LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
March 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.
- Legitimacy Conferred For $5 Million
- A $1 Million M Prize
- On The Cryonics Society
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
LEGITIMACY CONFERRED FOR $5 MILLION
Philanthropist Paul F. Glenn, a donor to the M Prize for anti-aging research, has announced the new Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for the Biological Mechanisms of Aging to be based at the Harvard Medical School. The grant is small in the grand scheme of things, but it buys something very important: legitimacy for serious healthy life extension research.
"We are proud to be teaming up with Mr. Glenn and the Glenn Foundation," said HMS aging researcher David Sinclair, PhD, associate professor of pathology, who will direct the lab. "Like us, Paul is dedicated to finding the molecular answers to the aging process so we can understand the mechanisms of normal aging and develop interventions to delay its onset and decline, thereby extending the healthful years of human life."
While $5 million does not buy a great deal of research, much larger sums of money already flow through the corridors of the Harvard Medical School - any legitimate field of science with a foothold in the school can start to benefit from the associated connections, prestige and sources of funding. In many ways, the struggle for directed anti-aging research, as for any new field of science, is a struggle for the legitimacy that will lead to serious funding. The past few years and the next few years form a tipping point in public and scientific perception; research into extending the healthy human life span is moving from fringe to mainstream, thanks to the efforts of scientists, advocates and philanthropists.
As they say, the person most surprised by the collapse of a brick wall is the one who was banging his head against it. I, like many others, continue to be pleasantly surprised at the rate of progress in legitimizing serious research into healthy life extension.
A $1 MILLION M PRIZE
The other big news for the week - in this neck of the woods in any case - was that the M Prize cruised past the $1 million mark in pledges. As always, thanks go out to those of you reading this newsletter who stepped up to the plate in the early days and made a donation.
Have you thought about joining The Three Hundred? You'd be in august company, including that of William Haseltine, founder of Human Genome Sciences, whose donation pushed the pledge total to $1 million.
ON THE CRYONICS SOCIETY
It's always good to see other folks in the wider healthy life extension community taking up the torch of advocacy and getting something done. Read this message from the Cryonics Society to see if there is a way for you can help their outreach and education efforts:
"Throughout its history, cryonics has faced a problem that has crippled its hopes and aspirations and that could still put an end to the cryonics movement and the lives of everyone who supports it. A new organization has been formed that hopes to solve that problem - and your help is needed to make it succeed. ... Its goal is to end the distorted negative presentation of cryonics that the media sends to the public and to replace it with positive information and positive support."
As you all probably know, I consider cryonics to be an ethical necessity and vital insurance policy for the healthy life extension community. So take a moment to read about the Cryonics Society outreach program and help out.
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
Escape Velocity In Aging Research (March 13 2005)
A great article from the Times examines the concept of escape velocity in healthy life extension and aging research: "Sally's life prospects are optimum for a human child in 2005. According to current projections, she can expect to live well into her eighties. But it's not going to be like that, because Sally is not going to die until 3194." As the author - and Aubrey de Grey - point out, plausible, working anti-aging medicine will bring great changes. "Almost any of the traditional answers would be dismissed as deluded mythologies - attempts 'to rationalise this tragedy as a good thing' - constructed in the face of what we took to be the inevitability of death. If death is not inevitable, all such mythologies becomes meaningless."
No More Feeder Cells (March 13 2005)
(From Betterhumans). A number of publications note recent work from Advanced Cell Technology - a company that deserves another round of venture funding if ever there was one - that removes a major obstacle for the use of embryonic stem cell based therapies in humans. "The researchers report deriving a new embryonic stem cell line from human embryos under conditions free of animal cells and serum. They say that even after six months of unspecialized growth the cells retained their potential to become a range of tissues. The technique is considered important for the therapeutic use of stem cells because it's thought that most available stem cell lines are contaminated with animal material."
