Longevity Meme Newsletter, October 18 2004

October 18 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.



- The Next Few Weeks and Freedom in Medical Research
- The Right to Try
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


Three high profile political events in the next few weeks will go a long way towards determining the next few years of progress in the fight for freedom in medical research. The combination of the California embryonic stem cell research proposition, the US presidential election and the proposed United Nations ban on therapeutic cloning are going to be taken as a referendum on the most promising technologies for developing regenerative medicine and cures for age-related conditions. Never mind that most of us don't have a say in these matters, politicians in the US and elsewhere may end up seeing a mandate to further interfere in the process of medical research.


Freedom in research drives progress; political barriers in increasingly centralized societies hold back cures and cost lives. It will be a great shame if delays in developing better medicine to fight age-related degeneration continue for many more years.


Ultimately, we should worry that politicians with the power to ban research will also turn to banning healthy life extension technologies, or even the right to research such medical advances. This is not an implausible future development, alas:


So if you do nothing else today, take a few minutes to tell your elected representatives that you support freedom in medical research, not the criminalization of cures and longer, healthier lives.



While we are on the subject, some words of wisdom from James Watson, Nobel laureate and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA: "To what extent research on stem cells will improve the quality of human life, I don't know, but we should be allowed to try."


Following the death of Christopher Reeve earlier this week, I think that the most offensive anti-research arguments (from politicians and advocates) are those that state cures are not right around the corner - ergo it's fine to ban research. Of course medical research takes time, and of course medical research is uncertain ... but freedom is important. The end goals of medicine - to efficiently eliminate all disease, degeneration and disability, to defeat the aging process and allow perfect health for each of us for as long as we choose - are a high and worthy destination.

We should be allowed to try.


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 Power Of Knowledge (October 17 2004)
A Science Daily article handily illustrates that efforts to understand basic cellular mechanisms, processes and other biochemistry are some of the most important work taking place today. Knowing how our cells work makes the difference between haphazard, long, expensive searches for therapies and directly tailored solutions - knowledge is power in medicine. "In a boost to cancer research, Princeton scientists have invented a fast and reliable method for identifying alterations to chromosomes that occur when cells become malignant. The technique helps to show how cells modify their own genetic makeup and may allow cancer treatments to be tailored more precisely to a patient's disease."

Abdominal Fat, The Unofficial Organ (October 17 2004)
InfoAging reminds us that excess weight - in the form of abdominal fat deep within the body - is bad for our long term health and longevity. "Scientists have known for decades that people with too much abdominal fat are more prone to diabetes and heart disease. Only in recent years have they found the reason - abdominal fat produces at least 10 hormones that affect the body's metabolism." In effect, weight gain produces an extra "unofficial" organ - one that is working to damage your health and reduce your healthy life span. As practitioners of calorie restriction already know, maintaining a low normal BMI with good diet and lifestyle choices will keep you healthier for longer.

Embryonic Stem Cell Research In France (October 16 2004)
(In Expatica). French politicians allowed limited embryonic stem cell research to begin earlier this month, but therapeutic cloning - vital to much of the most promising research into regenerative medicine - is still banned in that country. "A decree covering the domain that came into effect last week allows scientists in France a five-year window during which such research will be allowed." The removal of political restrictions on research is always welcome, but it's worth comparing the current state of affairs with the rate at which truly free research could be proceeding. Preventing researchers from working towards cures for age-related conditions carries a staggering toll in otherwise avoidable death and disability.

On Osteoporosis (October 16 2004)
(From the Life Extension Foundation News). Varying forms of bone loss might be the next widespread age-related condition to recieve much more attention and research funding. "Osteoporosis and other bone diseases, such as Paget's disease and osteogenesis imperfecta can lead to a downward spiral in physical health and quality of life, including losing the ability to walk, stand up, or dress, and can lead to premature death." While the article focuses on old school strategies of prevention and nutrition, there are signs that medical science could do far better. "Thirty years ago, doctors thought weak bones and osteoporosis were a natural part of aging, but today we know they are not." Supporting research into age-related conditions is a vital part of ensuring your future health and longevity.

Free Radical Research (October 15 2004)
Research into free radicals and their contribution to degenerative age-related brain conditions is getting a boost in New Zealand according to News-Medical.Net. "Our particular focus will be on brain injury, examining how destructive free radicals and oxidative stress in the foetus and new-born relate to that condition, and also their role in later life with the onset of neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. We'll also be examining the importance of anti-oxidants in protecting against injury, both in the new-born and the ageing brain." The free radical theory of aging is still in play, given recent work identifying mitochondrial damage as an important cause of aging. The links between metabolic rate, mitochondrial mechanisms, free radical production and damage appear to be subtle and complex.

