 03 2004)
The Boston Business Journal reports on a new adult stem cell research project. This aims to provide regenerative therapies for certain types of heart disease - as such, it is very similar to a successfully demonstrated therapy from 2003 that is currently blocked by the FDA. We have to hope that the FDA won't simply repeat this process for this new line of research, given the damage to health and scientific research caused by these sorts of interventions. This research is valuable and should not be blocked by a small political elite: now is the time to write to your representatives and help to make stem cell research an issue in the Presidential election cycle.
Questioning State Regulation for Cryonics (February 03 2004)
From the Arizona Capitol Times, a discussion and overview of current state government attempts to regulate cryonics providers - specifically Alcor in this case. The small cryonics industry has operated quietly, legally and safely in the US for decades, but events in 2003 led to this current flurry of potential legislation and regulation. An entry from Rand Simberg's blog made at the time hits all the relevant points about legislator hubris and special interests. The cryonics industry can potentially serve a useful purpose in the fight against aging (and you can find out more at Cryonet), but not if it's stifled, buried by legislation and misunderstanding.
Fight Aging! Collaborative Weblog (February 02 2004)
We at the Longevity Meme are entering the blogging world full force with the launch of a collaborative weblog ("Fight Aging!") to cover "reports from the front line in the fight against aging; the science of healthy life extension; activism and advocacy for longer, healthier lives." Those of you with weblogs of your own can help us publicize by linking to Fight Aging! and referencing us as we continue to grow. If you have an interesting and relevant weblog, we are interested in a link exchange. The first topic of interest to most of you will be "The 300", a sneak peek at the latest Methuselah Foundation initiative.
Antioxidants and Alzheimer's (February 02 2004)
Science Blog notes recent research indicating that antioxidants may protect against Alzheimer's damage to some degree. Antioxidants are showing up more widely in the news; there is some fairly good science behind their use as an aid to general long term health. The free radical theory of aging, while certainly not a comprehensive theory, suggests that antioxidants can prolong healthy lifespan by fending off the main cause of age-related damage. Another article at Science Daily discusses recent advances in artificial antioxidant research, and at least one new supplement product is a new form of antioxidant.
Methuselah Mouse Prize Update (February 01 2004)
The Methuselah Foundation, the group running the Methuselah Mouse Prize, have unveiled their new website. The prize is currently subject to a $2000 matching challenge fund from two generous donors, so all new donations made up to that amount will be matched. Now is a good time to learn more about the prize and the hope of living in a world where "getting old" doesn't mean "getting sick." (You can also learn more about the value of research prizes here at the Longevity Meme). Step up and show your support for healthy life extension medicine: make a donation today!
The Spread of Calorie Restriction in the Media (February 01 2004)
Awareness of calorie restriction (CR) is spreading further in the mainstream media, as illustrated by this short piece in the Mansfield News Journal. It is good that calorie restriction - both the science and the lifestyle - is finally getting some time in the spotlight. Positive public perception leads to more scientific research, and there are a number of very interesting directions that could lead to some form of life extending "calorie restriction in a pill." In the meanwhile, visit the CR Society website to learn more about how you can use CR to extend your healthy lifespan.
NIA Interventions Testing Program Underway (January 31 2004)
The Interventions Testing Program (ITP) at the NIA is getting underway, having chosen three compounds to test in mouse longevity studies. The details are noted at SAGE KE. This is an unambitious first set of compounds - an antioxidant, aspirin and ibuprofen. It's worth noting, however, that few groups have been funding rigorous longevity tests on these sorts of supplements and medicines. We expect to see small gains in mouse longevity from this round of the study, but nothing worth writing home about. We also hope to see some of the participants enter into the Methuselah Mouse Prize.
Champagne Aging (January 30 2004)
An article from the Financial Express reinforces todays point about your general health and the future of healthy life extension. Your lifestyle and dietary choices make an enormous difference to your lifespan and to your quality of life in later years. It is then, when real anti-aging therapies have been developed and deployed, that you most want to be healthy in order to benefit from this ongoing revolution in medicine. Missing the healthy life extension boat in years to come because you didn't take good care of your health now would be a real tragedy. We are on the verge of an amazing, long, healthy future. Don't miss out!
