Longevity Meme Newsletter, February 28 2005

February 28 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.



- Talking About An Ageless Future: Good or Not So Good?
- Stem Cell Politics As Usual
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


The end goal of medicine is to be able to cheaply repair all age-related degeneration faster than it happens. We're a long way from that point, but many scientists believe we are nonetheless quite close to making significant gains in healthy life span - with significant funding of course:


One of the topics I've touched on in recent newsletters is the way in which holding a discussion of an ageless future - and the plausible science that could get us there - affects fundraising, education and advocacy for healthy life extension in the here and now.


Not everyone is receptive to this sort of approach, however, as illustrated in this Fight Aging! post:


The fellow in question is so repulsed by something that is "obviously" fringe that he throws out or refuses to investigate associated facts and science - despite coming across as someone who would be sympathetic to a more subtle approach. A powerful form of denial can be generated by an educated person who filters public opinions of scientists and a little knowledge of bioscience through a preexisting bias that any talk of a cure for aging is "fringe" or "cultish."

My suspicion is that reactions like this can only be turned into more positive opinions by continuing to hold and expand public discussions regarding developing a cure for aging and age-related degeneration - and what an ageless world will look like.


Those who like to keep track of who is trying to ban or fund therapeutic cloning, embryonic stem cell research and other important medical work in US federal and state legislatures might want to take a look at the following pages:


As I noted recently, it looks likely that anti-research groups will continue their fight to introduce federal legislation to criminalize progress towards regenerative cures for age-related conditions based on therapeutic cloning and embryonic stem cell research. The best way to help stop this from happening is to have your say:


Remember - while the possibility of federal anti-research legislation looms large, as it has done for several years in the US, vast amounts of private funding remain uncommitted. This state of affairs has caused great harm to the rate of progress, both in basic research and in commercializing the results.


The highlights and headlines from the past week 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



On Early Alzheimer's Development (February 27 2005)
(From News-Medical.net). Understanding exactly how Alzheimer's disease develops in its earliest stages is a very necessary first step on the path to early detection and prevention. Researchers are now looking beyond the characteristic amyloid plaques to uncover the causative biochemistry: "Early Alzheimer's disease may be precipitated by a 'traffic jam' within neurons that causes swelling and prevents proper transport of proteins and structures in the cells ... we decided to look at mouse models of Alzheimer's disease early in their life, before plaque formation, to see if we could detect early evidence of abnormal axonal transport ... What we saw quite early in the life of those animals - well before any plaque deposition - were obvious axonal defects."

More On Controlling Stem Cells (February 27 2005)
Forbes has more on recent advances in our knowledge of stem cell differentiation and ability to control it. "In experiments with mice, scientists believe they've discovered a new class of gene signals that either prevent or permit stem cells to develop into specific cell types ... This discovery could lead to new stem cell therapies. We have very little understanding of how stem cells work. This is a small piece of the puzzle of how stem cells maintain their stem 'cell-ness.'" These new insights follow on from recent work linking the biochemistry of graying hair, stem cells and melanomas. "It is fascinating that these embryonic genes are active in adult stem cells. The big issue is, can adult stem cells ever be as multipotential as embryonic stem cells? And we still don't know the answer."

Just How Important Is Exercise? (February 26 2005)
Modest exercise is very important for your long-term health and longevity, as noted at Forbes. "Most of the issues we look at as aging really are disuse. We're meant to move ... Exercising is the closest thing to a 'magic bullet,' to ensure longevity and a good quality of life." Calorie restriction is another proven, available way to enhance your healthy longevity. "There is good evidence that older people respond just as well to exercise as younger people do, but most older people don't exercise." By not taking care of your health, you risk age-related conditions that make it much harder to exercise - age-related degeneration is a downward spiral, but even today you have control over how fast it happens and what your risk levels are. To benefit from the longevity medicine of tomorrow you must stay healthy today.

Reminder: De Grey Versus Olshansky (February 26 2005)
This press release provides a reminder that Aubrey de Grey and S. Jay Olshansky will debate the future of healthy life extension in mainstream science on March 30 at BIOMEDEX 2005. "The debate will be examining ageing and human mortality, and already promises to be a lively one. Dr. Aubrey de Grey will be defending the notion that ageing is a treatable disease and that dramatic increases in life expectancy are forthcoming, while Dr. Olshansky will be upholding the thesis that ageing is an inevitable by-product of operating the machinery of life and that life expectancy could begin to decline in the next few decades." Olshansky's position is a little more nuanced than that, as a look at an exchange at Fight Aging! will show.

Following The Debate In Missouri (February 25 2005)
(From the Record). The fight over anti-research legislation in Missouri has grown heated: "State legislators have introduced bills in both the Missouri House and Senate to ban a technique known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), criminalizing certain kinds of research into medical uses of embryonic stem cells in Missouri. SB160 was recently approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and will go to the full Senate for vote." This article gives a good high-level background to the science and proposed legislation - this is the same sort of fight we can expect to see at the Federal level over the next few years. So watch, learn, and make sure your elected representatives know your opinions on better medical research and longer, healthier lives.

