Longevity Meme Newsletter, July 26 2004

July 26 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.



- Are You Sensible About Supplements?
- Push The Methuselah Mouse Prize to $500,000
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


Resveratrol has been in the news recently. It is a supplement found in red wine that triggers some of the same beneficial effects on health and longevity as calorie restriction in animal studies:


Does this mean that you should run out and start ordering resveratrol? No, not unless you can afford to throw away that money. Taking resveratrol supplements now is a bet - you are betting that this substance, quick to decay and difficult to keep potent even in laboratories, will still be useful and viable in pill form. The history of the supplement industry shows this to be a bad bet; you are almost certainly going to lose. Many substances backed by wonderful scientific studies have turned out to have little or no effect - for one reason or another - when taken as supplements.

I agree that resveratrol is a step forward for the world of supplements - the discovery certainly demonstrates the power and utility of modern bioinformatics. I plan to take it myself, but only after a vendor steps forward to demonstrate that their resveratrol pills are as effective in studies as laboratory preparations.

Here is one other thing to bear in mind: rather than chasing supplements that may add a few healthy years to our lives, shouldn't we be calling for faster progress towards a cure for aging? The future of anti-aging science is stem cells, regenerative medicine, cancer cures, genetic engineering, Alzheimer's therapies, and wet nanotechnology. The future is not a pill.



The Methuselah Mouse Prize is, as I am sure you are all aware by now, an important initiative launched in 2003 by Dave Gobel and biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey to invigorate serious scientific research into a cure for aging. No one is getting any younger yet: our future health and longevity depends on this field of medicine gaining greater funding and publicity.


The Methuselah Mouse Prize has two components, Postponement and Reversal. The Postponement Prize is awarded for producing the world's oldest mouse, while the Reversal Prize rewards the best medical interventions that extend the healthy life span of mice that are already old. The reasoning for the separate prize components is explained in the following Fight Aging! post:


Since the formal launch of the Postponement Prize last year - with an honorary award to Andrzej Bartke for his record-breaking mouse GHR-KO 11C - the Methuselah Mouse Prize has raised more than $400,000 in cash and pledges. The Reversal Prize will be formally launched in November of this year, and we'd all like to see the prize fund hit the magic $500,000 in pledges before that time. That figure will mean additional articles in the press, and more opportunities to explain the Prize, serious anti-aging research, and healthy life extension to a much wider audience.

As I've been saying for a while, the scientific side of progress towards a cure for aging and age-related degenerative diseases is sure-footed. The road ahead is clear and the hard work that must be done is well understood. It is public support, understanding and education that is lacking. For two views on the science, you might want to read these pages:


So help out! The Methuselah Mouse Prize is the best modern effort aimed at breaking the deadlock on serious anti-aging research. Like the Ansari X Prize for suborbital flight, it will invigorate and build an entire industry - your donations are a worthwhile investment in the future of your own health and longevity.

All that is needed to raise the current pledge totals to $500,000 is for a few people to step forward and join the ranks of The Three Hundred:


Think about it!


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



Toronto Prepares For TransVision 2004 (July 25 2004)
The Toronto Star takes a look at transhumanism as the August TransVision 2004 conference grows near. Biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey, anti-aging science and healthy life extension get good mentions in the article: "[to defeat aging] scientists would have to find a way for the body to manufacture more new cells, delete old harmful cells, stop deadly mutations in the cell nucleus and the energy-generating mitochondria, and clear out the waste materials that gradually accumulate in the body over time. De Grey's first step to longevity is building a better mouse, that is one whose normal three-year lifespan can be extended to five years. And, he says, the main stumbling block is not public qualms but lack of funds."

Gerontology Versus The Anti-Aging Marketplace (July 25 2004)
From the San Diego Union-Tribune, a long article examining the conflict between the gerontology establishment and the anti-aging marketplace. At this time, there is no proven way to extend the maximum healthy human life span - and calorie restriction is the only current potential option with sound scientific backing. Unfortunately, a lot of light, noise and (sometimes fraudulent) fervor are directed towards promoting old school supplements and hormones that simply don't work as advertised. Real anti-aging medicine - that greatly extends our maximum life spans as well as our healthy life spans - is still in our future, and it won't be in a pill.

Japan Moves Slowly Towards Therapeutic Cloning (July 24 2004)
The Japan Times reports on the latest step in the slow and drawn out process of allowing therapeutic cloning for regenerative medicine research in that country. The Council for Science and Technology Policy has issued their recommendation, based on lengthy committee deliberations, to allow heavily regulated research to proceed. Now the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry will draw up guidelines. There is no timeline for this process, and therapeutic cloning - essential to the most promising stem cell research - remains illegal in Japan until it is completed.

More On Resveratrol (July 24 2004)
Wine Spectator is reporting on recent research demonstrating that resveratrol - a compound found in red wine and linked to the biochemical and genetic mechanisms of calorie restriction - extends life span in flies and worms when added to their diet. My concerns about the current resveratrol supplements still stand: resveratrol (like most supplement compounds) decays quickly and easily, and so we need to show that the pill form also works before getting too excited. You may recall that Betterhumans ran a long article on resveratrol not so long ago, and mentioned this and other cautions. Finally, from a long term perspective, we should spend less time chasing supplements and more time supporting research into a real cure for aging.

