Longevity Meme Newsletter, January 31 2005

January 31 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.



- Leonid Gavrilov on Living to 100 and Beyond
- Call For Contributions to "An Introduction to Transhumanism"
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


Leonid Gavrilov, an aging researcher who blogs infrequently at the Science Advisory Board website, has supplied links to a large amount of reading material relating to the recent Living to 100 and Beyond International Symposium:


I'm sure this will keep those of you interested in this branch of aging science occupied for the rest of the week. You may recall that Leonid Gavrilov and Natalia Gavrilova are behind the Reliability Theory of Aging, a common sense approach drafted from long standing use in the electronics industry:



The World Transhumanist Association is to move ahead with a collaborative book of essays intended to introduce transhumanism to a wider audience. The call for contributions and volunteers has been made - you can find out more in the following Fight Aging! post:


As long-time readers will know, transhumanism is a collection of ideas that incorporates strong support for healthy life extension and other forms of beneficial technological progress. You can read more about transhumanism and how it relates to advocacy for longer, healthier lives at the Longevity Meme:


Transhumanism, like healthy life extension, has been moving closer to the mainstream over the years as technology advances and advocates have reached a wider audience. We are entering a new age, and this process will hasten as more people speak up in support of the future of technology and medicine. I recommend reading Sonia Arrison's recent comments on the matter, as she notes that William Safire - of all people - has become an advocate for transhumanist ideals:


"With cures for cancer, heart disease and stroke on the way, with genetic engineering, stem cell regeneration and organ transplants a certainty, the boomer generation will be averting illness, patching itself up and pushing well past the biblical limits of 'threescore and ten.' ... Medical and genetic science will surely stretch our life spans. Neuroscience will just as certainly make possible the mental agility of the aging. Nobody should fail to capitalize on the physical and mental gifts to come."

Better late than never, I suppose. I look forward to a future in which transhumanism has vanished as a movement - because it succeeded, leading to acceptance and widespread availability of enabling technologies such as working anti-aging medicine. It will be hard work getting there, but the payoff is more than worth it.


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



Saying No To Aging (January 30 2005)
A Newsweek article looks at some of the better known science relating to healthy life extension and the biochemistry of aging. We may still be on the ground floor of this field of research, but it's a very compelling ground floor and we know where to find the stairs up. As the public becomes more aware of what has already been achieved and what is thought to be possible, the demand for greater funding - private and public - for real anti-aging therapies should increase. Education, activism and advocacy are very important at this stage of the process. This scenario played out for cancer, AIDS and Alzheimer's funding - we should expect to be able to enact the same script for healthy life extension research.

Registration Open For SENS 2 (January 30 2005)
Early registration and abstract submission are open for the Second Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence Conference in Cambridge, UK. As organizer Aubrey de Grey notes, "the preliminary program already has 50 confirmed speakers, all of them world leaders in their field. ... The purpose of the SENS conference series, like all the SENS initiatives (such as the journal Rejuvenation Research and the Methuselah Mouse Prize), is to expedite the development of truly effective therapies to postpone and treat human aging by tackling it as an engineering problem: not seeking elusive and probably illusory magic bullets, but instead enumerating the accumulating molecular and cellular changes that eventually kill us and identifying ways to repair - reverse - those changes, rather than merely to slow down their further accumulation."

State of Stem (January 29 2005)
The Los Angeles Business Journal takes a look at the current state of embryonic stem cell research in their part of the world. "At UCLA, researchers now working with stem cells from rats hope to one day fix damaged spinal cords and brains. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center researchers, using adult neural stem cells, are conquering brain tumors in mice, and researchers at the City of Hope are trying to grow human embryonic stem cells to produce human insulin. They're all hoping to secure some grant money from the newly formed California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, an outgrowth of Proposition 71." As the article notes, this research is still early stage: much improvement is needed in even the basic processes of managing stem cell lines and controlling differentiation.

Irradiated For Longevity (January 29 2005)
ScienceDaily reports on experiments suggesting that low levels of radiation exposure increase longevity - in small mammals at least. This isn't of immediate practical value, but it adds to the body of knowledge surrounding hormesis, or the "phenomenon in which low doses of an otherwise harmful agent can result in stimulatory or beneficial effects." This study does suggest an underlying biochemical mechanism: "a moderate increase in glucocorticoid levels, associated with low-level radiation, could be an important factor underlying the increase in longevity that has been observed in other shorter studies on small mammals exposed to low-level radiation."

Another Cancer Vaccine Trial (January 28 2005)
Researchers are making great strides in the development of effective cancer therapies based on vaccines. Human trials have been undertaken in a number of countries with promising results to date. "The first U.S. kidney cancer vaccine trial is now underway at Columbia University Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia. While the potential for vaccines to treat solid tumors has been recognized for more than a decade, this trial is pioneering the use of tumor immunotherapy - boosting the body’s natural immune system - as a way to fight cancer. ... Tumor vaccines contain a specific protein of the tumor cell that stimulates an immune response."

The Supposed Sin, Part Two (January 28 2005)
The second part of Russell Blackford's examination of arguments "against nature" is up at Betterhumans. Those of us with an interest in living much longer, healthier lives often hear that our goal is "unnatural" and therefore somehow bad - how does this specious argument survive for in a world largely "unnatural" by the same criteria? Clearly deeper motivations are at work: "If technology is used to alter facts relating to these, such as by allowing for conception and birth without sex, or by promising us biological immortality, many people will feel that their sense of leading meaningful lives is threatened ... They are likely to express this sense by claiming that 'nature' is being interfered with - here, 'nature' is equated with whatever is seen in their particular culture as basic background conditions to human life."

