Longevity Meme Newsletter, August 30 2004

August 30 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.



- Last Call For Promotional Methuselah Mouse Gear!
- Exercise Is Good For You
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


I will soon be wrapping up my current promotion for the Methuselah Mouse Prize for anti-aging research. If you would like to slip in before the deadline and make off with a Methuselah Mouse t-shirt, mug or bumper sticker, all you have to do is donate to the prize fund:


Your dollars will help to inspire researchers who are working towards healthy life extension medicine.

If you've been keeping up with the news of late, you'll notice that research prizes are very much in vogue again - although they have always had a very positive influence on scientific progress. Those of you who are new to the concept (or to the Methuselah Mouse Prize) should take a look at the article on research prizes at the Longevity Meme:


"Historically, prizes have inspired somewhere between 15 to 50 times as much investment as is in the purse - a very good deal if you are a philanthropist looking to get the biggest bang for your buck."


Just in case there was any lingering doubt anywhere regarding the broad health benefits of moderate exercise:


"Health benefits" is probably the wrong way of looking at it, however - it's more a case of not unnecessarily damaging yourself. Many critical functions in the body degenerate if they are not used regularly, and this degeneration is very bad for your long-term health and life span.

Since you are reading this newsletter, I think I can safely assume you have some interest in living a longer, healthier life. While it is true that there is little we can do now to extend - and nothing we can do now to greatly extend - our maximum healthy life spans, there is a very good chance that the next few decades will bring an amazing revolution in regenerative medicine, aging research and potential longevity:


Most of us are fortunate enough to have a great deal of control over our health and health risks. Take advantage of this fact, and give yourself the best possible chance of profiting from the future of medical science.


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



Secrets Of Bear Biochemistry (August 29 2004)
A News-Gazette article hints at some of the research attempting to unravel the peculiarities of bear biochemistry. "They're amazing animals with many possibilities for research that could benefit humans. Bears are the only animals that can go without food and grow. I think they'll have an answer to the aging process." The focus here is on osteoporosis - age-related bone loss - as "sufferers could benefit from a characteristic of ursine chemistry ... that inhibits dissolving of fibroblasts which build bones." Aging and related processes in the body are far from uniform across the animal kingdom - there are even animals that age too slowly for researchers to make a good estimate of life span.

Retirement Is Already Broken (August 29 2004)
An article at the New York Times demonstrates the current model of retirement to be broken. In a world of lengthening healthy life spans, static retirement ages would cause economic hardship. Attitudes towards older workers (and old age in general) will have to change. This article is a prime example: it assumes that older folk are dependants of the state, incapable of looking after their own interests, work is something that people are forced to do, retirement is a right, and longer life spans are a bad thing. Fortunately, employers and employees are far more pragmatic than writers at the NYT. The culture of entitlement and government meddling will only interfere in progress towards a society of greater and productive longevity.

Exercise For The Brain Is Also Good (August 28 2004)
Since we're on the subject of exercise and natural longevity today, it seems worth reminding everyone that "use it or lose it" applies just as much to the brain as the body. If anything, keeping your brain in good shape is way and far more important than looking after your body: medical technologies to repair the aging brain are likely to lag behind other regenerative medicine. The human brain is a very complex piece of equipment, and consequently presents a greater challenge for researchers. While cures for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's seem likely in the decades ahead, that still leaves an array of fearsome age-related degenerative brain conditions, both known and unknown. You only have the one brain - so take care of it.

Exercise Is Good (August 28 2004)
Research shows - overwhelmingly shows - that not exercising will reduce your healthy life span and raise the risk of suffering all of the most common age-related conditions. "Many of the chronic health conditions we experience as we age come from disuse rather than aging, and exercise can retard the onset of many of those conditions." We are living at the end of an era: real, effective therapies for aging could be as little as a few decades away. Regenerative medicine for age-related damage will help us to get there, starting in a decade or so. It would be a shame to miss the boat because you didn't take a little time and effort to stay in shape now. It's not rocket science, nor is it costly. So get to it!

Sirtuin Research Gets Private Funding (August 27 2004)
Yahoo! News notes that Sirtris Pharmaceuticals - a company founded by David Sinclair to investigate the biochemical processes associated with calorie restriction - has received seed funding from venture firms. Sirtris will focus on the class of enzymes called sirtuins, involved in the regulation of metabolism and aging. "Recently scientists found that the life-extending benefits of calorie restriction do not occur if the animal has been genetically altered to lack sirtuins, indicating these enzymes are crucial to this process." It is good to see more money entering this field of research - Sirtris joins other companies like Elixir and BioMarker in the search for healthy life extension drugs based on calorie restriction.

The Reliability Theory Of Aging (August 27 2004)
Betterhumans is giving deserved attention to the work of Leonid Gavrilov and Natalia Gavrilova. They have extended reliability theory - developed for use with complex electronic machines in the 1950s - into the realm of the human body and life span: "We are like machines made up of redundant components, many of which are defective right from the start." Machine failure rates and human death rates are very similar in form - which should not be too surprising. Reliability theory predicts no fixed upper limit to life span: "Even small improvements to the processes of early human development - ones that increase the numbers of initially functional elements - could result in ... a significant extension of human life."

