Longevity Meme Newsletter, February 14 2005

February 14 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.



- "And I Wish We Could Do Something About It"
- Anti-Research Legislation Returns
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


In a recent post about his grandmother, Glenn Reynolds of InstaPundit had the following to say: "Though, at 90, she's one of the older people there, my grandmother is doing better than most. She's grateful for that, but it's still hard on her being there instead of being in her own home, where she's lived for nearly fifty years. When people say 'old age isn't for sissies,' it's not just a joke. I admire how she and her friends deal with it, but it's still a lousy thing to have to deal with. Is there a point to this? Not really, except that I really do think that aging is a disease, and I wish we could do something about it. Everybody in that place used to be healthy and strong; even the best of them now are sadly declined from their previous state. Yeah, it's "natural" -- but so is smallpox."


Yet there is something that we can be doing about it, every one of us. Finding therapies and a cure for aging is no different from the work that has gone into AIDS, cancer or Alzheimer's. Technology is not the stumbling block - we already know more than enough to get started on the work:


No, the major obstacles are a lack of funding, of public support, of public understanding. This is just as things were at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, or in the early stages of expanding public funding for Alzheimer's research in the US. Advocates and activists worked hard to educate and promote ... and they succeeded. Over longer timescales, funding follows public opinion, and we can do this for longevity research. Initiatives exist today that will take donations of any size, of time or money, and turn them to the process of bringing about a cure for aging. You should take a long, hard look at your personal future - and the realities of age-related degenerative - and invest a little time or money yourself:



It seems likely that further attempts will soon be made to criminalize therapeutic cloning and embryonic research at the federal level in the US. Both fields are essential to some of the most promising regenerative medicine and research into the molecular biochemistry of age-related diseases. Read more in this post at Fight Aging!:


The folks behind the California embryonic research initiative have vowed to fight any new attempts to push through federal anti-research legislation, but they need all the help they can get.


I encourage you to contact your elected representatives to make your views known on the matter. We simply cannot allow anti-progress groups to trample over freedom of research and the prospects for healthy life extension in the US. Hundreds of thousands of people continue to suffer and die each and every day while politicians try their best to block progress towards therapies and cures. You can find a sample letter and more information on contacting your representatives by following the link below:



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



Footnote On UN Cloning Ban (February 13 2005)
ABCNews discusses the aftermath of failed attempts to ban therapeutic cloning at the United Nations - in essence back to business as usual. "U.N. diplomats, deadlocked for years over the drafting of treaty to ban the cloning of human beings worldwide, open negotiations on Monday on an alternative that would instead urge each government to adopt its own laws on human cloning. ... The U.S. campaign to persuade the 191-nation U.N. General Assembly to approve a broad anti-cloning treaty ran out of steam last November." In the US, we still face the prospect of a federal ban on this most promising research into cures for age-related conditions - it's not too late to speak up in support of freedom of research and medical progress.

NYT On Alcor (February 13 2005)
The New York Times is running an educational article on Alcor, the largest and most well known cryonics provider. "Alcor is a small nonprofit company built on the spectacular wager that it can rescue its patients from natural post-mortem deterioration until a distant time when cellular regeneration, nanotechnology, cloning or some other science can restart their lives, as if the diseases, heart attacks, old age, murders or accidents that concluded their first go-rounds had never happened." It's good to see the cryonics industry getting respectful, serious press; as the article notes, "Alcor knows that the rest of its potential market - that is, almost everyone else - needs an education."

An Interview With Ray Kurzweil (February 12 2005)
Dateline Alabama is carrying an interesting interview with Ray Kurzweil and a few of his detractors on the topics of longevity, science and biological immortality. I see Kurzweil's projected timelines as unrealistic, but only because a full-press multi-billion-dollar level of funding for basic research and the required technologies is not yet underway. It's going to take a while to ramp up to that level - requiring widespread public understanding and support - which is why continuing advocacy and education for serious anti-aging research is so important. The future doesn't make itself; it is a result of all our actions. If we just sit back and expect healthy life extension to happen, then we are going to be disappointed. So make yourself heard and help to support serious anti-aging research!

The Pace Of Future Progress (February 12 2005)
An alternative to the prosaic debate over longevity and social security can be found at the LEF News. "We stand on the cusp of a bold new era in the history of our species in which we will see the end of death, disease and sorrow. ... According to anti-aging researcher Aubrey de Grey, in the next decade, we will be adding more than one year to our life expectancies every year, effectively keeping the cold hand of death at bay. [He] also predicts that we will be able to stop aging in mice in the next 10 years and will have human therapies to stop, even reverse, aging as little as five to 10 years after that. This makes the prospect of clinical immortality (the ability to stop aging and disease) something members of our generation should put considerable effort into." These are predictions that could happen with the right level of funding - but the funding isn't there yet.

Type 2 Diabetes Progress (February 11 2005)
It is good to see that the most common age-related conditions yielding their secrets to scientists. EurekAlert reports: "Using a revolutionary technique to turn off chemical signals inside the cell, scientists at Joslin Diabetes Center have discovered that the different metabolic abnormalities present in type 2 diabetes can be caused by knocking out two key signals in liver cells. Their findings in mice may someday lead to strategies in humans to boost these two different signals, providing a powerful new way to treat the different metabolic components present in the most common form of diabetes." As we have seen in recent years, understanding the molecular biochemistry of a condition provides a fairly short path to developing effective therapies.

