LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
October 25 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.
- News on the UN Therapeutic Cloning Ban
- Thinking Realistically About Your Future
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
NEWS ON THE UN THERAPEUTIC CLONING BAN
You'll find a roundup of the more relevant news to date regarding attempts to institute an international ban on therapeutic cloning at the United Nations in the following Fight Aging! posts:
Discussions were held, but it still looks like a vote could go either way.
A number of people feel that this is a comparatively unimportant sideshow, and politicians in countries like the UK have already stated that they would not sign on to any treaty that banned therapeutic cloning. I'd be inclined to agree with these sentiments if anti-research factions didn't have such a strong position in the US and elsewhere at the moment. Even a toothless resolution in the UN helps to strengthen the hand of those who are trying to hold back important medical research.
As always, now is a good time to contact your elected representatives to let them know your opinions on the anti-research policies that your ambassadors to the UN are promoting.
As a last note on this topic for the moment, you should read Robert Lanza's comments on the matter:
"Even the United States' new ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, called a news conference in support of therapeutic cloning and the urgent need for this research. Now, like National Institutes of Health chief Elias Zerhouni, Danforth has had to swallow the Bush policy; he must promote the Bush position to the United Nations that represents neither the scientific facts nor public opinion. ... The scientific results so far speak for themselves. In animals, embryonic stem cells already have reversed diabetes and fixed damaged hearts. Nerve cells have been used to treat Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and to restore function to paralyzed rats."
THINKING REALISTICALLY ABOUT YOUR FUTURE
If you can put money away in a retirement fund to improve your future financial status, then you can certainly think about how to work now to improve your future health and longevity. Most people really don't like to think about the unpleasant realities of age-related degeneration - which was no doubt for the best when such things were unavoidable. That is no longer necessarily the case, however. As a society, we have a golden opportunity ahead of us: Medical science, if adequately supported and funded, could soon ameliorate and eventually defeat the degenerative effects of aging.
How soon that happens is up to us. We can stick our heads in the sand and ignore this possibility or we can do just as much for the future of longevity medicine as we are prepared to do to ensure our financial future. Take a little time today to read about the ways in which you can support the future of healthy life extension and real anti-aging medicine. It makes sense.
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
A Look At Age-Related Frailty (October 24 2004)
I suspect that because most younger people don't like to think too hard about the realities of getting old, they don't have a good grasp of just how terrible it is to suffer advanced age-related degeneration. SAGE Crossroads makes some points: "Falls cause 70% of accidental deaths in folks age 75 and older, and even seemingly innocuous spills can trigger lasting harm to the elderly ... Half of people age 80 and older fall at least once per year ... When they fall, seniors are more likely than youngsters to hurt themselves seriously. Bone density can diminish with age, allowing even a minor spill to break an arm, leg, or hip." Think about helping the fight to cure aging today.
150 Years A Certainty For Some? (October 24 2004)
An article from the BBC examines some of Steven Austad's comments on the future of longevity: "He said that he was virtually certain some children alive now would live to the year 2150. ... he added that he was so certain that someone alive today will still be alive in 2150, he had placed a bet on it with a friend. 'It's a bet that I feel I'm so overwhelmingly likely to win, I feel like I've stolen the money from him.'" Another somewhat famous 2150 bet between Peter Schwartz and Melody Haller can be found at the Long Bets website. Other scientists involved in aging research, such as Aubrey de Grey, think that we can do far better than a mere 150 years with the right level of funding and public support.
Suppressing Research A Hard Sell (October 23 2004)
This piece from Mass High Tech drives home the ridiculous, cruel and corrupt nature of the anti-research positions held by Leon Kass, chair of the President's Council on Bioethics. "Yes, two figures of high visibility addressed nearby audiences in recent days. One, a scared, disease-burdened man who represents millions, pleaded for help in his fight against disease. The other, a healthy representative of the White House, declared that we probably should learn to live with what we have." Yet in many ways, Leon Kass is the best of our opponents - unlike the old guard of gerontology, who block or slow serious anti-aging research in their own way, he is prepared to debate his horrible views in public.
Robert Lanza On Therapeutic Cloning (October 23 2004)
Robert Lanza, medical director at Advanced Cell Technology, weighs in on the possibility of an international ban on therapeutic cloning at the United Nations. "Even the United States' new ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, called a news conference in support of therapeutic cloning and the urgent need for this research. Now, like National Institutes of Health chief Elias Zerhouni, Danforth has had to swallow the Bush policy; he must promote the Bush position to the United Nations that represents neither the scientific facts nor public opinion. ... The scientific results so far speak for themselves. In animals, embryonic stem cells already have reversed diabetes and fixed damaged hearts. Nerve cells have been used to treat Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and to restore function to paralyzed rats."
Gene Mutation Causes Parkinson's (October 22 2004)
The NIH News covers a promising development in Parkinson's research: "[a single mutation] causes Parkinson's disease in some families. Although Parkinson's disease is usually not inherited, the discovery of this gene and further study of how it works could open up new avenues of research for preventing or delaying the onset of the disease. In research, the study of rare familial forms of a disease has often led to major insights into the pathogenesis of more common forms." The past few years have demonstrated the power of modern bioinformatics: once you have identified a genetic cause, it is the matter of less than a year for a single laboratory to pin down and understand the biochemistry of the disease.
