LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
July 05 2004
The Longevity Meme Newsletter is a weekly 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 Transformation of Retirement
- The Curious Case of the Catatonic Biogerontologists
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
THE TRANSFORMATION OF RETIREMENT
How will society change when the aging process and all age-related degenerative conditions have been relegated to the status of chronic, treatable medical condition? The first major changes in the social order will involve retirement, healthcare and other social security schemes. As biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey said while reviewing Coping With Methuselah, "retirement benefits are for frail people, and there won't be any frail people."
The present day concept of retirement - enforced at a set age regardless of health and ability in many countries, something I think is a despicable practice - will evaporate. Indeed, it must evaporate or there will be economic chaos. Social security and retirement programs are in essence vast Ponzi schemes in which the (usually poorer) young pay for the (usually richer) old. As healthy life spans rise, these schemes will bankrupt governments and young taxpayers worldwide if not changed or removed ... but I think we'd all be better off for seeing the last of them. All services provided by government-backed retirement programs could be quite capably handled by planning ahead (very underrated in the present time!), insurance, family ties, investment, and standard banking.
I think we will see two forms of retirement in this future without aging. Firstly, there will be the extended vacation. A worker will finish a career with enough money saved to go on vacation for a few decades. That should be more than enough time to decide on a new direction in life.
Secondly, an ambitious worker could save enough wealth to remove the need for work - they could live on capital gains, return on investments, and all the normal methodologies of the well to do in the present day. Given enough time, even the lowliest of jobs could produce this sort of wealth, necessary for a permanent vacation.
This won't result in a world of perpetually vacationing people, however. If everyone were resting on their laurels, there would be no one to produce goods and provide services. So a dynamic equilibrium would arise between the vacationers and the working - too few workers and prices rise, so more vacationers return to work (out of necessity, or looking to make a killing in a hot market). If many people are working, prices fall, so more can afford to become long-term vacationers.
A future in which we have won the fight to cure aging will be one in which everyone who is prepared to work can be wealthy. This wealth will bring vastly greater choice and freedom. It would be a terrible shame if political concerns and simple human selfishness mess up, prolong, and cause unnecessary pain in the transition from the current state of affairs to a better tomorrow.
You can read more about this and other issues relating to finance and healthy life extension at Fight Aging!:
THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE CATATONIC BIOGERONTOLOGISTS
Aubrey de Grey doesn't pull any punches in this short article, new to the Longevity Meme:
"Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) is a detailed plan for curing human aging. It's detailed, thorough and firmly based on established experimental work in the various relevant areas of biology. So, you may well ask, where's the catch? Why, on all the many documentaries on aging that remain so popular, don't my colleagues come out and advocate the same work that I advocate?"
That is 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 it 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
More Progress On Blood Vessel Regeneration (July 04 2004)
ScienceDaily reports on progress towards managing and regenerating the endothelial cells that line blood vessels. The tissue engineering of blood vessels is vitally important in current efforts to culture large masses of tissue, such as replacement organs grown to order. This work will also have important implications for healing circulatory problems (such as those caused by diabetes) and repairing damage caused by heart disorders. Interestingly, "the progenitor cells that the researchers identified are adult type stem cells, but they proliferate much like embryonic stem cells, and they can be grown in large quantities in the laboratory."
Longevity And Retirement (July 04 2004)
Yahoo! News reports that Europe's state retirement and pension systems are just as broken as social security in the US: "Europeans must change radically the way they think about and plan for old age, a report warned, while forecasting that at current rates pension and healthcare systems could collapse in the next 50 years." The near future advent of real anti-aging medicine, and corresponding increases in healthy life span, means that the concept of an enforced retirement age (not a bright idea to start with) must go. Indeed, all the various social security and healthcare Ponzi schemes must be dismantled as we transition from an aging society to - eventually - an ageless society.
Interview With Robert A. Freitas Jr. (July 03 2004)
Nanotechnology News Network is publishing an interview with Robert Freitas, author of the Nanomedicine and a strong proponent of a nanotechnology-based cure for aging. "The techniques of biotechnology, including genomics and genetic engineering, might well be able to cure many, even most, causes of aging over the next couple of decades. However, nanorobotic medicine will almost certainly cure aging. If my colleagues and I can induce sufficient resources (both human and financial) to be directed toward the development of molecular nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing, a nanomedical cure for aging should be within reach in 20-30 years. Of course, if such resources are not made available, it will take longer."
Calorie Restriction In Singapore (July 03 2004)
The Strait Times is running a good article on calorie restriction and the recent Asia Pacific Anti-Ageing Conference and Exhibition. The article ends with these insightful comments: "These are early days yet but what caloric restriction shows is that ageing can be retarded. Yet, many in the science establishment look askance at such research, which suffers by association with the quacks who hawk the many putative elixirs of youth. So it remains unpopular and under-funded. But it is very important science and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research is to be commended for co-sponsoring the recent anti-ageing conference. Time to found and fund a Singapore Institute of Anti-ageing Medicine?"
Towards Therapies For Parkinson's (July 02 2004)
The BBC reports on progress towards therapies for Parkinson's disease using embryonic stem cells. This research on rats - using human cells as a treatment - is early stage work, and scientists are appropriately cautious: "We believe that these observations are encouraging, and set the stage for future development that may eventually allow the use of embryonic stem cells for the treatment of Parkinson's disease." Our understanding of stem cell biochemistry is increasing, and so this work is very crude compared to what should be possible in the years ahead. You can find more information on stem cell research and Parkinson's disease at InfoAging.