Three Longevity Genes (March 12 2005)
From Newsday.com, an update on research into genes associated with longevity: "Having any one of these genes can confer a longer and healthier life. ... He studied 300 Ashkenazi Jews between 95 and 108 years old and their children, many of whom themselves have lived beyond the average life span - 77.6 years. Thirty percent of these families had any one of these three genes, compared with 5 percent of people without a history of longevity." You may recall that two of these genes relate to cholesterol and lipoprotein regulation; the last is involved in inflammation and insulin regulation. These mechanisms appear to be important determinants for the rate at which cellular damage accumulates in the body or the risk of suffering common age-related degenerative conditions.
TCS Profiles FasterCures (March 12 2005)
Tech Central Station profiles Michael Milken's FasterCures initiative: "Going forward, it's worth keeping an eye on FasterCures to see whether researchers are using these findings to spur a wave of innovation in industries currently hampered by a lack of funding, gaps in public awareness or government over-regulation. The pace of innovation does not have to be dependent on federal government dollars flowing to centralized research institutions. As the example of FasterCures shows, thinking about problems in new ways and then tapping into resources at the 'edge' of an industry can often lead to innovation that is faster, cheaper and more relevant." Socialization, centralization and over-regulation of medicine is a very serious problem with very serious consequences for those affected by it - it must be fought.
Paul Glenn Speeds Up Aging Science (March 11 2005)
Philanthropist Paul F. Glenn - a donor to the M Prize for anti-aging research - has launched a new institute at Harvard to "accelerate the pace of research into the molecular mechanisms that govern aging." The lab will be directed by David Sinclair, the Sirtris cofounder known for work on calorie restriction mimetics. "A significant portion of the resources will be used to recruit two additional faculty members focused on aging research and to build out the labs with advanced research technology and animal models. Additionally, research pilot grants will be awarded by a steering committee to investigators wanting to investigate novel areas of molecular research addressing critical questions in the normal aging process. These pilot grants will produce data that can be used to attract larger government grants." Good news indeed!
Degenerative Blindness Gene Found (March 11 2005)
A number of different research groups have been making inroads into fixing age-related degenerative blindness in recent years. Betterhumans reports on the latest: "A variation in a single gene may cause half of all cases of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. ... Once we determine which genes are responsible for macular degeneration, we can screen the population and manipulate biological pathways to develop treatments." Moving from identification of a gene to understanding how that gene causes a degenerative condition can now be accomplished very rapidly - expect to hear more from this research group before the end of the year.
Janet Street-Porter On Aubrey De Grey (March 10 2005)
RedNova is running a column by Janet Street-Porter on Aubrey de Grey and the M Prize for anti-aging research - it's a good demonstration that most folks do actually want to live longer, healthier lives. "De Grey studied computer science, and works as a researcher in the Department of Genetics at Cambridge University. As an engineer, he believes that eventually technology will be created which will be able to repair cell damage and so, not only will we halt ageing, we will be able to revert to youth. Hoorah! ... In the interests of democracy and a longer life for all, I'm pledging my [10 pounds sterling] to the Methuselah Mouse prize now - it's a lot more fun than the Lottery, and if I can make it to 82 reasonably intact, I'll be only too happy to learn new skills, be a thoroughly adaptable member of the workforce and pay tax till I'm 149!"
Timeline For Tooth Regeneration (March 10 2005)
ABC News reports on projected timelines for regenerative dental therapies: "Presentations at a dental meeting demonstrate that techniques using stem cells and gene therapy to regenerate teeth are producing promising results, suggesting this technique may not be far off. ... Clearly, techniques that involve adding new tissue to already-existing teeth are 'probably a bit closer on the horizon,' perhaps within a 'handful of years,' Smith predicted. Techniques that grow teeth from scratch will likely take at least another 10 years to perfect." Similar promising beginnings and projected timelines for regenerative medicine can be seen for many other organs and body parts, from hair to heart. Let the research roll on!