Another Aubrey de Grey Interview (February 11 2005)
Vue Weekly interviews biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey: "He proposes that the development of 'rejuvenation therapies' to ward off aging in humans could happen within about 30 to 100 years. 'The only thing that might change that [timescale] is if over the next 10 years from now, the funding is good enough,' de Grey says. This period will be critical, he explains, as he predicts that within this span of time scientists will dramatically improve the longevity of mice. ... 'I think that sort of result [in mice] will be enough to convince society that we can actually do something about aging in humans fairly soon,' he argues, 'and that will change everything.'" Extremely long lived mice will make funding for human radical life extension that much more likely - hence the Methuselah Mouse Prize.

Aubrey de Grey In Alberta (February 10 2005)
As biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey's presentation at the University of Alberta grows near, the Gateway is running an overview of his views on the future of aging and rejuvenation research. "He has theorized that aging in humans is caused by molecular and cellular damage that accumulates in the body over time (the by-products of basic processes like digestion). By limiting the buildup of these by-products, which are only harmful to the body in high quantities, de Grey suspects people can thwart the aging process and live young, vibrant lives for thousands of years. Currently, scientists are working to find ways of making mice live far beyond their typical life expectancies. To speed up the process, de Grey helped establish [the Methuselah Mouse Prize], a cash award given to scientists who can engineer the oldest mice."

Committee Fights Anti-Research Legislation (February 10 2005)
ABCNews reports that the committee behind Proposition 71 is gearing up to fight federal legislation that would criminalize embryonic stem cell research into cures for age-related conditions. "Robert Klein II, the wealthy Palo Alto housing developer who chaired the campaign, said the organization intends to raise $1 million to fight Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, and his anti-cloning allies in the Senate. ... Brownback is sponsoring legislation that would ban the cloning of human embryos for any reason, including medical research. Such a law would directly threaten the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which intends to use some of the $3 billion in voter-approved bond money to dole out grants for so-called therapeutic cloning projects."

Gene Therapy For Parkinson's (February 09 2005)
(From News-Medical.net). Researchers are getting closer to demonstrating a gene therapy for Parkinson's disease: "Parkinson's disease is caused by the death of brain cells that produce a vital chemical known as dopamine, which carries messages that tell the body how and when to move. In tests with 31 monkeys, including a control group, scientists inserted copies of a gene to produce [the protective protein] GDNF into a region in the front part of the brain called the striatum. They then induced Parkinson-like conditions by introducing a drug to destroy the dopamine-producing cells. Seventeen weeks after that, not only did the GDNF-treated monkeys show improvement in performing tasks, analysis of brain tissue showed the animals' dopamine systems were actually spared by the treatment."

On State Funded Stem Cell Research (February 09 2005)
MSNBC is running an overview article on current funding initiatives for stem cell research in US state legislatures. "Everyone's rushing to put together a stem cell program. People recognize that this field of study has incredible potential, not only to cure disease, but also as an economic tool." A big change from just a few years ago, when politicians were racing to ban this most promising field of research. Private funding is making a comeback in this less restrictive atmosphere: "Proposition 71 has caused a stir of enthusiasm in the biotechnology community and has stoked investor interest in the science. ... Over the last eight years, Geron has invested $96 million in the field of human embryonic stem cell research."

More On Federal Research Ban (February 08 2005)
Wired has more on the continuing threat of a federal ban on all therapeutic cloning - a technology vital to the most promising regenerative research. "I would expect to see the Weldon and Brownback bills reintroduced soon. What's interesting about the president's statement is that he goes further than Brownback in seeking a ban on all embryo creation for research, whether through (somatic cell nuclear transfer) or in vitro techniques, and states his intention to work with Congress to get this into law ... The real risk is having the substance of the Brownback bill tacked on as a non-germane amendment to some other Senate legislation." We must make our voices heard once more as anti-research groups continue to try to block cures and cause suffering.

Telomere Tales (February 08 2005)
An good introductory article on telomeres showed up this week at SAGE Crossroads. "For a long time scientists believed [that] the length of our lives was meted out in our telomeres - the protective caps at the ends of the threadlike chromosomes that carry our genes. But life is never as simple as legend, and most researchers have abandoned the telomere theory of aging. They haven't given up on telomeres, though. Scientists are now testing whether degradation of these termini heralds the maladies associated with growing old, such as heart disease, dementia, and cancer. Understanding the association between telomeres and disease could lead to better treatments for cancer or new ways to stay healthy as we mature."

Yet More Differentiation Progress (February 07 2005)
Resources are pouring into the vital task of understanding - and eventually controlling - the biochemistry and genetics of stem cell differentiation. Here, ScienceDaily reports on advances relating to blood stem cells: "Blood cell formation, known as hematopoiesis, begins with a [stem cell], which can either 'self-renew' and make more copies of itself or differentiate into either red blood cells, various types of white blood cells, or platelets. The genes that control proliferation and differentiation have been difficult to study using traditional gene disruption methods because loss of genes thought to be critical for this process often results in embryonic death, making it impossible to study the role of the gene of interest in mature animals. [Scientists have] found a way around this problem."



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