LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
July 12 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.
- Ray Kurzweil To Discuss Radical Life Extension on NPR
- Uncertainty in the Future of Healthy Life Extension
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
RAY KURZWEIL TO DISCUSS RADICAL LIFE EXTENSION ON NPR
Futurist and healthy life extension advocate Ray Kurzweil will be speaking live on National Public Radio on Monday 12th July 8PM EST.
Kurzweil will be discussing what biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey calls "acturial escape velocity" and what I used to refer to as "beating the curve" - the plausible bootstrapping process in medical science that will enable those of us alive today to attain extremely long healthy life spans:
If a near future breakthrough in anti-aging science brings 20 years of additional healthy life for all, then that is an extra 20 years in which to attain even better therapies to combat the aging process. Each advance grants us more time in which to perfect even better therapies. Eventually, our healthy life spans would increase faster than we aged. Aubrey de Grey and many others believe that, with the right level of funding, we could see the first significant steps in this process within 10 or 20 years.
Kurzweil is also touting his forthcoming book, "Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever," co-authored with Terry Grossman (another advocate of healthy life extension, cryonics and related technologies). In it, these two futurists lay out their view of the future of anti-aging science and the path towards an ageless society. All in all, sounds like a program worth catching. You can read some of Grossman's earlier writing on cryonics at the Longevity Meme:
As a final aside, Ray Kurzweil is a generous supporter of the Methuselah Mouse Prize for anti-aging research, about which he has this to say:
"A radical upgrading of our body's physical and mental systems is already under way. We already know how to largely prevent most degenerative disease through nutrition and supplementation, aggressively applied. This knowledge is a bridge to the emerging biotechnology revolution, which in turn will be a bridge to the nanotechnology revolution. Ultimately, these developments will reverse aging and disease and enable humans to live indefinitely.
"By encouraging research and raising public awareness around longevity and life-extension, the Methuselah Mouse Prize will play a unique role in accelerating the pace of the biotechnology revolution and building a bridge that will ultimately lead us to radically redefine our concept of human mortality."
If you like what Ray Kurzweil has to say on air, give some thought to donating to the Methuselah Mouse Prize fund - it's a good investment for your future health and longevity.
UNCERTAINTY IN THE FUTURE OF HEALTHY LIFE EXTENSION
Far too many people in the transhumanist community believe that a future of greatly extended healthy life spans is inevitable, or that we will certainly see it happen within our life times. I disagree. It is not inevitable, and it is not certain. The future doesn't make itself: it requires human action.
As a species, we are capable of great feats of science and ingenuity, but we don't achieve all that is possible. In the last half of the 20th century, we could have irrigated the entire Sahara. We did not. We could have constructed lunar bases and floating settlements on the open ocean. We did not. I have no doubt that these things will come to pass, but those optimistic souls born in the Roaring 1920s won't live to see them.
When it comes to building the new medicine that will extend our lives, even the young amongst us don't have much time, measured against the grand scheme of things. It takes five years to build a business, ten years to bring a new therapy to market, a decade or two to fight over politics and healthcare. The years add up, and none of us are getting any younger.
As Gandhi said, "you must be the change you wish to see in the world." If you want to live a far longer, healthier life, then step up and do something to make that future a reality. Many hands can make light work, and there are many, many hands in the world these days:
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 On Mitochondria And Aging (July 11 2004)
You may recall that scientists in Sweden recently provided hard proof for the mitochondrial theory of aging: "These findings strongly support the idea that mutations in mitochondrial DNA can cause at least some features of aging." This long article from Science News Online gives a good account of this research, the underlying science, and where we should expect follow-on research to go from here. "The mice engineered by Larsson and his colleagues should invigorate research into the processes of aging." More scientists are now thinking about how to better classify the effects of mitochondrial mutations, prevent them, or prevent the resulting damage. Good!
