LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
September 27 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.
- Methuselah Mouse Prize at $500,000 Pledge Mark
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
METHUSELAH MOUSE PRIZE AT $500,000 PLEDGE MARK
The Methuselah Foundation announced last week that pledges, cash in hand and funding commitments have reached the half-million dollar mark.
"The Methuselah Foundation, creators of the Methuselah Mouse Prize, the world's first scientific prize for research on extending longevity, today announced that it has secured [a total of] $500,000 in funding commitments [as well as] a long term support commitment from an anonymous supporter making his donation in the name of the X PRIZE Foundation, the multi-million-dollar bounty which has successfully encouraged the development of private passenger space travel."
Other sponsoring organizations include the Immortality Institute, the Longevity Meme, Maximum Life Foundation, Advanced Orthomolecular Research and Betterhumans - but I'm sure you are all more familiar with the work of the X Prize Foundation. The Methuselah Foundation and X Prize Foundation founders enjoy a cordial relationship, and I'm pleased to see this sort of publicity resulting from that connection.
MOVING BEYOND INCIDENTAL LIFE EXTENSION
While half a million dollars in pledges is a wonderful milestone to reach (and managed in only a year since the official prize launch), the prize fund needs to bulk up cash in hand. This is where you and I can really help out the future of healthy life extension research: The Methuselah Mouse Prize is an important component in the process of shifting the way in which the medical research community approaches aging.
Gains in average healthy human life span over the past 150 years have been incidental - the largely unintentional side effects of ever better medical technologies developed with the sole aim of preventing and curing disease.
According to the reliability theory of aging, researchers can continue to slowly lengthen healthy life spans through improvements across the board in medical technology for a long while yet. We are not yet close to any mechanical, biological, or complexity-related limits to progress in extending the healthy human life span.
A continuing slow incidental increase in average healthy life span - less than a quarter of a year of life span with each passing year of research at the moment - is not very satisfying for me, however. I'd like to be around to see much more of the future in person, which means that the pace of healthy life extension must pick up in decades ahead. This can only happen if many more researchers and funding agencies focus on intervening in the aging process rather than trying to fix the resulting disease and age-related conditions.
Steering the medical research community is an onerous task - but you have a voice and a vote in this process. Donate to the Methuselah Mouse Prize and your dollars will go towards convincing the scientific community that serious anti-aging research matters and that it matters now.
Tell your friends - vote early and vote often for a longer, healthier life!
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
Moving To Biological Pacemakers (September 26 2004)
Globes reports on the first steps towards rendering mechanical pacemakers obsolete: "[Israeli researchers] created heart cells out of human fetal stem cells, which he implanted in a pig's heart. The pig previously underwent treatment to artificially slow its heart rate. The implanted tissues partially corrected the resulting defective heart rate by in effect constituting a biological pacemaker." More than half a million people use pacemakers in the US alone. The devices, like most implants, are comparatively short lived and expensive. Replacements based on regenerative medicine and stem cell engineering would be a very big deal - but there is a lot of work to be done to get there.
Is Aging Programmed? (September 26 2004)
Over at PubMed Steven Austad provides a good argument for considering aging as unprogrammed decay rather than a programmed process in the body. This sort of high level thinking about processes and purpose - like the reliability theory of aging - is an important part of effectively directing the research community. "Aging, except in exceptional cases such as the rapid decay and death of Pacific salmon, is not design but decay. The decay of senescence is not due to natural selection's designing hand, but to its absence. The empirical difference between programed and nonprogramed senescence becomes evident when comparing the stereotypical steps leading to death in salmon contrasted with the lack of such stereotypy in most organisms such as humans and mice."
More On Lifestyle And Age-Related Damage (September 25 2004)
Randall Parker links a number of recent study results in a discussion of lifestyle choices and the rate at which age-related damage accumulates in your body. It's wise to pay attention to what researchers are saying on this topic. Your choices and diligence can make a large difference, even with the comparatively crude medical knowledge and technology available today. You can choose to gain decades of healthy life span and avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in healthcare costs - or not. The better your health and the longer you live, the greater your chance of benefiting further from healthy life extension medicine in the future - getting closer to what biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey calls "acturial escape velocity."
The Damage Done (September 25 2004)
A discussion of Australian therapeutic cloning politics at BioMed Central is a vision of what nearly happened - and still could happen - in the US. Therapeutic cloning is vital to much of the most promising research into stem cell based regenerative medicine, but the Australian research community is prevented from contributing their funding and expertise. If we are to move rapidly towards developing a comprehensive biological repair kit for age-related damage and disease - which is exactly what full control over stem cells, reliable therapeutic cloning and understanding of related cellular mechanisms can eventually provide - then these sorts of anti-research legislative restrictions must be lifted. While we delay, people continue to suffer and die.
Retinal Cells Derived (September 24 2004)
(From Reuters). A team from Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) have successfully coaxed embryonic stem cells into forming retinal cells. "We believe these new retinal cells could be used to treat blindness and may, in fact, be the one of the very first applications of embryonic stem-cell technology." Degenerative blindness is a fairly common age-related condition, and a number of research projects worldwide are aimed at curing specific root causes. I recently noted an effort using adult stem cells to treat retinitis pigmentosa, for example. ACT is a good example of a private company that has suffered serious funding issues and setbacks due to the threatened therapeutic cloning ban.