Push The Prize To $500,000! (July 23 2004)
The Methuselah Foundation has raised over $400,000 in pledges and donations in under a year through The Three Hundred Initiative and the generosity of early donors. These funds grow the Methuselah Mouse Prize that is building public support and encourage competition in serious anti-aging research. These are vital steps on the road to much longer, much healthier human lives. The formal launch of the Reversal Prize is in November 2004, and we need your help to reach the magic $500,000 mark in pledges by that time. All it will take is a few more people to join The Three Hundred. This is an amazing opportunity - for just a few dollars a day, you can help to defeat aging in your lifetime!

Investing In Stem Cell Science (July 23 2004)
Wired notes that restrictive legislation, politics and controversy have scared away venture capital from investing in stem cell research. Private for-profit investors are notoriously risk-averse, and the present polical environment makes stem cell investment look like a very risky bet. "But while they may not be investing in the companies themselves, venture capitalists haven't completely abandoned stem-cell work. Instead, they're contributing through efforts like the California Stem Cell Initiative. If the initiative passes in November, the political climate for embryonic stem-cell research will likely be more agreeable, at least in California."

Cancer Vaccine Progress (July 22 2004)
Vaccines are a hot topic in cancer research these days, and the BBC reports on promising results from Australian. Cancer vaccines work by convincing the immune system to attack cancerous cells. The results are good: "According to the doctors, 14 of the 19 patients were cancer-free two years after their treatment started." One the researchers says that the work shows "it is possible to stimulate an integrated immune response that has the potential to attack cancer from a number of different angles. [These results give] us enormous confidence that we are heading in the right direction to develop a clinically effective therapy."

HGSI Founder Backs New Scripps Institute (July 22 2004)
The Sun-Sentinel notes that William Haseltine, founder of Human Genome Sciences, is backing the proposed Florida Scripps Research Institute. "Haseltine, who has founded seven biotech companies, said he is interested in focusing on regenerative medicine, restoring any part of the body that's diseased or injured to normal body functions." Haseltine is an advocate of serious anti-aging research - and an early donor to the Methuselah Mouse Prize - so it should be interesting to see what he will work on in the years ahead. A faster path to working regenerative medicine is an important step in the process of bootstrapping our way to far longer, healthier lives.

Commenting On The US Stem Cell Bank (July 21 2004)
(From BioMed Central). The proposed US stem cell bank is widely viewed as a distraction from the real consequences of current anti-research US policy. The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research states: "The White House has found itself painted into a corner by its embrace of this severely restrictive policy. They're looking for a way to look better." This bank will not add any new stem cell lines eligable for Federal funding, and nor will it do anything about threats to therapeutic cloning that scare away private funding. Chris Mooney has a few words to say on this topic, and Doug Melton points out that "what's really needed is free and open access to all human embryonic stem cell lines and their general distribution."

Brazil To Ban Stem Cell Research (July 21 2004)
The Technology Review reports that Brazilian politicians, bowing to pressure from religious groups, will most likely ban all stem cell research in that country. Research into stem cell based regenerative medicine is a vital part of progress towards curing nearly all of the most common age-related diseases. Successful theraputic trials have been held for heart disease in humans, and Parkinson's has been cured in mice, for example. More than 100,000 people die worldwide every day due to these and other conditions - are we going to let politicians stand in the way of cures, or are we going to speak out and do something about it?

Live Well, Resist Alzheimer's (July 20 2004)
By way of a reminder, Medical News Today points out that staying thin, exercising and eating a good diet help to lower the risk of Alzheimer's - as well as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other age-related conditions. Many people seem to believe that the medicine of the future will rescue them from the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle. This may or may not be true. It may or may not cost more than you can afford. The right therapies might turn up ten years too late. Why take the risk? If you want to be alive, active and in good health to benefit from the future of real anti-aging medicine, take better care of your health now.

Is Demography Destiny? (July 20 2004)
SAGE Crossroads contributes to the debate over public policy, social security systems and longer, healthier lives in a recent webcast. The Ponzi-style wealth transfer schemes currently used in Western nations must change in response to lengthening life spans. These schemes are bad enough as it is, but will lead to economic chaos if left unchanged. In a world in which the old are just as healthy, active, and capable as the young, social security programs are just not needed. As biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey says, "retirement benefits are for frail people, and there won't be any frail people" - provided we ensure that serious anti-aging research is adequately funded and supported, that is.

Ageless Animals (July 19 2004)
It has been apparent for some time that certain species of animal have extremely high maximum life spans. Researchers have been looking into this, but - as for most areas in aging research - there is comparatively little funding for these sorts of studies. The Ageless Animals website presents some of the more interesting scientific work on animals that appear to age very slowly. It makes for interesting reading. While this research may or may not uncover information of use to healthy life extension in humans and other mammals, it demonstrates that complex organisms - like humans - can live healthily for longer than the present day maximum human life span.

Stem Cell Advocates Must Speak Up (July 19 2004)
A good point from Boston.com: "Those of us who support stem cell research -- including the scientists doing the most important work -- have been far too quiet. This, despite the fact that just about all of us know someone who has suffered from diabetes, Alzheimer's, paralysis, or Parkinson's -- just a few of the conditions that stem cell researchers are trying to address." Uncertainty and threatened legislation are still scaring away much-needed private funding. Politicians must step aside to allow the most promising research into regenerative medicine to proceed, but they won't do it without pressure. As this article points out, "it's not enough to let celebrities like Ron Reagan Jr. and Christopher Reeve do all the talking."



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