Longevity Meme Newsletter, April 11 2005

April 11 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 Smorgasbord of Mprize Multimedia
- What is Conservatism in Gerontology?
- On Wealth and Longevity
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


The Methuselah Foundation volunteers have been amassing audio and video for a while now: media coverage of the Mprize for anti-aging research; interviews with Aubrey de Grey; presentations given at events like Pop!Tech. Over the past week, this has all gone online in one convenient place:


So stroll over and see what an Aubrey de Grey presentation really looks and sounds like; listen to what he has to say about the future of healthy life extension and funding for anti-aging research. If you like what you hear, give some thought to making a donation to the Mprize fund - your dollars will go towards making longevity medicine a reality.



The largest institutional problem facing forward-looking scientists today is conservatism in the gerontological establishment. Conservatism in this case is an unwillingness to discuss any serious attempt to develop working healthy life extension medicine based on our current level of knowledge about aging. Conservative gerontologists uniformly call for more funding for aging research in order to better understand the biomolecular and genetic mechanisms of the aging process - a good thing in and of itself, but by no means sufficient.


Imagine a world in which all that cancer researchers did was try to better understand cancer - a world in which the mainstream cancer research community refused to discuss any sort of progress towards actual therapies. Seems unthinkable doesn't it? We certainly didn't have a good understanding of cancer back in the 1970s compared to now, but that didn't stop people developing ever better, working, practical therapies. Yet in the cloistered world of gerontology, it is heresy to discuss the application of aging research to extend the healthy human life span; there is no funding for such efforts.

When we stand the progress and comparative stages of aging research and cancer research side by side, the absence of mainstream funding for applied research into therapies for aging is glaring. We know enough about aging and what it does (more than we did about the mechanisms of cancer in 1970) to get going - we have proposals like Aubrey de Grey's Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence awaiting serious discussion and criticism by other gerontologists.


What is needed here is a hard shove to dislodge this unhealthy conservative mindset in gerontology - one delivered by the raised voices of those who want to see working anti-aging therapies in their lifetimes.



How many extra years of healthy life does wealth bring you? Not as many as you might think:


"Simply having great wealth is not going to work wonders for your life span. You'll get a few extra years at most if all you are doing is enjoying the peripheral benefits. One of the hallmarks of this modern world is that the gap in consumer benefits enjoyed by the wealthy and the poor is not as large as you might think, nor as large as it once was. All the advances that would amaze a time traveler from the 1300s are largely available to the first world poor of our time.

There is one thing that wealth does bring, however, and that is the ability to effect change. Wealth is a big lever that can be used to shape the future - it would only take a small fraction of the holdings of the wealthiest 400 people in the world to set serious anti-aging research underway, for example. In other words, the best way to turn wealth into extra healthy years is to fund advances into working anti-aging and longevity medicine rather than simply enjoy the best medicine currently available. One of the goals of healthy life extension advocacy is to make that point clear to the wealthy of the world."


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



More On Centenarian Studies (April 10 2005)
The Cape Cod Times reports on centenarian studies and the genetics of natural longevity - something that scientists would like to understand and use as the basis for therapies. "Currently in the United States, about one person in 10,000 lives to be 100 ... Perls divides centenarians into three categories: 'delayers,' who have no age-related illnesses until their 80s; 'escapers,' who have no illnesses at 100; and 'survivors,' who had age-related illnesses prior to turning 80. About 15 percent of centenarians are 'escapers' and the remainder are almost evenly divided into 'delayers' and 'survivors.' ... About 90 percent of the centenarians were functionally independent at the average age of 92."

No Missouri Research Ban? (April 10 2005)
Boston.com reports on stem cell politics in Missouri: "Last week, the Missouri Senate shelved a bill that would have banned somatic cell nuclear transfer, or so-called therapeutic cloning. ... State senators debated the measure for six hours without resolution last week. The bill's sponsor, Matt Bartle of suburban Kansas City, resisted calls to compromise or, as some Republicans would have preferred, to drop the proposal entirely. ... Dr. William Nieves, a self-described 'born-again Christian' who heads the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, has told legislators that the institute, which is endowed with more than $2 billion, will forgo an expansion and seek out a location 'more favorable to stem cell research' should the anti-cloning measure pass."

