Longevity Meme Newsletter, August 02 2004

August 02 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.



- Good Reading Over At Fight Aging!
- New Article: Bio-Luddite Nation
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


Take a few minutes to read some of the recent longer posts at Fight Aging! - as well as the good commentary by some of the regulars:

While meandering the web, as I often do on Sundays, I came across a promising article from Harry Moody, one of the many bioethics-oriented folks affiliated with the International Longevity Center. You might recall his appearance in a SAGE Crossroads debate over whether to define aging as a disease. It's interesting - and pleasing - to watch the conservative rump of gerontology start to come around as real anti-aging science becomes ever more plausible ...

I think it's a scandal that of every hundred bucks the National Institutes of Health devotes to funding scientific research, only six cents go to fundamental research on the biology of aging. Since it's the only method we now having for slowing all of these multiple diseases of aging, Alzheimer's very likely among them, I think that deserves far more attention that it's now getting. It's the best way to make progress in conquering most of the diseases of aging that afflict us as we get older ...

While it's on my mind, I should also mention that you can now buy Fight Aging! buttons and magnets from the Longevity Meme store. Wear them with pride! All proceeds go to the Methuselah Mouse Prize for anti-aging research.



The folks over at Betterhumans generously donated reprint rights to "Bio-Luddite Nation" to the Longevity Meme, and the revised version can now be found at our website:


In this article, George Dvorsky examines a theme that I have visited in the past: What are the most vocal opponents of healthy life extension research going to do next? They are clearly not happy with the present situation, and a large number of them are in positions of influence. If we sit back and give free reign to people like Leon Kass and Francis Fukuyama of the President's Council of Bioethics, then who knows what sort of restrictions on research, healthy and longevity will materialize in the years ahead. Leon Kass has stated numerous times that he would - if given the opportunity - ban therapies and research aimed at extending the healthy human life span:


We all play a part in the future of medical research through our support, debates, donations, votes and spending. We should make very sure that the likes of Kass never obtain enough power to carry out their threats, and that the freedom to develop working anti-aging therapies is not curtailed. Follow the link below to see a few ways in which you can help:



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


The Intricacies Of Physical Aging (August 01 2004)
Myrtle Beach Online has a good piece on aging research and the remaining mysteries of the aging process. After an overview of current progress and what we know about aging, it's quite clear that the underlying biochemistry is very complex. There is a long way to go yet, but researchers are optimistic: "Sinclair says that research on aging is 50 years ahead of where he expected it to be when he began his work a decade ago. There's even a feeling among scientists, he says, that a Nobel Prize may be awaiting someone who finally cracks the molecular code that controls aging." Bioinformatics has dramatically accelerated aging research, just as it has for all other fields of medicine - greater funding is needed.

Bio-Luddite Nation (August 01 2004)
The latest Longevity Meme article is up - George Dvorsky's "Bio-Luddite Nation," a revision and reprint generously donated by the folks over at Betterhumans. "As the prospect of radical extension of the healthy human life span becomes more real with each passing year, prominent bio-Luddites have gone on the offensive to convince immortal wannabes that death is where it's at. They speak in a flowery and comforting tone, proclaiming that death defines our species and endows our lives with meaning, purpose and social stability." This article serves as a reminder of the dangers posed to the future of medical research, healthy and longevity by people like Leon Kass.

Alzheimer's Versus Aging Research (July 31 2004)
The latest SAGE Crossroads webcast is a discussion on the relative merits of aiming at cures for specific diseases (such as Alzheimer's) versus aiming to understand - and ultimately prevent - the aging process that causes those diseases. This is a facet of the great and ongoing "prevention versus cure" debate in medicine - I'm sure we've all heard both sides by now. While we should certainly try to both prevent and cure, I believe that the balance in public and private research funding has tipped too far towards cures. The SAGE Crossroads debate is predominantly about public (US federal) research funding, and I comment further on the issues raised at Fight Aging!

More On GenAge (July 31 2004)
Betterhumans has more on GenAge, the database of aging-related genes, and the work of Joao Pedro de Magalhaes. The GenAge project is aimed at developing a holistic view of the genetics and biochemisty of human aging - understanding all the interactions, in other words. "Using GenAge, protein-protein interaction maps and data-mining algorithms, researchers have already shown an overlap between the genetics of aging and development, suggesting that aging could be an indirect of result of developmental pathways. De Magalhaes theorizes that some pathways may collaborate during development but become disrupted during aging."

Feinstein Petition For Stem Cell Research (July 30 2004)
SFGate reports that Senator Feinstein has launched an online petition drive in support of Federal funding and less restrictive legislation for embryonic stem cell research. Feinstein said, "An overwhelming majority of Americans support embryonic stem cell research, and it is time that the White House take note of their concerns." If you are active in support of stem cell research, then take a look. More patient advocate groups are charging into the political arena these days, and they are not treading lightly: "We consider ourselves the leaders in human embryonic stem cell research and we want to be everywhere it is."

