Longevity Meme Newsletter, August 09 2004

August 09 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.



- First Reports From TransVision 2004
- Read Up on Serious Anti-Aging Science Weekend
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


People are currently heading home from TransVision 2004, the modestly sized transhumanist convention held - this year - in Toronto:


You can find out more about the philosophy of transhumanism and its current and historical relevance to healthy life extension at the following location:


George Dvorsky, one of the convention organizers, posted to his blog last Thursday as things were getting underway, but has apparently been swept up since then:


"Oh, BIG news: Yesterday I was contacted by the CBC's Marc de Guerre. He's going to do a documentary about the conference. And he wants to focus on me as the contextual 'anchor' for the piece, which means I'll have a camera crew following me throughout the duration of the conference. That should be quite the experience. They'll follow up with a formal interview in a couple of weeks. For me personally, this is a huge victory unto itself after a year's worth of work.

"I'm physically exhausted and the conference hasn't even really started yet. I've been basically going non-stop with preparations since last Friday -- one week solid. But I'm in good spirits, enthusiastic, and living off of the excitement of the event.

"I may not be able to blog until the conference is over, but I'll have a lot to say next week."

Bruce Klein was also to have a camera crew in attendance for a documentary project carried out under the umbrella of the Immortality Institute, so the ratio of cameras to attendees was probably quite high. Kevin Perrott, who graciously assisted me by handing out "Fight Aging!" badges to attendees, tells me that biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey's presentation on serious anti-aging research went over well:

"Aubrey's talk was, of course, easily one of the best. It was very well received and he was awarded the annual 'HG Wells' award as the person who contributed the most to the transhuman 'cause' in 2004."

Greatly extending the healthy human life span has always been a central goal for transhumanist groups and advocates. The community tends to show strong support for scientists who make or encourage progress in this field. Many of the early donors to the Methuselah Mouse Prize for anti-aging research (co-founded by Aubrey de Grey) are transhumanists, for example.


I'll post more TransVision 2004 reports at the Longevity Meme and Fight Aging! as they are published. We can expect an article or two from journalist Ronald Bailey of Reason Online to follow up on his presentation at the conference.



On an admittedly ad-hoc basis, I declared this past weekend to be "Read Up On Serious Anti-Aging Science Weekend." Far too many people have formed their opinions on medical research, legislation, extending healthy longevity and the prospects for the future without having looked at what reputable, forward-looking scientists have to say on the matter. Far too many people have not looked beyond the limited, old school world of pills and supplements. Far too many people have not seen that all objections to greatly extending the healthy human life span have been debunked for decades.

At the locations below you will find some pointers and a short introduction to serious anti-aging science and the work on regenerative medicine and nanomedicine that will lead us to longer, healthier lives:


Don't be uninformed! If you would like to introduce your friends to the concept of healthy life extension, now is as good a time as any. Send them over and let them see for themselves just how close we could be to extending our healthy life spans.


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



California GOP To Oppose Proposition 71 (August 08 2004)
Newsday.com reports that the California Republicans have voted to oppose Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative that aims to provide $3 billion for regulated embryonic stem cell research in that state over the next ten years. The GOP opposes therapeutic cloning in medical research and the expansion of the state budget (or at least, to be realistic about these things, expansion of the budget for a purpose they object to). There are supporters of stem cell research within the California GOP, but they did not prevail at the three day state convention. We shall see what all this means for the field of regenerative medicine come November.

Wrong Focus For Stem Cell Politics (August 08 2004)
(From the BBC). The Kerry camp in the US presidential election is following the lead of various advocacy groups in marking the third anniversary of restrictions placed on federal funding of stem cell research by the current administration. This is absolutely the wrong focus - these restrictions have been nowhere near as damaging to progress as ongoing efforts to ban therapeutic cloning and restrictions imposed at the state level. Private sources account for approximately two thirds of all medical research, and these funds have been scared away by uncertainty over bans on vital technology over the past few years. One rule of politics seems to be that debates drift away from reality and fact as they grow - very unfortunate.

Read Up On SENS! (August 07 2004)
What does real anti-aging science look like? What are the plausible aims and areas of research? How much do we know about the aging process, what can we reasonably extrapolate from this, and what is the best way forward to find a cure for aging? If you have not yet read the material provided by biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) website, then now is the time to do so. Aimed at a wide audience, the site explains why a cure for aging is plausible and how - with sufficient funding - we could attain it within a few decades. You should certainly also take some time to read about Joao Pedro de Magalhaes' work on aging and genetics at senescence.info.

CAMR To Mark Legislative Anniversary (August 07 2004)
On Monday August 9th, the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research will mark the third anniversary of restrictions on Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. "In letters to be sent on Aug. 9 to every candidate seeking federal elected office, CAMR will ask if they agree with Nancy Reagan that President Bush should lift the current restrictions on federal funding of stem cell research and instead allow full funding of all embryonic stem cell research done on left-over donated fertilized eggs, which would otherwise be destroyed." My feeling is that the issue of Federal funding is secondary to the ongoing threat to criminalize therapeutic cloning - a vital technology for stem cell research - since this scares away private funding.

Nano-Bio Convergence (August 06 2004)
Small Times examines the ongoing convergence of nanotechnology and biology - the wellspring of future nanomedicine and resulting healthy life extension. Hot topics today center around reprogramming existing cellular mechnanisms to do new and useful things: Regenerative medicine based on stem cell research is an early step forward in this process. "The better we get at hijacking, and even designing, biological systems, the broader the impact of the nano-bio convergence." The groundwork of today will make possible the medical nanorobots of tomorrow, tools that could be used to greatly extend the healthy human life span. As they say, "Biology is the nanotechnology that works."