Diet, Lifestyle and Mortality (September 24 2004)
ScienceDaily reports on a study demonstrating the large difference that good diet and lifestyle choices have on health and life span. "The researchers found that adhering to a Mediterranean diet was associated with a 23 percent lower risk of all-cause death; moderate alcohol use, a 22 percent lower risk; physical activity, a 37 percent lower risk; and nonsmoking, a 35 percent lower risk. Similar results were observed for death from coronary heart disease, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. Having all four low risk factors lowered the all-cause death rate by 65 percent." This study was for people in the 70-90 age range, but the lessons apply to us all - better lifestyle choices now greatly the risk of suffering age-related disease later.
On SIR2 Research (September 23 2004)
The MIT Technology Review gives an overview of research into the genetic and biochemical mechanisms of calorie restriction. "For more than a decade, Guarente has been gradually solving the puzzle with the ambitious goal of discovering how to slow the aging process in humans without imposing a thousand-calorie-a-day diet. In 1999, he came to the surprising conclusion that manipulating just one gene, SIR2, could affect longevity." There is competition these days in the field of calorie restriction mimetic drugs - we are probably only a few years away from commercial products that will make a lot of money for whoever develops them. "It's a race now ... both have very big labs working hard. They both have companies working hard, too."
$500,000 Mark For The Methuselah Mouse Prize (September 23 2004)
"The Methuselah Foundation, creators of the Methuselah Mouse Prize, the world's first scientific prize for research on extending longevity, today announced that it has secured [a total of] $500,000 in funding commitments [as well as] a long term support commitment from an anonymous supporter making his donation in the name of the X PRIZE Foundation, the multi-million-dollar bounty which has successfully encouraged the development of private passenger space travel." Many of the Longevity Meme readers have helped reach this milestone, but pledges still need to be converted to cash! As the year ends, consider investing a little money into your future health and longevity by contributing to a research prize for serious anti-aging medicine.
Linking Obesity, Heart Disease, Diabetes (September 22 2004)
Medical News Today reports on discoveries showing that inflammatory responses could explain how obesity greatly raises the risk of suffering some common age-related conditions. "Circulating mononuclear cells -- the body's monocytes (the largest type of white blood cell) and lymphocytes -- exist in a proinflammatory state in obese persons known to be at increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease or both." As regular readers will already know, excess weight is bad for your long term health and life span in many different ways. If you want to benefit from new healthy life extension therapies in the decades ahead, you have to stay healthy and save your money for the good stuff.
Yet More Stem Cell Straight Talk (September 22 2004)
A Tech Central Station piece offers some pearls of wisdom: "Far better, surely, for the critics of [embryonic stem cell research] research simply to say forthrightly, 'I oppose this for religious and moral reasons' -- which is clearly their right -- and to forgo the quasi-scientific rationalizations. ... We should 'simultaneously pursue all lines of research to determine the very best sources of these cells.' In other words, instead of arguing about which type is better on the basis of insufficient data, we should pursue research using both, an approach that we find sensible. Competition in medical research, as in commerce, is constructive." Still, the authors fail to identify the damage done by attempts to ban therapeutic cloning.
The Future Of Personalized Medicine (September 21 2004)
(From Reuters). Slowly but surely, money is heading into the field of personalized medicine: "This study will look at whether pharmacogenetics, the designing of drug treatments based on a person's genetic make-up, is a scientifically achievable aim, be it five, 10 or 25 years from now." Like the ability to identify, manipulate and use stem cells, personalized medicine will allow for broad advances in the capabilities and effectiveness of medical technology. Our genetic differences are large, speaking from a medical standpoint: "Some treatments work in only abut 30-50 percent of patients." You can find a little more on the topic in a post at Fight Aging! from earlier in the year.
World Alzheimer's Day (September 21 2004)
The Toronto Star notes that today is World Alzheimer's Day: "People are much more aware of it and prepared to talk about it. We are now where we were with cancer 30 years ago." In actual fact, I believe that the medical community is further ahead than that - Alzheimer's research has been a high priority for a decade now and bioinformatics allows scientists to move much faster than in previous decades. As early regenerative medicine extends our healthy life spans, it becomes ever more vital to prevent and cure neurodegenerative conditions. The brain is in a class of its own; other organs can be replaced or repaired using comparatively crude future medicine, but damage to the brain must be repaired in situ.
SAGE Crossroads On Medical Nanotechnology (September 20 2004)
The latest SAGE Crossroads article takes a look at the future of medical nanotechnology: "If doctors could intervene at the nanoscale, they might be able to fix the body's aging systems from the bottom up, without leaving a trace that a patient once suffered from Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, or macular degeneration." There is, as usual at SAGE Crossroads, a little too much focus on legislative matters and potential doom and gloom, but the promise of nanomedicine in both the short and long term is very clear. As our materials science advances, we can gain ever more precise control over the tiny machines that make up our bodies. Where regenerative medicine leaves off in the fight to cure aging, nanomedicine will pick up the slack.
Commenting On Proposition 71 (September 20 2004)
From the International Herald-Tribune, some interesting commentary on California Proposition 71 - the proposal to fund $3 billion in embryonic stem cell research over the next decade. "We are on the edge of one of the great watershed medical discoveries in history. We have more than 50 percent of the biotech capacity in the United States and more than most other countries. We can run a substitute national program." In many ways this initiative has become a repudiation of current US policies on therapeutic cloning and embryonic stem cell research. If the public opinion polls and initiative funding numbers are any indication, this proposition is very likely to pass.