LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
March 07 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.
- A Week of Moving Forward
- Protandim Surfaces Again
- Skepticism About Claims of Extreme Old Age
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
A WEEK OF MOVING FORWARD
Looking back at the last week of news and science, I can't help but notice strong signs of progress across the board in biotechnology that will lead to healthy life extension - regenerative medicine, cures for degenerative conditions and cancer, basic research into genetics and molecular biochemistry. The pendulum of the legislative battle is swinging in favor of more funding at the moment; a new Alzheimer's gene has been uncovered; local governments and development organizations are competing to host new biotech companies.
Medical science moves forward thanks to the efforts of researchers and those who support their efforts. Take a look around in the week ahead and ask yourself what new and amazing advances took place recently - and how will they affect your healthy life span? Better still, ask yourself how you can participate in making a better future of accomplished biotechnology, medicine and longer lives ... we can all help in some small way.
PROTANDIM SURFACES AGAIN
A sizeable subsection of the healthy life extension community is interested in supplements, although I personally feel that the real anti-aging medicine of the next few decades is unlikely to be found in a pill. Far too much time is spent on tinkering with supplements rather than advocating and supporting research into genetics, stem cells, cancer therapies, the biochemistry of aging, medical nanotechnology and similar serious fields.
With this in mind, I noticed that Protandim from Lifeline Nutraceuticals will be launching soon. Unfortunately, this brand doesn't appear to be in any way related to the substance CMX-1152 (also known as protandim) developed by Ceremedix and which was at one point to be marketed by Lifeline. CMX-1152 has shown promising results on life span in mice:
You can read more on the history of CMX-1152 and Protandim in this thread at the Immortality Institute forums:
SKEPTICISM ABOUT CLAIMS OF EXTREME OLD AGE
Are the oldest people in the world really as old as they claim to be? Most of the time, no, it seems. It is best to be skeptical when first hearing about a new supercentenarian; everyone involved has incentives to inflate ages to new high.
We can hope that reaching 120 will be routine in a matter of decades, but it is very rare indeed now. Getting to a world of commonplace healthy 120th birthdays will require a major research investment, a distributed Manhattan Project to extend healthy human life span. If we are to be the ones celebrating our 120th birthdays in style, that investment must commence as soon as possible. We know it can be done; it was done - and is still underway - for cancer. The groundwork for a similar attack on the aging process is still unfinished, however. Massive funding for healthy life extension research will not emerge until advocates and educators both within and outside scientific communities have gathered much more support.
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
LATEST HEALTHY LIFE EXTENSION HEADLINES
The Harvard Stem Cell Institute (March 06 2005)
The Boston Herald looks at the work of the new Harvard Stem Cell Institute - including therapeutic cloning: "At Daley's lab, a satellite in Harvard's 'virtual institute,' researchers have been able to take skin cells from mice afflicted with a genetic disease, transplant the nucleus from the cell into a mouse egg that has had it's chromosomes removed, grow an embryo and derive stem cells. Researcher have then performed repairs on the stem cells to fix the genetic malfunction and injected the repaired cells back in the mouse. The result: a much healthier mouse. 'We're not only interested in curing mice, we're interested in curing people with diseases. We want to use the same procedure we're using in mice on people, but we need approval to do that.'"
On Artificial Muscle (March 06 2005)
(From the Seattle Times). The development of sophisticated protheses and artifical replacements for failing organs continues to be overshadowed by advances in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, but the science is moving forward. "The properties of artificial muscle are getting much closer to that of biological muscle ... At the University of California, Irvine, biomedical engineer William Tang and one of his students have launched a project to develop a prosthetic hand with artificial muscles. ... Implants also are in the works. Mohsen Shahinpoor, director of the Artificial Muscle Research Institute at the University of New Mexico, has designed an eye implant to correct bad vision."
Watching Biotech Commerce (March 05 2005)
An article in SFGate provides a good sense of the cut and thrust behind the scenes of biotechnology commerce; how regional government, development organizations and corporations interact. "A second biotechnology firm is moving to San Francisco's Mission Bay area ... The Sirna move was lauded by city business leaders who want San Francisco -- with Mission Bay as the centerpiece -- to become a major player in the growing biotech industry ... San Francisco is also hoping to capitalize on the requirement that all $3 billion in grants from [CIRM's] 10-year stem cell research funding program must go to companies or institutions located in California." Even limited competition is good - it's the alchemy by which greed and self-interest are transformed into technological progress.
More On Recent CR Research (March 05 2005)
Ascribe has a more science-focused article on recent work that examines the biochemistry of fasting. "Critical organs rely on sugar -- specifically glucose -- for the energy to function. In people with diabetes, however, the liver doesn't sense the incoming calories, and it keeps making glucose when it shouldn't ... in fasting mice, the liver's production of sugar kicked into high gear because amounts and activities of the two proteins, called sirtuin1 and PGC1-alpha, increased when dietary calories weren't available. Once mice were fed, levels of the two proteins went down and sugar production ceased." This relates to work on the mechanisms of calorie restriction (CR), although the jury is still out on whether alternate methodologies of CR - such as intermittent fasting - are as effective in extending healthy life span.
Update on Massachusetts Legislation (March 04 2005)
(From the Boston Globe). As noted at Fight Aging!, the battle over embryonic stem cell research legislation in Massachusetts is accumulating a fair amount of spilled ink. "[A bill] will pass both houses of the Legislature by the end of March, Democratic leaders predicted yesterday, but they remained unsure whether they can override an anticipated veto by Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican. ... The bill the House and Senate are expected to pass does not include state money for stem cell research. Though stem cell research is taking place in Massachusetts, Travaglini and business leaders want to pass a law expressly permitting such work ... The lawmakers and business leaders say they want to encourage the growth of the industry here and continue to compete with California."