Health, Lifestyle and Natural Longevity (January 30 2004)
While researchers are racing to cure the worst age-related conditions, many of us will not live long enough to benefit from advances in regenerative medicine ... unless we work on our natural longevity. The body is just like any complex machine: good maintenance leads to better performance and a longer lifetime. This article from the Times Dispatch hits all of the relevant points we support: diet, supplements and lifestyle. We all want to be healthy enough to benefit from new life-extending therapies in the coming decades, and all it takes is a little work in the here and now to keep us in good shape.
Alzheimer's Progress Also a Model For Aging Research (January 29 2004)
This item from ScienCentral gives a good introduction to the latest research in the fight against Alzheimer's (and plenty of good references). We often point to the successes of cancer research as the model for the future of aging research - but Alzheimer's research is also a good example. Once public support and awareness comes to a tipping point, real funding and real progress starts. The tipping point for Alzheimer's was probably only a decade ago - amazing progress has been made since then. Just imagine the results if this mighty engine of science were turned to unraveling and preventing aging itself!
Better Artificial Bones (January 29 2004)
While stem cell reseachers are learning to grow new bone to repair injuries and age-related bone loss, engineers are working on making better artificial bones (as reported at e4engineering). Advances in prosthetics and artificial organs are racing with stem cell based regenerative medicine to make us healthier for longer. The end goal is to be able to prevent suffering and death due to any tissue loss or organ failure. No one loses in this sort of race; the competition is a good incentive to all parties, and the end results benefit us all.
SAGE Crossroads on Policy Making (January 28 2004)
The newly refurbished SAGE Crossroads site now includes a section on public policy. The major issues of the day are set forth and some commentary provided on how they relate to the monolithic workings of modern government in the US. Given the level of hostility towards healthy life extension and the tools of regenerative medicine displayed by the US government to date, I'm sure many people would be happy to see less policy making take place. You can learn more about making your voice heard in these matters here at the Longevity Meme and at the CAMR website.
More "Normal Aging" Identified as Disease (January 28 2004)
ScienceDaily reports on a newly identified neurodegenerative disease that has in the past been misdiagnosed as "normal aging." This is of interest in light of recent suggestions that all the symptoms of "normal aging" are in fact due to undiagnosed and as yet unclassified medical conditions. This may or may not be the case, but it's worth remembering that Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative conditions were an unidentified part of "normal aging" not all that long ago. If we insist that damage and degeneration are normal, then no funds will be allocated to research causes and cures. I think that we can do better than that.
Sorting the Wheat From the Chaff (January 27 2004)
As we often point out, most of the high profile billion dollar "anti-aging" industry is based on exaggeration, bad extrapolation and outright lies. It causes great harm to legitimate science, but how do we, the consumers, learn to separate out the wheat from the chaff? What is legitimate, and what is not? This article from the Edmonton Journal gives an overview of that issue, although the author does make the classic Tithonus error in assuming that a longer life is a more unhealthy life. The points to take away are, we thing, to be skeptical, and to read the Longevity Meme.
Extropy Institute February Summit (January 27 2004)
I have a soft spot for the Extropy Institute; the Longevity Meme probably would not exist if not for the time I spent on the Institute mailing lists, and Extropy Institute founder Max More has long been a proponent of healthy life extension. The Institute is currently gearing up to oppose anti-research groups in US society and politics, kicking off the process with a summit in February. The more people who stand up to tell Leon Kass that his positions are corrupt and wrong, the better in my book. Without more strong voices to support medical research, the damage to our future health and longevity due to government policies will continue.
Rats, Supplements, Healthy Life Extension (January 26 2004)
Supplements occupy something of a middle ground in the science-business rift over healthy life extension. On the one hand, the weight of evidence is that taking supplements will help you retain your good health for longer; on the other hand, supplements are aggressively marketed by some groups as anti-aging pills, complete with exaggerated claims. This article from the LEF News discusses recent studies on supplementation in rats, and is as good an example of straight talk about the science of supplements as you're going to find these days.
The Rift Between Science and Business (January 26 2004)
The Courier and Press prints an interesting overview of the deep rift between the world of science and the world of business - between anti-aging science and "anti-aging" marketing. As the article points out, "aging research has been slow to gain credibility, in part, because scientists have had to counter a history of charlatanism and profiteering that goes back centuries." The billion dollar "anti-aging" business is aggressive marketing of health products at one end, and outright fraud at the other...and all of it makes legitimate scientific research in the fight against aging that much harder.