New Thinking On Age (July 30 2004)
This piece from the Stanford Magazine demonstrates that mainstream thinking about age, retirement, social security schemes and healthy life extension is starting to move in the right direction. This author says "Eventually, we will figure out how to make people much healthier for much longer. I want to change the conversation. Right now, the conversation is about coping, and it should be about opportunity. We should think about [the gains in life expectancy] as a gift. How are we going to use it?" Biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey makes the case that "eventually" can - with public support and better funding - be within twenty years. Serious anti-aging research is a serious near future prospect.

GenAge Making Progress (July 29 2004)
Joao Pedro de Magalhaes (who has an article here at the Longevity Meme) is making progress with the GenAge database of aging-related genes. "Scientists have rendered the first gene and protein networks of human aging, an important step in understanding the genetic mechanisms of aging. The work involved the integration of all genes, in both humans and animal models, previously shown to influence aging. By using a combination of bibliographic information and modern high-throughput genomics, employing software developed by the team, each gene was placed in the context of human biology." This is important groundwork for future studies into the complex mechanisms of aging.

Make Mine Malthus! (July 29 2004)
Ronald Bailey, writing at Reason Online, reminds us that Malthusianism (views based on the ill-founded pessimism of Thomas Malthus regarding population growth and the use and availability of resources) never seems to go away, no matter how often it is comprehensively debunked. This is important to the healthy life extension movement, as overpopulation and Malthusian arguments are often used to justify allowing aging and death to continue to claim tens of millions of lives each year. Malthusian ideas are simply wrong - resources are never limited. Human ingenuity constantly leads us to new resources and new and better ways of using old ones.

Biotechnology In Singapore (July 28 2004)
Wired reports on the success of efforts to build a biotechnology research industry in Singapore: "[Allan Coleman] hopes to create insulin-producing stem cells, which he'll use to treat diabetics, freeing tens of millions of people from a lifetime of needles and glucose monitoring. Before Colman came to Singapore in 2002, his plan was just a lofty goal in need of funding. Then Singapore dangled a $6 million grant if he'd agree to relocate." The Singapore government is investing more that $2 billion in areas such as therapeutic cloning, cancer research, bioinformatics and so forth - much of it in fields that will help to extend the healthy human life span.

The Hindu On Longevity (July 28 2004)
Healthy human longevity - and how to greatly increase it - is of worldwide interest. Here is an article from The Hindu that touches on topics ranging from the work of biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey to regenerative medicine, the history of longevity and relationships between reproduction and life span. A quote: "The analogy Dr. de Grey has for the human body is that of any machine like a motorcar. His diagnosis and prescription is thus one of bioengineering the body." Continuing growth in public support for serious attempts to engineer an end to aging is vital if we are to see - and benefit from - more funding for healthy life extension research in the future.

The Complexities Of Fat (July 27 2004)
This article from STLtoday takes a look at the biochemistry of fat cells and how fat influences the body and brain. Too much fat in your body is a recipe for risk. Being overweight greatly raises your chances of developing almost all common (and crippling) age-related conditions as you get older - diabetes, Alzheimer's, heart disease and many others have all been linked to excess weight. Some of the known benefits of a calorie restriction diet - resistance to age-related disease and extended healthy life spans - may derive from the fact that practitioners tend to have little body fat. It's certainly worth a closer look if you are interested in improving your long term health and longevity.

UN Ban On Therapeutic Cloning Likely? (July 27 2004)
The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research reprints a gloomy look at the state of research politics around the world as country after country moves towards criminalizing therapeutic cloning. Therapeutic cloning is vital to the most promising branches of stem cell based regenerative medicine. Regenerative therapies have been demonstrated (in trials or the laboratory) to heal broken bones, bad burns, blindness, deafness, heart disease, diabetes, nerve damage, Parkinson's and other conditions. Work continues to bring these advances to patients, but will come to an abrupt halt if the United Nations bans therapeutic cloning.

Money, Healthy Longevity And Retirement (July 26 2004)
The Straits Times is running an article about increasing healthy life spans and financial planning for retirement. We should all be thinking about such things, but this piece only covers half of the topic. Increased healthy life spans will transform retirement into a temporary destination. When saving for the future, we should be thinking about how much we expect to spend on therapies that greatly extend our healthy life spans rather than on the winding down of our lives. Our vision of the future is undergoing enormous change, and it will certainly be very different - and far better! - than that of our grandparents. So be prepared, be sensible, and invest wisely.

Stem Cell Transfer During Pregnancy (July 26 2004)
A post from FuturePundit examines the transfer of embryonic stem cells from fetus to mother during pregnancy. Recent intriguing research has shown that stem cells from the growing fetus are effectively performing stem cell therapy on the mother's body. More research is needed, but as Randall Parker notes, "confirmation of this result poses what seems to me an ethical problem for the religious opponents of embryonic stem cell research. If developing embryos [are effectively] doing cell therapy to mothers then this natural process is doing something that at least some [embryonic stem cell] therapy opponents consider to be morally repugnant."



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