That Other Stem Cell Medicine (January 27 2005)
Some interesting figures are provided in an article on stem cell transplants in NEWNews: "The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences performed 633 blood stem-cell transplants in 2004, a number that officials say rivals the top facility nationally for blood stem-cell transplants." In short, the simplest form of stem cell medicine is already commonplace. "Physicians who treat cancer patients sometimes use blood stem-cell transplants to help rebuild infection-fighting white blood cells after chemotherapy. ... The actual transplant is usually an outpatient procedure that takes about 30 minutes ... These same cells that regenerate bone marrow will also regenerate heart muscle, nerve tissue, muscles, liver, bone, cartilage. The list gets longer every day."

Preventing Age-Related Muscle Decline (January 27 2005)
(From Betterhumans). Increasing weakness and muscle decline are well known consequences of aging. Scientists are now delving into the biochemistry behind this degenerative process with an eye to preventing it. "There is a tight relation to how much muscle and strength a person has and (his or her) independence. There are many people who stand to benefit from this research. ... older women, aged 60 to 75, have difficulty building muscle mass despite weight training because they are unable to effectively reduce expression of the protein, myostatin. Myostatin is a protein made by muscle cells to block muscle growth. Scientists believe it plays a role in our early life, regulating muscle growth and ensuring normal development."

Where Is The Rage? (January 26 2005)
We humans are an odd lot; so adaptive that we can live in the worst of circumstances, convincing ourselves that we have no choice in the matter and that worst must be best. Healthy life extension advocates have highlighted this aspect of human nature many times over - notably in Nick Bostrom's "Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant" - but still it remains a real barrier to the acceptance of serious anti-aging research and an acknowledgement that each of us can make a difference. Why accept aging, decrepitude and death when there is so much we could be doing about it? More than 100,000 people die each and every day from age-related conditions; where is the motivating rage at this horrific state of affairs?

More Stem Cell Heart Therapy (January 26 2005)
EurekAlert reports on the latest human trial for a first generation adult stem cell therapy. "Patients with severe congestive heart failure who had exhausted all other treatment options showed markedly improved heart function following a procedure in which their own stem cells were deployed directly into the heart by way of four tiny incisions in the chest ... All 15 of the patients who received stem cell injections had some degree of improvement, some with dramatic results." Scientists are still unsure of the precise mechanisms by which this type of stem cell therapy works, but it is certainly effective. Given the enormous number of people who die each and every day from varieties of heart disease, progress can't come soon enough.

On Asian Regenerative Medicine (January 25 2005)
UK scientists report on the Asian commitment to stem cell research and regenerative medicine at BioMed Central: "Researchers in China, Singapore, and South Korea are as talented as their UK counterparts. They are probably better funded and equipped. The perspective is more long term in all three countries than the UK ... It was high-quality science. There were clearly centers of excellence, particularly for somatic cell nuclear replacement. ... Overall, the group found that the governments in the three countries were making large amounts of money available for the research and establishing solid infrastructure ... scientists we spoke to have thought long and hard about what products are likely to come to the clinic first and the reasons why."

Gene Therapy Hurdle Cleared (January 25 2005)
Truly revolutionary cancer research is taking place; we have reached the point in capabilities and understanding that allows rapid, amazing progress. Here, EurekAlert reports in progress in the basics of gene therapy using viral vectors: "When added to a mix of normal and prostrate cancer cells, the virus entered both but only produced the toxic protein inside the cancer cells. All the prostrate cancer cells died while the normal cells were unaffected. ... What's exciting is we may now be able to design a therapy that will seek out and destroy only cancer cells ... We hope it will be particularly powerful in eradicating metastases that we can't see and that can't be eliminated by surgery or radiation. Gene therapy, especially for cancer, is really starting to make a comeback."

Safire Endorses Healthy Life Extension (January 24 2005)
(From the Spiegel Online). William Safire demonstrates that being conservative is no obstacle to seizing on the chance to live a longer, healthier life. The younger conservative voices opposed to healthy life extension technology should have a good long think about how they'll really feel at Safire's age. "With cures for cancer, heart disease and stroke on the way, with genetic engineering, stem cell regeneration and organ transplants a certainty, the boomer generation will be averting illness, patching itself up and pushing well past the biblical limits of 'threescore and ten.' ... Medical and genetic science will surely stretch our life spans. Neuroscience will just as certainly make possible the mental agility of the aging. Nobody should fail to capitalize on the physical and mental gifts to come."

Understanding Differentiation (January 24 2005)
One of the keys to employing embryonic stem cells in biotech research or regenerative therapies lies in understanding and controlling the way in which these cells differentiate to form different tissue types. Work is proceeding: "When we talked to our colleagues, it was clear that, whether it's cells in the liver, brain, or heart, there had been no practical way for researchers to find the optimal extracellular matrix needed to turn embryonic stem cells into cells with therapeutic potential. We think we've developed an enabling technology for stem cell research and other areas of cell biology in the sense that all of a sudden scientists can use inexpensive and widely available reagents and machinery to optimize the conditions needed to optimize embryonic stem cell differentiation."



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