Where Engineering Meets Biology (August 26 2004)
(From KnightRidder). At the boundary of engineering and medicine, there is a thriving industry engaged in extending healthy life span by building replacement parts for worn organs. In the long run, engineering and biology will merge - into regenerative medicine, tissue engineering and ultimately "wet" nanotechnology. In the meanwhile, we are in the era of artificial hearts, replacement joints, and early stage controlled growth of tissue. We should expect impressive improvements in this field in the years ahead - assuming that regulatory roadblocks are kept to a minimum. "The federal government, research universities, foundations and private companies are betting big bucks on bioengineering."

The Molecular Basis Of Regeneration (August 26 2004)
A piece at PLoS Biology takes an educational look at the most basic basics of regenerative medicine - the cellular biochemistry that makes it all possible. "The regeneration of lost body parts and injured organs has captured the human imagination since the time of the ancient Greeks ... During the nineteenth century and for most of the twentieth century, regeneration research primarily focused on the phenomenology of regeneration and its cellular basis ... The public has recently exhibited a renewed interest in regeneration research, due in large part to stem cell research, which has provided promising avenues for the field of regenerative medicine." Regenerative medicine will have a large positive influence on quality and length of life in the decades ahead.

SAGE Crossroads On Growth Hormones (August 25 2004)
Growth hormones are a thorny subject, largely due to the actions of the less responsibly portions of the anti-aging marketplace. It's hard to even discuss the topic without getting cut off by spam filters these days. SAGE Crossroads notes a currently fashionable opinion - that any health gains produced by growth hormone therapies come at a cost of shortened life span. This may or may not be the case, but the science of growth hormones is certainly poorly explored and complex. As I've mentioned before, growth hormones are akin to a big red lever on the side of an intricate machine. Pull the lever if you like, but I think that it is a far better idea to wait for scientific understanding to catch up with medical ability.

CR And SIR2: The Plot Thickens (August 25 2004)
You might recall all the interest in links between the beneficial effects of calorie restriction and the SIR2 gene. Now, an abstract at PLoS Biology throws an extra wrinkle into the mix. "Kennedy's team has found that the combination of calorie restriction and FOB1 mutation increases life span more than either approach does alone ... If calorie restriction extends life through SIR2, then combining either caloric restriction or SIR2 overexpression with FOB1 mutations should produce the same result. This contradiction raised the possibility that calorie restriction operates through another mechanism, independent of SIR2." While this work studied calorie restriction in yeast, it would seem to indicate that the comparable mechanisms in higher life forms are also a little more complex than was first thought. Stay tuned.

NYT On Embryonic Stem Cell Research (August 24 2004)
The New York Times is running an interesting piece on embryonic stem cell research, therapeutic cloning and the goals of researchers in the field. "Another group directed mouse stem cells to grow into nerve cells and tried to use them to treat Parkinson's disease in mice. The nerve cells produced the missing chemical, dopamine, but not enough to cure the disease ... use the cells instead of bone marrow transplants to treat patients with genetic disorders like sickle cell anemia, and inborn disorders of the immune system ... goal in cloning is to understand what goes wrong in a disease like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or diabetes." This is an energetic, very promising field that would benefit greatly from an end to restrictive legislation and threats of criminalization.

Excess Weight Raises Cancer Risk (August 24 2004)
MSNBC reports on yet another study showing that being overweight raises the risk of contracting cancer (as well as almost all other nasty age-related conditions). "With nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults now overweight plus an aging population - cancer is predominantly an older person’s disease - oncologists want more attention to the link." Fat is a complex organ and having to much of it causes subtle long-term damage to your biochemistry and health. So look into a sensible, calorie restricted diet, supplements, regular exercise, a good physician and staying lean - proper long term maintenance of your body is essential if you want to maximize your natural healthy longevity.

Anti-Aging Nonsense On Parade (August 23 2004)
This piece from the Sun Times about the A4M Chicago conference is a perfect example of the sort of nonsense rolled out under the banner of the anti-aging marketplace. If this drumbeat of pills, potions, snake oil and branding is all that the public hears, how will anyone know to support real anti-aging research aimed at extending the healthy human life span? At least a few of the speakers at the conference are reputable (such as Ray Kurzweil and Leonid Gavrilov), but you wouldn't know it from this media coverage - or from looking at the exhibition floor. I commented on this state of affairs and the role that A4M plays in both advancing and harming healthy life extension earlier in the month at Fight Aging!

TIME On Calorie Restriction (August 23 2004)
TIME Magazine is running an article on calorie restriction and its beneficial effects on health and longevity. The last couple of years of research into calorie restriction has uncovered an array of fascinating biochemistry relating to metabolism, stress, hormones, aging and genetic regulation. The current goal for many scientists is to produce calorie restriction mimetic drugs that replicate the health benefits and extended healthy life span without the need to diet. It's worth noting that the lack of excess body fat in practitioners of calorie restriction could explain some of the health benefits - but given that being overweight greatly increases your risk of suffering age-related disease, that sounds like another good reason to be practicing calorie restriction!



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