On Anti-Aging Hype (February 25 2005)
The attitudes of conservative gerontologists towards healthy life extension, the loud "anti-aging" marketplace and the serious pursuit of longevity research are summed up in a new book. "The Gerontological Society of America's 2004 peer-reviewed article series on the truth of anti-aging medicine is now available in a single volume. ... Supervised by editors S. Jay Olshansky, PhD, Leonard Hayflick, PhD, and Thomas T. Perls, MD, MPH, this book focuses on the history of anti-aging research, the debate among scientists on the societal implications of modifying the biological rate of aging, and the reality of what is currently known about the aging process. Further attention is given to growth hormones and supplements and legal issues associated with the practice of anti-aging medicine."

Steps Towards Replacement Organs (February 24 2005)
The Telegraph reports on another small - but complex and significant - step forward towards growing replacement organs from a patient's own cells. "Researchers in Japan have succeeded in cloning a human kidney by cultivating human stem cells extracted from adult bone marrow into rat embryos, team members said. The development is expected to increase the possibility of expanding regenerative medicine to anatomically complicated organs such as the kidney and lung as a potential means to treat patients with disorders of those organs." This sort of work with animals is running in parallel to other efforts that focus on tissue engineering and nanoscale material scaffolds.

Update On Mitochondrial Research (February 24 2005)
Betterhumans provides an update on some of the more interesting research into mitochondrial regeneration. "Halting aging and the development of diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's may one day be as simple as seeing the doctor for a mitochondrial 'tune up.' The tune up, currently in the early stages of development, would repair mutations that occur in mitochondria and are believed to contribute to many afflictions, from diabetes to heart disease." The timeline is still long, however: "Once we prove the efficacy of [mitochondrial DNA repair] in animals, we need to show that it works in humans and then expand its use to other conditions, which should be enough to keep us busy for the next 15 to 20 years."

Anti-Research Groups Attack CIRM (February 23 2005)
(From AZCentral). Groups opposed to embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning are attempting to derail the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine through a variety of legal avenues - none of which are related to their actual ethical objections to the research, of course. "One lawsuit alleges the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine violates state law because it's not governed exclusively by the state government, and the committee that controls the research money it will dole out isn't publicly elected." Personally, I can't help but feel that people who prioritize unthinking, unfeeling clumps of a few cells - no different from the skin cells you shed each and every day - above the continuing suffering and death of millions have their ethics all backwards.

Progress In Nerve Regeneration (February 23 2005)
As noted at EurekAlert, "for the first time, scientists have regenerated a damaged optic nerve - from the eye to the brain" in mice. Regeneration of large amounts of nerve fibre is still a hurdle - and vital to any effective future therapy for many injuries and conditions relating to nerve damage - but this is a promising stem forward. "Chen and her research team have dedicated themselves to learning the reasons why [central nervous system] tissue stops regenerating and to finding ways to reverse that process, using the optic nerve as their research model. ... [new techniques] caused the optic nerves to return to an embryonic state and stimulated rapid, robust regeneration of the optic nerve - again, as with the younger mice - within only a few days."

Protein Experiments In Mice (February 22 2005)
Betterhumans reports on the latest in a line of studies in mice to determine the effects of regulatory proteins on muscle, fat and bone development. "A protein that blocks the production of fat in mice also gives them a bone mass four times that of normal mice, hinting at new ways of treating osteoporosis in humans. ... [It] is part of a family of 19 proteins that regulate changes that take place as embryos develop. ... Otherwise, say the researchers, there didn't appear to be any abnormal features in the bone." It is a fair way from experiments such as these to producing gene therapies for humans that address age-related degeneration - but scientists have to start with the basics.

More Long-Lived Animals (February 22 2005)
EurekAlert reminds us that many animals have very long life spans - 250 years in the case of a particular breed of tubeworm. Whales are also surprisingly long-lived and you'll find a great deal more interesting information of this sort at the Ageless Animals website. That so many different species of animal live so long is a clear rebuttal to many of the arguments against healthy life extension. The basis of the complex machinery making up our bodies is clearly capable of extreme longevity in other configurations - many of these very long-lived animals are not so different, biochemically speaking, from us humans.

Nanomedicine On The Horizon (February 21 2005)
The Nashua Telegraph takes a look at early nanomedicine - which is to say improved nanoscale manufacturing techniques applied to medicine. "'Nanobots' remain imaginary for now, but a number of other futuristic nanodevices are already proving their potential in animal and human experiments. More than 60 drugs and drug delivery systems based on nanotechnology, and more than 90 medical devices or diagnostic tests, are already being tested." Molecular manufacturing and true nanomedical robots are still decades away despite the efforts of well-known researchers - and the promise for healthy life extension - but diagnostic technologies are currently improving rapidly.

Weight Increases Dementia Risk (February 21 2005)
(From the Life Extension Foundation News). Here is another reminder that excess weight at any point in life increases your chance of suffering age-related degenerative diseases. "People who gain even just a few extra kilos/pounds when they reach middle-age increase their risk of developing dementia later in life, according results from a new Swedish study ... Based on data collected over a 28-year-period from more than 7,000 men in the southwestern town of Gothenburg, the study reveals a clear link between middle-age weight-gain and later deterioration of intellectual faculties. ... The link between weight-gain and dementia remained clear even after factors like smoking, exercise and diabetes had been taken into consideration."



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