Opposition Was Wrong Back Then Too (March 09 2005)
A useful analogy appears in the SF Examiner: "Opposition to stem cell research is reminiscent of another wrongly waged battle against gene splicing almost 30 years ago ... 'They were wrong,' said Robert N. Klein, chairman of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine. ... In the mid-1970s, critics fought the development of recombinant DNA - gene splicing, where segments of genetic material from one organism are transferred to another. Critics said gene splicing was wild, uncontrolled science that would take decades to return benefits, Klein said. But by 1978, the first artificial human insulin was developed at UCSF. Now there are heart and cancer treatments. 'It was a great lesson to all of us. We have a legacy, a duty to move the frontier forward.'"
Sirtris Gets $27M Funding (March 09 2005)
Good news for research into biochemical mechanisms at the junction of calorie restriction, metabolism and aging: Sirtris Pharmaceuticals has closed its series B funding round at a healthy $27M. Venture capitalists are a conservative breed, so this indicates that at least one field of healthy life extension research is hot right now; for every million dollars that we hear about, there is much more that we don't. Sirtris is named for sirtuins, enzymes currently considered to be "universal regulators of aging in virtually all living organisms [that] represent a prime target for new anti-aging drugs. ... Now the race is on, Sinclair said, to find the most potent sirtuin stimulators -- or create synthetic ones -- and test their ability to extend the lives not only of cells, flies and worms but also of mice, monkeys and humans."
$1,000,000 M Prize (March 08 2005)
The M Prize for anti-aging research has reached the $1,000,000 mark in pledges, with William Haseltine, founder of Human Genome Sciences, taking it over the line. "I am delighted that my decision to join the Three Hundred has pushed the prize fund over its first one million dollars, which I trust is only the first of many millions. There's nothing to compare with this effort, and it has already contributed significantly to the awareness that regenerative medicine is a near term reality, not an IF. ... Encouraging researchers to compete for the most dramatic advances in the science of slowing, even reversing aging, is a revolutionary new model that is making its mark." Congratulations to all involved, and many thanks to the numerous other donors and sponsors!
Deconstructing Fish Oil (March 08 2005)
Chronic inflammation of tissue is linked to many age-related conditions; Reliability Theory suggests that the cellular damage caused by inflammation plays a large role in decreasing healthy life span. This Nature article discusses the first steps taken to uncover the biochemistry of fish oil (or rather the omega-3 fatty acids it contains) and how it suppresses inflammation. "[Charles Serhan's] group is also looking at the other lipids that derive from fish oil. He suspects that each one has a part to play in orchestrating the inflammatory response. Understanding how they work could lead to the development of a range of new drugs to counteract inflammation, he predicts."
Progeria Reversible? (March 07 2005)
The NIH reports that "Using specially modified segments of DNA, NCI researchers Paola Scaffidi, PhD, and Tom Misteli, PhD, reversed the abnormalities seen in [Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome] HGPS cells by correcting defects associated with the key protein, lamin A. By demonstrating that HGPS cellular characteristics are reversible, this [study] brings scientists one step closer to understanding this devastating childhood disease and might provide insights into the normal aging process." Research into Progeria and other accelerated aging syndromes is shedding light on the processes of normal aging, but this latest work - while certainly good news for Progeria sufferers - does not have any direct impact on healthy life extension research. Yet.
A Type 3 Diabetes? (March 07 2005)
Medical News Today discusses new findings in the relationship between insulin mechanisms, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease: "What we found is that insulin is not just produced in the pancreas, but also in the brain. And we discovered that insulin and its growth factors, which are necessary for the survival of brain cells, contribute to the progression of Alzheimer's. This raises the possibility of a Type 3 diabetes. ... It has previously been known that insulin resistance, a characteristic of diabetes, is tied to neurodegeneration. While scientists have suspected a link between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, this is the first study to provide evidence of that connection."