Calorie Restriction At GNN (July 11 2004)
The Genome News Network is running a good article on calorie restriction (or CR), a diet and lifestyle choice that has been proven to have strongly beneficial effects on health, resistance to age-related disease, and healthy life span. The evidence for CR has been getting steadily more compelling over the past few years as the underlying genetics and biochemistry have been brought into focus. If you are serious about your health, you owe it to yourself to look into calorie restriction. A good place to start (aside from the introduction here at the Longevity Meme) is the website of the Calorie Restriction Society. You'll find friendly e-mail lists, recipies, books and much more.
AARP On Healthy Life Extension (July 10 2004)
The in-house health media at the AARP are starting to show an interest in healthy life extension, as well they might. This should be the number one topic for an organization dedicated to empowering older people. That it isn't shows that we still have a long way to go in educating the public. A quote: "I believe extraordinary longevity is absolutely inevitable. It's not a matter of if we'll have extraordinary longevity, but when." This article takes a look at some of the more notable issues at present, such as calorie restriction (and related science), the future of nanomedicine, and concerns about social security and retirement.
France Bans Therapeutic Cloning (July 10 2004)
CORDIS reports that the French government are allowing embryonic stem cell research but have banned therapeutic cloning. Since therapeutic cloning is vital to the most important stem cell work, French laboratories are effectively still barred from contributing meaningfully to much of the field of regenerative medicine. The legislative window permitting embryonic stem cell research is only five years in length, at the end of which it will likely be banned again. This sort of self-sabotaging legislation is not going to help accelerate medical progress towards longer, healthier lives. We'd all benefit greatly if politicians would just step aside.
Update On SIRT1, Resveratrol, Metabolism (July 09 2004)
ScienceDaily is covering the latest research results on the SIRT1 gene, thought to be part of the underlying mechanism by which calorie restriction extends life span. Resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, increases SIRT1 activity in the laboratory, and thus has segments of the anti-aging marketplace very excited. It remains to be seen whether that translates well to pill form: "It would be very premature to suggest that supplements of resveratrol would have any benefits, because this compound oxidizes very quickly and easily loses its metabolic effectiveness." This latest study shows that SIRT1 can "reduce the development of new fat cells and increase the metabolism or use of fat within existing fat cells."
More On BubR1 And Aging (July 09 2004)
Betterhumans has more on the BubR1 aging gene discovery, noting that it has been implicated in the development of some cancers. There is some skepticism as to whether BubR1 is involved in regulating the aging process, however. As Michael Rae points out, just because it looks like accelerated aging doesn't mean it is accelerated aging. To quote geneticist Michael Rose, "Until you show me that you can postpone aging, I don't know that you've done anything. A lot of people can kill things off sooner, by screwing around with various mechanisms, but to me that's like killing mice with hammers -- it doesn't show that hammers are related to aging." So more research is needed.
Cancer And Longevity (July 08 2004)
We know that cancer and the aging process are linked, as cancer is probably the end result of malfunctions in the normal telomere cell senescence mechanism. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop cancers - the body is a complex machine, and all machines wear out in time. ScienceDaily reports on a study confirming that most of our ancestors didn't live long enough (or smoke enough) to develop cancer. As Aubrey de Grey has pointed out, tackling cancer is both difficult and absolutely necessary to any serious effort to greatly extend the healthy human life span. Fortunately, a greal deal of funding, effort and public support is dedicated to beating cancer. Real progress is being made.
The Mainstream Looks At Healthy Life Extension (July 08 2004)
An article on aging from the Newhouse News Service illustrates how far ideas about healthy life extension have spread into the mainstream over the past couple of years. I really can't imagine seeing an article like this in a general interest publication in, say, 2000. It is an interesting mix of pro-death and positive healthy life extension attitudes, all centering around health and quality of life - which shows that the Tithonus error is alive and well. People instinctively associate the idea of longer lives with increasingly poor health. We must do more to explain that real anti-aging science aims to prove a longer healthy life span. It means being able to choose to live more of an active, fun, healthy life rather than suffer decades of decrepitude.