Nanomedicine At EuroNanoForum (April 09 2005)
Nanodot notes that advanced nanomedicine of the sort advocated by Robert Freitas will be on the agenda at the EuroNanoForum 2005 conference later this year. Keeping the focus on medium to long term advances in the nanotechnology field has proven to be something of a battle over the past year - advocates and development plans for molecular manufacturing and nanomedical robotics were in danger of being shut out by an industry focused on short term goals such as nanoscale manufacturing and diagnostic tools. It is these long term goals for medical nanotechnology that have the most likelihood of producing large gains in the healthy human life span - so they should be nurtured and encouraged.

Alzheimer's And Mitochondria (April 09 2005)
An article from Medical News Today explains our current understanding of links between mitochondrial degeneration and Alzheimer's disease: "Proteins involved in brain cell communications, called synaptic proteins, decrease in the brains of Alzheimer's patients when compared to healthy brains from people in the same age range ... One possible reason for the reduction of synaptic proteins is mitochondrial dysfunction ... researchers believe it's possible that defective mitochondria in Alzheimer's neurons may not move effectively and may not supply adequate levels of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP is an important cellular chemical that bonds at nerve terminals for normal neural communication. The low levels of cellular ATP at nerve terminals may lead to the loss of synapses and synaptic function."

Aubrey de Grey Multimedia (April 08 2005)
The volunteers at the Methuselah Foundation have been busy of late - here, they have put together a collection of audio and video downloads featuring presentations and interviews with biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey. You'll find appearances at Pop!Tech and the 5th EMBO/EMBL Joint Conference on Science, Society, Time and Aging Mechanisms and Meanings, as well an interview with Janet Street-Porter and a BBC Scotland radio broadcast. If you were wondering just how Aubrey de Grey garners so much interest in his proposed plans for rejuvenative research, here is your chance to find out.

Questing For Dedifferentiation (April 08 2005)
Wired reports on efforts to replicate the ability of some animals to regenerate entire organs. "Lop off a newt's leg or tail, and it will grow a new one. The creature's cells can regenerate thanks to built-in time machines that revert cells to early versions of themselves in a process called dedifferentiation. Researchers who study this mechanism hope one day to learn how to induce the same 'cell time travel' in humans. If the cells go back far enough, they become stem cells, which researchers believe hold promise for treating many diseases. ... In newts and some other animals with the ability to regenerate, cells at the site of an injury can revert to their embryonic stem-cell stage and can become another type of cell in that creature's body."

Muscles and Mitochondrial Decline (April 07 2005)
Betterhumans notes more research linking mitochondrial damage with age-related degeneration - this time in our muscles. "Mitochondrial DNA is essential for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the chemical energy that cells use to function. Reductions in ATP reduce muscle endurance, which contributes to the muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass associated with aging. ... [Scientists] found that older participants had more DNA damage and reduced mitochondrial DNA abundance, resulting in reduced gene expression and in turn reduced ATP production and less muscle endurance." A number of groups are investigating methods of repairing mitochondrial damage; a very promising line of research for healthy life extension.

Inflicting Cellular Aging On Cancer (April 07 2005)
(From donga.com). Korean researchers are claiming a method of suppressing the agelessness of cancer cells. "Professor Cheong and his team separated breast and cervical cancer cells from the body and cultured them for a month before injecting them with MKRN1 genes. As a result, the growing and dividing cancer cells began aging and finally disappeared." MKRN1 acts to degrade telomerase, the telomere-lengthening enzyme that is dormant in most cells, but active in cancer. In cancer cells, "telomerase protects telomeres from being shortened as far as the aging point. Therefore, cancer cells do not get old and continue cell division to spread themselves to other organs." Safely removing telomerase from the equation seems to be a promising line of enquiry for cancer therapies.