Stem Cell Research In Brazil (March 04 2005)
The Kansas City Star reports on the legalization of embryonic stem cell research in Brazil: "As Brazilians in wheelchairs cheered, legislators voted to legalize stem cell research using human embryos - offering hope of one day finding treatments for ailments such as diabetes, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries. ... The bill now goes to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is expected to sign it into law." You may recall that adult stem cell therapies for heart disease were trialed in Brazil while the FDA blocked any such work in the US. The Brazilian research community is hard at work on other stem cell projects, so I expect to see more from them in the years ahead.
Latest Calorie Restriction Research (March 03 2005)
Forbes is carrying the best of recent articles on advances in the understanding of the biochemistry of metabolism, aging and calorie restriction. "If caloric restriction has such a huge benefit, couldn't we get it in an easier-to-swallow package? Such as, say, a pill? New research appearing in the journal Nature could be a big step in that direction. It shows how starvation triggers a particular gene that has already been linked by years of research to the processes of aging." There are uncertainties and much more research to go: "The genetic domino effect that his team uncovered may have less to do with extending life, he says, then with making it possible to survive caloric restriction at all. The life-extending results of caloric restriction could still be caused by something else."
Another Alzheimer's Gene (March 03 2005)
Forbes reports that researchers have identified a second gene associated with age-related Alzheimer's disease - this is good news. "Even though truly effective treatments for Alzheimer's remain elusive, identifying genetic factors in the disease should prove crucially important in the not-so-distant future, in both the diagnosis and treatment of the illness. ... It's really a two-pronged attack: First, we find all the genes involved to help identify those at risk, and then, from the other side, we learn from the genes what's going wrong." Modern medical research moves very fast once genes are identified; it usually takes less than a year to understand the biochemistry behind the association.
Funding For Telomerase Research (March 02 2005)
The Life Extension Foundation News notes that "The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology received 175 million HK dollars [about US$22.5 million] donation Wednesday from the Hong Kong Jockey to develop drugs against age- related diseases. The university will apply part of a major donation and partner with the San Francisco-based Geron Corporation to establish a biotechnology company, TA Therapeutics Limited, in Hong Kong. The new company will conduct researches, predominantly in Hong Kong, and develop telomerase activator drugs that restore the regenerative and functional capacity of cells to help fight against age-related and neurodegenerative diseases." More research into understanding and manipulating telomeres is a good thing.
Stem Cell Institute In New York? (March 02 2005)
The Poughkeepsie Journal reports on an initiative in New York state to fund a research institute after the California model. "A Republican senator announced Tuesday he'd introduce a bill to invest $1 billion worth of state dollars in stem cell research as a way to help New York compete with other states for biotech research. ... 'We can't afford to fall behind other states,' he said, rattling off California, New Jersey and Connecticut as states that have committed public money to lure research companies and scientists." It's hard to say at this stage whether all this public funding and legislation will end up producing a net gain in the rate of healthy life extension research, or whether state interest will simply speed the ongoing socialization of medicine and research in the US.
Embryonic Stem Cell Progress (March 01 2005)
(From ScienceDaily). By applying new techniques to control embryonic stem (ES) cell differentiation, researchers have succeeded in reversing hemophilia - a genetic defect of the liver - in mice. "In the study, ES cells were treated with fibroblast growth factor for seven days prior to injection. As expected, this resulted in ES cells differentiating into early endoderm like precursors, which the researchers named 'putative endoderm precursors,' or PEPs. Endoderm refers to the inner layer of early embryonic cells that develops into the digestive and respiratory systems. Not only do ES cells differentiate into PEPs, they also engraft, persist, differentiate further and then function following injection ... the PEP cells robustly engraft within the liver and were not recognized by the immune system as foreign."
PBS On Calorie Restriction And Genes (March 01 2005)
You can listen and participate in a discussion about anti-aging research at PBS; the focus is on calorie restriction and the groups seeking to develop healthy life extension medicine based on the underlying genetics and biochemistry that cause calorie restriction to provide health benefits and extend life span. This field of dedicated longevity medicine is currently the most well known and well funded - but it may not be the best path forward towards radically extended healthy life spans. Regardless, there is no such thing as useless knowledge in biology, and researchers are uncovering important information about the way in which metabolism and aging interact at the most fundamental level.
On The Grandmother Hypothesis (February 28 2005)
A long article from RedNova explains the Grandmother Hypothesis as it relates to the evolution of human life span and reproductive capabilities. Finding an explanation for the comparatively long human life span is one part of wider longevity research - we live longer than other mammals of the same size, but we do know know why this is the case. "There is little question that positive selection has acted on genes that increase lifespan. [However] there is still considerable debate as to whether or not prolonged lifespan has been selected to ensure the survival of offspring (Mother Hypotheses) or to increase the reproductive success of those offspring (Grandmother Hypotheses)."
Searching For Supercentenarians (February 28 2005)
The Post-Gazette profiles the activities of the Gerontology Research Group: "GRG's 40 volunteers - a loose, international network of demographers, gerontologists, epidemiologists and self-styled 'hobbyists' - are dedicated to verifying the ages of the world's oldest people, and to learning the secrets of their longevity. But to do so, they must contend with dishonest schemers, governments that gleefully support false claims and what researchers call 'the invisible barrier of 115.' Because almost no one who reaches age 114 ever sees 115, the group is skeptical of any claims to ages higher than that. ... Dr. Coles believes that if doctors find answers about superlongevity, the pharmaceutical industry will develop drugs to help the oldest of us survive longer."