More On CR Mimetics (August 06 2004)
Science Blog talks about resveratrol in the context of calorie restriction, extended longevity, and the underlying biochemistry of it all. There are definite signs of complexities that researchers don't yet understand: "Sirtuins don't extend life when coupled with real caloric restriction. In fact, when flies on a low-calorie diet ate resveratrol and fisetin, they didn't live any longer than average flies. Another surprising discovery was the fact that flies feasting on sirtuins didn't have problems reproducing -- a negative side effect of caloric restriction." More research is needed - and perhaps a more ambitious research direction. We're still spending far too much time on old school methods that just don't measure up to what is possible.

Calorie Restriction Mimetics (August 05 2004)
A Scarabee article discusses recent history in the search for calorie restriction mimetics - drugs that will replicate at least some of the beneficial effects of calorie restriction on health and longevity without the need to reduce calorie intake. The relationship between metabolism, food intake, controlling genes and proteins is a complex one. As scientists understand our basic biochemistry, we can expect to see new and better preventative health strategies emerge. I am of the opinion that the real anti-aging technologies of the future are not going to be found in pills, but calorie restriction mimetics are driving important research into aging.

CSM On Healthy Life Extension (August 05 2004)
The Christian Science Monitor is running a piece on healthy life extension, the anti-aging marketplace and more serious science. There is some interest in the psychology that is pushing interest in extending healthy life spans: "They were raised in the post-World War II era of a booming economy, grew up watching the wonders of science fiction, and were told they lived in a world where everything was going to be possible. And then they're faced with death. That makes them angry." Most of those quoted are pessimistic on developing working anti-aging therapies - this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even progress in regenerative medicine, cancer and Alzheimer's research could together significantly extend healthy life spans.

Ronald Bailey At TV2004 (August 04 2004)
Journalist Ronald Bailey will be speaking at TransVision 2004 later this week, alongside many other luminaries. A shorter version of his remarks is at Reason Online, touching on longevity, serious attempts to extend the healthy human life span, and the bioethicists who oppose these projects. "Biomedical researchers understand more with each passing year about the processes that cause the increasing physical and mental debilities that we define as aging. Aging is no more or less 'natural' than cholera, smallpox, diabetes, arteriosclerosis, or any disease that cuts short human lives." Ronald Bailey has a talent for highlighting the ridiculous, unethical nature of opposition to healthy life extension - it is well worth reading.

InfoAging On Anti-Aging Medicine (August 04 2004)
InfoAging presents a carefully conservative take on aging and longevity research. Given this, it is interesting to see the way in which this organization presents the ongoing dispute between mainstream gerontologists and factions in the anti-aging marketplace: the focus in their eyes is very much on calls for increased aging research funding from some of the most conservative gerontologists. To quote Leonard Hayflick (who believes - in contrast to folks like Aubrey de Grey - that aging cannot be cured): "Most physicians believe that the greatest risk factor for age-associated disease is the fundamental aging process. Yet research on this - the greatest risk factor for all of the leading causes of death - is virtually ignored."

Nanomedical Research Underway (August 03 2004)
CORDIS provides an example of modern research into nanomedicine in the public sector: "A new EU-funded Integrated Project, with a total budget of 26 million euro has become the largest ever project to deal with nanotechnologies. It seeks to develop a new generation of nano-biotechnological devices with therapeutic applications in the field of tissue engineering." You can find more technical details at the CellPROM website - it's fascinating, advanced, forward-looking stuff. These are the sorts of fundamental technological capabilities required for progress towards greatly extending the healthy human life span through nanomedicine.

Meanwhile, On The Front Lines... (August 03 2004)
The business world and private research community is forging ahead in the broad field of regenerative medicine, based both on stem cell research and other technologies. This press release and others like it show that at least some venture capital is flowing - the potential revenue that will result form from cures for diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other age-related conditions are too large to pass up, even in this currently hostile legislative environment. "It is very exciting to bring this work to a region that is already leading the way in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. We want to build on Pittsburgh's reputation as a global leader in these areas, ultimately saving lives."

A Critical Eye On Elixir (August 02 2004)
Boston.com casts a critical eye on Elixir Pharmaceuticals and its progress towards stability and real anti-aging drugs. Elixir is suffering some of the growing pains of any younger medical research company, and is apparently refocusing to reach a reliable revenue stream more quickly. "In a sense, every company must at some point surrender some of its promise as it moves toward a real product. But for Elixir, a company founded to continue the centuries-long quest for an antidote to aging, that transition has been much more pronounced." According the the article, Elixir will license one of the new calorie restriction mimetics in order to come closer to profitability.

Genetics Of Metabolism And Longevity (August 02 2004)
ScienceBlog reports on efforts to create genetic tweaks to prevent obesity. In this study, mice with ramped up metabolisms that burn fat at a higher rate not only stay thinner, but also live longer: "despite their svelte appearance, beta/beta mice actually eat more food and are no more active than their genetically normal littermates ... the white adipose tissue, which is normally reserved for fat storage, had actually been converted into fat burning cells in beta/beta mice." You may recall that scientists recently overturned the common wisdom on metabolism and longevity - mice with more active metabolisms have been shown to live longer, possibly due to a lower rate of free radical creation.



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