On The Front Line Of Stem Cell Research (July 02 2004)
This FortWayne.com article takes a long look at some the scientists working at the cutting edge of embryonic stem cell research. With the help of grants from private organizations like the American Diabetes Association, and avoiding Federal funding, they are attempting to find cures for age-related and other conditions - diabetes, paralysis, Parkinson's, and more. "The high hopes of researchers like Bendala and Tsoulfas are fueled by stem cells' remarkable ability to become any type of human cell or tissue [which] might someday allow scientists to grow entire organs in the lab."
TMA Endorses Stem Cell Research (July 01 2004)
The Texas Medical Association is the latest large group to endorse embryonic stem cell research, keeping up the pressure on US politicians. The Houston Chronicle quotes the TMA: "Stem cells have the potential to provide cures or treatment for many devastating diseases. Ethical considerations, which often arise when a field of research is new, should be evaluated as research proceeds." Stem cell medicine will be a vital part of efforts to extend the healthy human life span over the next 20 to 30 years. Regenerative medicine will make it possible to repair much of the damage to specific organs caused by the aging process and age-related conditions - if research is allowed to proceed now, that is. So make sure you have your say in the matter!
More Longevity Genetics (July 01 2004)
From ScienceDaily: "Imagine that by altering the function of a single gene, you could live longer, be thinner and have lower cholesterol and fat levels in your blood. Medical College of Georgia researchers are using a tiny worm called C. elegans to transform that vision into reality." This article looks at work on the "I'm not dead yet" (Indy) gene and its role on longevity. This is yet another gene that appears to have similar effects to calorie restriction: changes in metabolism, improved health and extended healthy life span. It's usually a long way from worms to people in the world of medicine, but the Indy gene does exist in humans. This is promising work in a field that is attracting a fair amount of attention these days.
Questions Of Funding And Balance (June 30 2004)
An interesting article at SAGE Crossroads examines public Alzheimer's funding in the context of the wider effort to understand - and eventually cure - aging. Is the sheer weight of Alzheimer's money flowing from the NIA distracting the scientific establishment from equally important research into the aging process? Or is the additional healthy life gained for many people through defeating Alzheimer's worth the extended detour? This seems to be another prevention versus cure argument, but there's a little more to it than that. Big science, we are reminded, is very much a human, political process: people with the same end goal in mind disagree over how to reach their target for both the best and worst of reasons.
Retirement And Healthy Life Extension (June 30 2004)
Glenn Reynolds ends his series of Tech Central Station articles on healthy life extension today with a look at retirement. "Logically, retirement should be put off until people are medically old, or perhaps just replaced with disability, and those who are able to work should do so, while those desirous of not working should save up as for a long vacation." He feels that increased longevity will provide a way out for societies locked into social security pyramid schemes. This is assuming rational behavior on the part of those in power and those voting themselves money from the public purse, however. Fixed retirement age is a fairly recent (and frankly pretty dumb) concept: the sooner it goes away, the better.
Update On California Stem Cell Ballot (June 29 2004)
Boston.com reports on the current state of play for the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, as well as on other major public and university funding efforts around the US. "As we dither and argue, we aren't making any progress, and people don't have the time to wait. It should be full steam ahead. This is hard work, and things are being hampered by this whole political snarl." The article notes that religious groups opposed to the California ballot measure have formed their own group to campaign on a platform of fiscal responsibility. I maintain that the real problem in the US is due to threatened bans on therapeutic cloning - uncertainty is scaring away serious private funding of stem cell research.
Singapore Anti-Aging Conference Over (June 29 2004)
This Straits Times article illustrates that the anti-aging medicine industry is hindering the healthy life extension cause at least as much as it is helping. While the science conference was attended by a reputable crowd of researchers, the exhibition contained items ranging from "face creams containing oxygen and vitamin A to rejuvenate skin, to home saunas that use infrared rays instead of steam to help people detoxify and lose weight." Far too much time and energy is spent on this sort of nonsense. People are misinformed and led astray by these "anti-aging" vendors - real anti-aging science lies in the future, but it will never happen in time if we remain focused on junk science and fraudulent marketing.
Reporting On Resveratrol (June 28 2004)
Betterhumans has published a long report on resveratrol, a compound that seems to cause some of the same gene expression effects as calorie restriction. The big question for any supplement is whether taking a pill gets the compound to where it does any good - and this is still up in the air for resveratrol. Another, higher level concern is whether we should be spending so much time and effort on anti-aging technologies that are not all that effective in the grand scale of things - there is much more important science to fund, after all. Resveratrol is probably going to be good for your health, but will not radically extend your maximum life span.
Receive Methuselah Mouse Merchandise (June 28 2004)
The Methuselah Mouse Prize is a contest designed to accelerate progress towards real longevity-enhancing medicine and promote public interest in research on healthy life extension. It is one of my favored charitable causes, and so I will be sending Methuselah Mouse goodies to all new donors to the prize fund over the next few weeks. The prize has accumulated more than $400,000 in cash and pledges since the launch in 2003, far outstripping the first year of public fundraising for the Ansari X Prize back in 1996. With your help I expect the Methuselah Mouse Prize to produce the same results for serious anti-aging science that the Ansari X Prize has for private manned space flight. So go ahead and donate!