Longevity Meme Newsletter, January 24 2005

January 24 2005

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.



- One Impressive Advance in Medicine Each Week
- Recommended Reading: Russell Blackford
- On Exercise and Longevity
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


It is my thesis that if you pay a modest amount of attention to what is going on in medical research, you will see at least one very impressive advance in the capabilities of medicine each week. A brief scan through the Longevity Meme and Fight Aging! archives would seem to confirm this proposition. This past week it was news of a stem cell cure for diabetes, trailed in a human patient by Argentinian researchers:


That's big news - as big as the human trials for a similarly effective heart disease therapy based on adult stem cells. One impressive advance a week is 52 a year; that starts to add up very quickly.


Russell Blackford is an interesting fellow, to say the least: bioethicist, transhumanist and author of both papers on philosophy and Terminator novels. You'll find two of his recent articles referenced at Fight Aging!:


"The idea of a 'war on ... er ... ontological diminution' does not sound as resonant as a 'war on death' itself, but it may be more to the point in current debates about the prospect of life extension."


"Appeals to what is 'natural' have a long history in policy debates about unpopular practices - such as homosexual acts, technological innovations and, particularly in recent times, manipulating DNA. The assumption is that there is something wrong morally about interfering with nature's processes, or defying nature itself - however, exactly, those ideas are to be understood. You'd think that any concept of the inviolability of nature would long have been abandoned by philosophers, ethicists and cultural commentators. But sadly it isn't so. Nature's inviolability is still a club to bash any controversial practice or technology that conservative thinkers dislike."


I must recommend a recent Red Nova article on the way in which exercise impacts your physiology, longevity, risk profile for age-related conditions and biochemistry - it might be more than you ever thought you wanted to know on this topic, but it is also a real wake up call for those of us who are not getting enough exercise. You have to take care of your health here and now if you want to benefit from the future of healthy life extension medicine!



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



More On UK Stem Cell Funding (January 23 2005)
The Telegraph has more on a collaborative public-private funding effort for stem cell research in the UK. This is another example of the spreading ripples from California public funding - all other funding groups and public research organizations have been put in the position of playing catch up. "There is a plan to set up a UK stem cell foundation to encourage and support research into stem cells. The plan is to set up the foundation, get a big chunk of money from the Government and then match that with private money. We started off at the forefront of this science but are now going backwards: nothing is progressing very fast."

Diet, Exercise And Antioxidants (January 23 2005)
The results of research into the aging canine brain have been doing the rounds recently. This ScienceDaily press release highlights the few currently available tools that can modestly slow age-related degeneration in the brain. "Regular physical activity, mental stimulation, and a diet rich in antioxidants can help keep aging canine - and perhaps human - brains in tip-top shape. The [research] is among the first to examine the combined effects of these interventions and suggests that diet and mental exercise may work more effectively in combination than by themselves." Use it or lose it applies just as much to the brain as the body. The future of healthy life extension medicine is promising - but only if you are alive and active to see it.

Stem Cell Cure For Diabetes (January 22 2005)
Channel NewsAsia reports that a stem cell based cure for diabetes has been successfully trialed in humans by Argentinian researchers. "The 42-year-old man, who had been insulin dependent since the age of 25, so far has seen his glucose levels return to normal with no need for medication. The treatment involves extracting stem cells from the ilium, a bone in the hip, and after manipulating them in the laboratory, injecting them into the pancreas using a special catheter introduced through the femoral artery." First generation adult stem cell therapies that use the patient's own cells have shown great promise in human trials to date - for heart disease also.

An Eastern US Stem Cell Hub (January 22 2005)
As BioMed Central puts it, "California's initiative spawns a frenzy in New Jersey, Connecticut, and now New York." This article gives a brief overview of some of the larger public funding initiatives for embryonic stem cell research underway in Eastern US states. "Although Democrats tend to be friendlier to stem cell research and although New York is currently headed by a Republican governor and a Republican majority in the New York Senate, Krueger said she believes the proposals will eventually pass. In the last election, some Republican senators were replaced by Democrats, and the more people hear about stem cell research, the more supportive they become."

Alzheimer's Damage Reversible? (January 21 2005)
Betterhumans reports on early stage research in mice that suggests the damage caused to neural cells by Alzheimer's amyloid plaques is reversible. "Holtzman suspects that the normal transport of organelles along nerve cell branches breaks down, leading to swellings that have been demonstrated to make it difficult for nerve cell branches to send signals. ... antibodies cleared the plaques and within three days there was also a 20% to 25% reduction in existing swellings." If verified, this provides a ray of hope and more backing for attempts to treat Alzheimer's with vaccines - engineering the immune system into attacking the plaques with antibodies.

Aging Hearts, Free Radicals, Mitochondria (January 21 2005)
A fascinating article at ScienceBlog looks at the work of Christiaan Leeuwenburgh into the biochemical mechanisms of aging in the heart. "We discovered that within the heart [mitochondria], there were large increases of the antioxidant defenses ... When you are younger, those antioxidants act like the supermen of your life to eliminate the free radicals. With age, the free radicals begin to win the battle ... In future studies, we want to look at lifelong calorie restriction and lifelong moderate exercise to prevent the breakdown of the [mitochondria]. The reason we are alive is mitochondria. Discovering how they break down is the first step to understanding the mechanisms of aging."