New Jersey And Stem Cell Research (October 15 2004)
The Ashbury Park Press discusses efforts to promote and fund stem cell research in New Jersey. These are the early days of a medical revolution, and it's a shame that there is so much opposition to research aimed at curing age-related disease and extending the healthy human life span. "Our goal is to develop the technology that will allow us to make any cell into stem cells. After all, a stem cell is just a cell that is expressing certain genes. The future of stem cell therapies lies in this direction. One day, people will be able to give a tube of blood or other cells and then come back a week later to have stem cells ready to be transplanted to repair their brain, spinal cord and body. Let us work together to make this so."

James Hughes On A Cure For Aging (October 14 2004)
(At Betterhumans). James Hughes of the World Transhumanist Association discusses the merits of a cure for aging in the context of universal healthcare and social costs. I think he is conflating two very different ideas - the long term economic benefits resulting from extended healthy life spans are important to note, but these benefits certainly don't depend on socialism in our medical system! "Healthcare costs aren't being driven up by the simple existence of therapies or seniors. They are driven up by the need to use those therapies to treat seniors' aging-related diseases and disabilities. ... If seniors didn't get sick, they wouldn't need expensive diagnostics, drugs, treatments and nursing care."

Cynthia Kenyon, A Short Profile (October 13 2004)
As a part of their annual awards, Discover is recognizing Cynthia Kenyon for her work in extending life span through genetic manipulation. "In 1993 Kenyon discovered mutant C. elegans that lived twice their normal life span of 20 days. She found the cause of their longevity: a gene called daf-2 had been turned down. She also discovered that another gene, called daf-16, promotes youthful vitality. Stimulated by this work, other researchers found that similar genes in fruit flies and mice control aging. These days Kenyon, a molecular biologist at the University of California at San Francisco, is investigating how to postpone aging in humans." Postponing aging means postponing age-related disease and frailty - a very worthwhile goal.

UN Close To Banning Therapeutic Cloning (October 13 2004)
As reported at BioMed Central, the United Nations is once again close to banning therapeutic cloning - an effort backed by the current US administration. "A coalition of 125 scientific and patients' groups urged the United Nations on Wednesday to reject a global ban on stem cell research sought by the Bush administration and more than 50 other countries." Any ban on therapeutic cloning also blocks much of the most promising stem cell research into cures for age-related conditions. While countries like the UK are unlikely to sign, it would be a blow to supporters of freedom in scientific research. I strongly urge you to contact your elected representatives and demand that they oppose this anti-research treaty agreement.

Mitochondrial Research Proceeding Apace (October 12 2004)
Damage to mitochondria, our cellular powerhouses, is implicated in many age-related diseases - and thought to be one of the processes that causes aging itself. Basic mitochondrial research is thus important in the grand scheme of things. A Newswise press release notes recent advances in our understanding of mitochrondria: "Understanding the discrete molecular events that underlie dynamic mitochondrial behavior has the potential to reveal keen insights into the basic and essential cell-mitochondria relationship, leading to increased understanding of the aging process; and potential treatments and perhaps cures of those age-related scourges of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's."

Christopher Reeve's Legacy (October 12 2004)
A Boston Herald article suggests that Christopher Reeve's most enduring legacy will be to further inspire research into regenerative and stem cell medicine. "The particular nature of his injury and his vocal activism have brought to the forefront stem cell biology ... Christopher Reeve's death, in addition to the late President Reagan's, simply underscores the importance of this field and the need for there to be applications of stem cell biology." Christopher Reeve was one the few unarguably great men of modern times, an inspiration for patients and research advocates. He will be missed, but the wheels he set in motion continue to turn. "I think there are so many people now who have taken up the cause. It's given us so much more incentive and motivation."

The Right To Try (October 11 2004)
(From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer). While we are on the subject of important truths, James Watson - nobel laureate and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA - had this to say: "To what extent research on stem cells will improve the quality of human life, I don't know, but we should be allowed to try." There is the fundamental answer to all political interference in research: we should be allowed to try. Freedom of research, just like freedom of speech and association, is vital for a progress and prosperity. Understanding stem cells - work that requires both embryonic and adult stem cell research - will lead to a real revolution in medicine. True regenerative therapies and cures for common age-related conditions are worth striving for.

Treated Like An Illness - Almost (October 11 2004)
A Guardian article hits on an important truth: "Social services too often treat old age as 'an illness for which there is no cure', according to research published today." While treating aging as an incurable illness on one hand, most organizations do not take the next logical step and call for research to develop therapies and a cure. Cancer was once incurable, but that state of affairs led to an enormous effort, still underway, to develop better medical technologies and effective therapies. The same is true for Alzheimer's. If we can see clearly enough to prioritize cures for specific age-related conditions, why not do the same for the root cause of degenerative conditions - the aging process itself?



Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.