New Aging Gene Discovered (July 07 2004)
(From the LEF News). Researchers have discovered another regulatory gene (named BubR1) involved in the aging process. "Mutant mice with low amounts of BubR1 protein live five times shorter than normal mice. They also develop a variety of age-related disorders at a very young age. This prompted us to investigate whether BubR1 protein levels go down as normal mice age naturally -- which is indeed what we found ... we believe it is the decline of this protein with time that may trigger some of the physiological effects of ageing." I expect that scientists will find this protein is involved in biochemistry already known to be related to the aging process - such as mitochondrial functions, or telomere regulation.
Rapture Reviewed (July 07 2004)
George Dvorsky has reviewed Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion over at Betterhumans. This book has been on my recommendation list for a while, and is a fascinating look at the intersection of transhumanist groups and the biomedical community. "The book should be read by anyone interested in the biotech revolution, whether they support it or condemn it. At the very least, readers will have an increased appreciation of the people, science and culture behind transhumanism, radical life extension and issues of human enhancement, all of which are poised to shape tomorrow's world at least as much as religions shaped today's."
Adult Stem Cells Don't Work? (July 07 2004)
A very interesting study reported at EurekAlert suggests that adult stem cells are not directly responsible for regeneration in at least a few successful therapies trialed in past months and years. Instead, derived macrophage cells are fusing with local tissue to produce the observed benefits. The same benefits can be obtained by simply transplanting the macrophages instead of the adult stem cells; apparently a much easier procedure. Quoting the lead researcher, this "strongly argues against stem cell plasticity because you're not using stem cells at all" - meaning that the utility of adult stem cells and their ability to transform into other cell types is called into doubt in this case at least.
The Skinny On Calorie Restriction (July 06 2004)
Psychology Today is printing an interesting interview with Dean Pomerleau on calorie restriction (CR), focusing on some of the related psychology. I can't say that I agree with all of his more negative conclusions on the effects of CR (or the mindset required to practice it) based on my experiences, but it's certainly true that we all weave a tangled relationship with our diet in one way or another. As I noted at Fight Aging! over the past few days, there are a couple of calorie restriction blogs that give a good insight into the day to day practice of this lifestyle. Remember that CR doesn't have be extreme - moderate CR still provides some of the benefits.
Alzheimer's Linked To Mitochondrial Mutations (July 06 2004)
As noted at Wired, Alzheimer's has been linked to mutations in mitochondrial DNA: "They found variations of a particular mutation in 65 percent of the brains of Alzheimer's patients and none of the others. It could be that they impair energy production in the cells, increase the generation of free radicals that can damage cells, and destroy the connections between brain cells." While it's not clear whether this is a contributing cause or just an effect, mitochondrial mutations have been identified as a cause of aging. If Alzheimer's researchers start to look at repairing damaged mitochondria (a course of action proposed by biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey), I for one will not be complaining.
Exercise Helps Resist Age-Related Conditions (July 05 2004)
Just to keep hammering home the obvious, the Center for the Advancement of Health reports on a 12 year study of 3000 people aged 65 and over that shows moderate exercise is good for you in later life. In fact, exercise was shown to greatly reduce the risk of death over the course of the study - probably by reducing the likelihood of heart disease. If you aren't following a program of at least modest exercise, whatever your age, you are probably going to live a shorter, less healthy life. Talk to your physician about the benefits of exercise, and get started on helping yourself resist age-related conditions and early death!
Genetic Therapies For Neurodegenerative Disease (July 05 2004)
(From the New Scientist). The effectiveness of gene silencing as a therapy for certain kinds of neurodegenerative disorder has been demonstrated: mice with a condition similar to Huntington's disease were effectively cured. "This is the first example of targeted gene silencing of a disease gene in the brains of live animals. It suggests that this approach may eventually be useful for human therapies." This is early stage work and there is much to be done before this sort of technique can be tried in humans, but the fact that it works so well in mice means that we should be seeing more of gene silencing therapies in the years ahead.