Synthetic Bone In The Works (October 22 2004)
Betterhumans reports on real progress in developing a synthetic substitute for bone. This composite material is really another form of biocompatible scaffolding, designed to encourage organic bone growth and host other necessary tissue within the body. "If the material holds up, it would be a significant advance over existing therapies for bone loss and could help people who undergo everything from bone cancer treatment to joint replacement." This is good work, and shows that the prosthetics/artificial organ side of research is keeping up with biological regenerative medicine in at least a few areas. Competition and a variety of methodologies are good in any field.
Other Regenerative Medicine Research (October 21 2004)
While new technologies based on stem cell research get most of the press, complementary strategies in regenerative medicine are also moving forward. From Medical News Today: "The Northwestern researchers, who ultimately would like to help paralyzed people walk again and enable diabetic individuals to lead a normal life without daily treatments or organ donations ... focusing on a key component of regenerative medicine: synthetic scaffolds and their interactions with cells. Without the development of effective scaffold technologies Stupp doubts significant progress can be made in regenerative medicine." New scaffold materials are made possible by advances in early nanoscale manufacturing techniques.
Inside Telomere Science (October 21 2004)
An interesting piece on research into telomeres is reprinted at the LEF News: "Like a string of pearls at the tip of every chromosome, but the length of the necklace continually varies. Every time the cell replicates, one of the pearls disappears. When you reach the end of the necklace, the cell dies. ... We know that telomeres control when the cell dies, but the key is [to discover] which cells control aging and death ... And we don't know which cells those are yet." Telomere research is an important example of the intersection between cancer and aging science - basic research here benefits both fields. "If researchers could figure out why the telomerase suddenly becomes active and why the cells fuse ... scientists could create an early-cancer detection test."
The Promise Of Therapeutic Cloning (October 20 2004)
(From EurekAlert). While the US administration - backed by conservative, anti-research bioethicists like Leon Kass - is trying to engineer a global ban on therapeutic cloning, scientists are meeting to present the promise of this technology. "Will therapeutic cloning create immune matching? It's unclear. At this point, we don't even know if human embryonic stem cells are safe, let alone effective. What's important is that research be allowed to continue so we can find out. ... a ban on all forms of human cloning sends the wrong signal to the scientific community; it stigmatizes the research and will slow the pace of discoveries for decades to come." The slowing has already happened - and it has consequences measured in lost lives and crippling disability for millions.
Scaffolds Proving Their Worth (October 20 2004)
The Honolulu Advertiser reports on the use of scaffolds in veterinary tissue engineering. "The matrix works like a three-dimensional scaffold and is void of cells but has structural and functional proteins still intact. Once in place, the matrix 'recruits' cells for tissue remodeling without scarring. ... Dolphin Quest attending veterinarian Gregg Levine said that without the procedure, Liko likely would have faced a partial amputation of his dorsal fin because the injury was too severe to heal properly on its own." We humans can look forward to recieving the benefits of this sort of technology for the regeneration of severely damaged tissue in the years ahead - once the regulatory hurdles are passed.
A Therapy For Osteoporosis? (October 19 2004)
Betterhumans reports on a potential treatment for osteoporosis. Age-related bone loss is a serious, widespread condition with nasty consequences - it does not receive the attention it deserves in most discussions of the degenerative effects of aging. It is good to hear that scientists are making progress in finding a cure: "American researchers in Texas have found that the antibody, AMG 162, can quickly stop the bone resorption process and improve bone density within a year ... They determined that AMG 162 given once every six months was best tolerated and caused a rapid, dose-dependent increase in bone formation and density." More rigorous trials are in the works, but this looks promising so far.
Schwarzenegger Backs Proposition 71 (October 19 2004)
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the California governor has endorsed Proposition 71, the stem cell funding initiate that aims to provide $3 billion in regulated embryonic stem cell research over the next decade. This is not too big of a surprise; he had seemed to be giving tacit support to the ballot measure already. "I'm very much interested in stem cell research. I support it 100 percent ... I hope that it will win, so that eventually, 10 years from now, people will be saved from those terrible illnesses." Personally, I'm more interested in seeing the threat of anti-research legislation - that scares away the much larger pool of potential private funding - reduced or eliminated rather than further socialization of medical research, but I realize I am in something of a minority in that respect.
Studying Immune Diseases To Fight Aging (October 18 2004)
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that "extraordinary similarities exist at the molecular level between the immune systems of the elderly and those of young people with chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions." Researchers studying these conditions in children may discover ways to slow or prevent age-related damage to the immune system. The chief researcher mentioned here is not looking beyond incidental healthy life extension, however: "My goal is not to identify aging genes because aging is a normal outcome of human life. My goal is to slow down the ill effects of aging by reconstituting the immune system. There are people who think we should be studying longevity, but I think quality of life is more important."
Alcor Plans Expansion (October 18 2004)
As reported in the Phoenix Business Journal, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation - a cryonics provider - is planning for expansion of the business and greater attention to public relations. These initiatives would seem to be the results of putting a businessman rather than a scientist in the CEO spot, a choice that I am very much in favor of. Cryonic preservation is an important stopgap measure on the way to meaningful extension of the healthy human life span via medicine, and this industry has languished for far too long. Professionalism and business aptitude are the first steps on the way to providing many more people with the option of undergoing cryonic suspension.