Inkjet Tissue Engineering Update (April 06 2005)
CNET News.com is running an article on progress towards the use of inkjet printing technologies in tissue engineering. "So far, the Manchester group has employed the technique to spray (and grow) human fibroblasts and osteoblasts, the cells responsible for forming, respectively, muscle tissue and bone ... We are interested in tissue engineering cartilage, bone and blood vessels. Skin is an application but not our main focus even if the press have picked it up. My guess would be bone replacement as the first application." Reliable engineering of blood vessels is needed in order to construct larger masses of replacement tissue for age-damaged organs.

On Mental Degeneration (April 06 2005)
SAGE Crossroads looks at age-related mental decline and what could be done about it. "Contrary to popular belief, 'there is not an inexorable decline in mental function in older people. If you follow [older] people over time, a lot do get worse, but most stay the same--and some get better.' ... A growing body of research is geared toward determining what keeps some people's minds nimble into old age, and how to reproduce that success in the rest of us. Some scientists have identified genes that are associated with successful aging of the brain and hope to find drugs with similar effects. Others have discovered that simpler solutions like mental exercises also might prevent dementia." Pfizer is currently testing ways of replicating a genetic difference found in some of the most mentally capable centenarians.

Stem Cell Trials Proceeding (April 05 2005)
Trials for first generation adult stem cell therapies are proceeding quietly, as this press release demonstrates. This part of the field is becoming medicine as usual, complete with funny trademarked names for stem cell formulations. "Osiris Therapeutics, Inc. announced today that it has received clearance [from the FDA] to begin enrollment in the first human clinical trial for a stem cell therapy targeted at injured tissue in knee surgery patients. ... In the U.S. alone, approximately 800,000 people each year have surgery to remove a portion of damaged meniscus, a cartilage-like tissue in the knee that acts as a shock absorber. In several large animal studies, [this therapy] has demonstrated the potential to regenerate the excised meniscus, as well as prevent the typical progression to osteoarthritis."

More Osteoporosis Progress (April 05 2005)
EurekAlert reports on more progress towards a complete understanding of biomolecular processes underlying osteoporosis - the serious, widespread condition of age-related bone loss. "Scientists at the Yale School of Medicine identified a molecule in osteoclasts, IRAK-M, that is a key regulator of the loss of bone mass. Osteoclasts are cells that play a major role in the development and remodeling of bone. They originate from the fusion of macrophages and are important mediators of the loss of bone mass that leads to osteoporosis. ... IRAK-M appears to be a key signaling molecule in the prevention of bone loss. In normal mice the level of IRAK-M in osteoclasts is high compared to what is found in macrophages -- and bones are well maintained. Mice that lack IRAK-M develop severe osteoporosis."

Build The Future You Want To See (April 04 2005)
The future doesn't just happen - we build it through our actions and giving voice to our opinions. Do you want to see a future in which working anti-aging medicine is a reality? In which the degenerative consequences of aging have been greatly slowed or cured? You can do more than simply hope and talk about it; all of us, scientists or not, can contribute to an important research prize initiative working towards these goals. Visit the Mprize website to see how even a modest donation can help to speed research into extending the healthy human life span. For the cost of a cup of coffee a day, you can join The Three Hundred to demonstrate that you are serious about supporting longevity research. So step up to the plate and help to make the future a better place for all of us!

Overview: Full Stem Ahead (April 04 2005)
Science News is running a good overview article on stem cell research: its branches, possibilities and history. "The promise [of stem cells] has not been exaggerated. What's been lost in discussion is how long it will take and how difficult it will be for stem cells to live up to their billing ... The challenge of getting stem cells to differentiate reliably [in the lab] is to provide the cells with an identical replica of the chemical signals that the body naturally uses to sway adult and embryonic cells to differentiate. 'The problem is, we don't know what [those signals] are yet. ... Luckily, some adult stem cells save researchers the task of sorting cells or guessing chemical signals. ... For decades, researchers have taken advantage of this quality in treating leukemia patients with bone marrow stem cells.'"



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