Spleen Stem Cells Show Promise (January 20 2005)
This has the look of science we'll be hearing more of later: "The spleen might be a source of adult stem cells that could regenerate the insulin-producing islets of the pancreas. ... the same team now report that these potential adult stem cells produce a protein previously believed to be present only during the embryonic development of mammals. ... There may be a previously undiscovered pocket of primitive stem cells in the spleen that are important for healing several types of damage or injury." You might recall that researchers have also identified primitive or embryonic stem cells hiding in adult hair follicles. There may be more such cells to be found elsewhere as well - searching certainly seems to be a worthwhile activity.

"Ethics" And Science: Tail Wags Dog (January 20 2005)
The Telegraph looks at the attempts of bioethicists to divert the course of medical research into regenerative medicine based on embryonic stem cells. As Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology notes, it is "a sad day when we have to use cloning and genetic manipulation to deliberately create crippled human embryos – and not for any scientific reason, but simply to appease religious leaders. I sometimes have to pinch myself to make sure we're not still in the 12th century." Meanwhile, more than 100,000 people continue to die from age-related conditions each and every day - the ethical path here is quite clear: full steam ahead to try and cure age-related conditions and ultimately the aging process itself.

Inkjet Tissue Engineering (January 19 2005)
(From the BBC). Work is proceeding on the adaptation of inkjet printing technology to tissue engineering: "inkjets will be able to 'print out' tailor-made human cells to fit a patient's exact dimensions. Human cells are suspended in a nutrient-rich liquid before being printed out in several thin layers. Project leaders say the method could be used to build an organ in a day." Scientists have not yet demonstrated the ability to create large, complex, three-dimensional tissue structures in this way, but research is continuing. As the article notes, our current abilities are limited in comparison: "Using conventional methods, you are only able to grow tissues which are a few millimetres thick, which is fine for growing artificial skin, but if you wanted to grow cartilage, for instance, it would be impossible."

Journal Of Nanomedicine Launched (January 19 2005)
PharmaLive notes that the new Journal of Nanomedicine, the medical use of nanotechnology, is to launch in March. "Nanomedicine has developed very rapidly in recent years, with promising applications in areas such as recognition of cancer cells, stem cell labeling, and monitoring of DNA damage and repair. We hope this journal will provide a new focal point for efforts to advance this revolutionary technology for maintaining and restoring human health." Maintaining and restoring is the path to healthy life extension - you just have to keep it up for longer. Knowledgeable scientists expect nanomedicine to augment and eventually far exceed regenerative and rejuvenation medicine based on current biotechnology.

Aubrey de Grey Responds (January 18 2005)
You can now read biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey's response to the recent Technology Review profile and less than desirable editorials. "Jason Pontin, Technology Review's Editor-in-Chief, and Brad King, Technology Review's Web editor, have invited me to respond to the trio of articles about me and my work that appear in the February 2005 issue of Technology Review with this online-only piece, in addition to a short 'letter to the editor' from me that will appear in the print edition." I think that it hits all the relevant points, and we can hope that the Technology Review will be more circumspect in the future when reviewing the field of healthy life extension - or indeed any other speculative, changing branch of science.

Only A Matter Of Time (January 18 2005)
It was only a matter of time before the vanity anti-aging marketplace turned its attention to calorie restriction (CR), given the very impressive recent results from ongoing human studies. So here we go: "Histomorphological changes resulting from intrinsic aging affected some of the studied variables in the rat skin, and these changes were delayed or prevented by CR. Some stimulatory effects, such as increased densities of fibroblasts and capillary profiles and higher values of connective tissue fibers resulting from CR, were also observed. Cutaneous morphological changes due to natural aging in this rat model seem to be modified by physiological or metabolic alterations imposed by CR." In other words, CR slows skin aging - it will be interesting to see how the industry decides to try and sell this.

Another Potential Longevity Gene (January 17 2005)
Sci-Tech Today reports on results from deCode Genetics, the company working on extracting useful information from Icelandic genes: "DeCode scientists have located two sites on Icelanders' genomes where there is some genetic variant that promotes longer life span. ... It occurs at much higher frequency in women over 95 and in men over 90 than in the normal population. ... It is particularly surprising that the same genetic element should promote fertility and longevity since most organisms are obliged to follow a strategy either of breeding fast during short lives or of living longer and having fewer children. ... Usually people think of there being a trade-off between fertility and longevity. So we are getting a free lunch here."

A New York Stem Cell Institute? (January 17 2005)
The New York Times reports on the progress of an initiative to allocate $1 billion in public funds to stem cell research over the next 10 years in New York state. "The proposal, offered by David A. Paterson, the Senate Democratic leader, calls for the creation of a New York stem cell institute to regulate research in the field, as well as make loans and grants to organizations and companies. It is similar to an initiative under way in California, which approved a $3 billion stem cell research fund last year, and to a $380 million proposal announced last week by New Jersey's acting governor, Richard J. Codey." It seems likely that this would have to go to a voter referendum, as for Proposition 71 in California.



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