Longevity Meme Newsletter, April 18 2005

April 18 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.



- Taking Responsibility for Your Future
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


The sorts of discussions currently taking place regarding the future of socialized medical systems - such as Medicare in the US, or the NIH in the UK - should not inspire anyone with confidence. Take these two examples:


"Krugman obviously thinks that the US currently pays too much for its health care and he might even be right. Yet as we know, the demand for health care is virtually unlimited, very few of us passing gently into the long dark night. There has to be some form of rationing, by price, by queue, by diktat, and if I'm right, and he's going to propose a system which is free at the point of treatment, by eliminating the price structure's effect in reducing demand, just how is he going to limit the system's costs?"

If advocates of healthy life extension and funding for working longevity medicine succeed in their efforts, radical change is in the air. If there's one thing that sprawling government entitlement programs do not handle well, it's change - even change for the better in the form of medical technologies that can greatly extend the healthy human life span. The culture of entitlement is an ugly thing to behold once it gets going:


The bottom line is that you should not expect entitlement programs like Medicare, Social Security and so forth to continue to exist in their present form; it is simply impossible. Medicine has costs, and those costs must be paid in some way - but you shouldn't expect any organization or program to step up and pay the likely cost of the first generation of therapies to effectively intervene in the aging process:


You do have time to plan for this uncertain future, however - it may take 10 years to establish a large funding base for directed, modern anti-aging research and a further 20 years of hard work to make meaningful progress on initiatives like Aubrey de Grey's SENS:


Thirty years is plenty of time to make a best effort to assure your health and longevity by assuring your financial security - by saving and planning ahead, in other words. Based on current trends and even a cursory look back at history, it would be foolish to count on other people's taxes as a source of payment for your longevity treatments (and unethical besides, but that's a whole other discussion). Just remember that when bad political policy runs headlong into economic reality, the unprepared are those who suffer the consequences.


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



Bidding With Public Funds (April 17 2005)
A Middletown Press article accurately presents the way in which politicians view state funding of stem cell research - as a bidding war. "Seven states and counting are considering setting up or operating their own embryonic stem cell programs. The potential rewards in medical breakthroughs and economic development are so enormous that these legislatures are putting mountains of money on the line. However, Connecticut's proposed $20 million is a speed bump next to California’s $3 billion. ... New Jersey is proposing a $400 million stem cell program, and Wisconsin will launch a $750 million biotechnology program that includes stem cell research. 'Twenty million dollars is short-term. It's not enough to make Connecticut attractive. A lot more funding is needed.'"

Longevity And Future Health Costs (April 17 2005)
An article from the Australian is illustrative of the need for individual thought and responsibility regarding future healthcare and living costs that will accompany healthy life extension. Socialized medical systems - such as those in all Western countries these days - are going to struggle and collapse if the cost of working anti-aging procedures are significant at the point in time at which you require them. Worse, these systems inhibit investment in research and delay or block the deployment of new treatments through price controls and other economic malfeasance. Fortunately, you still have control over your personal savings - so plan responsibly for the future of radical life extension.

Aging And Calorie Requirements (April 16 2005)
An interesting snippet from Medical News Today when taken in the context of calorie restriction for healthy life extension: "Studies show adults' caloric needs drop about 10 percent or more from about age 30 to age 65 and older. Some of that decline may reflect a relative lack of physical activity in the elderly, and some may represent the body's basal metabolism slowing during aging. Part of the reason is that the body loses muscle - a prime consumer of energy - during the senior years. ... These body changes are neither irreversible nor permanent. Many seniors are actually able to add muscle mass and function into their 90s. You can defy what normal aging does to body composition by a careful balancing of food intake, exercise and vitamins."

Wound Healing Gene Identified (April 16 2005)
Betterhumans reports that the master gene that controls wound healing has been identified: "the master gene, grainyhead, activates wound repair genes in cells surrounding injuries ... Such a conserved genetic mechanism for wound repair is considered an important find. Little is known about such things as how wound repair is halted when injuries are healed. Nor is it well understood how cancer cells evade this stop program." Things move very rapidly in a modern research environment once the underlying gene is identified. We should expect to hear details of the precise biomolecular mechanisms controlling wound repair in a year or so.

Stem Cell Legislation Overview (April 15 2005)
For those who like to keep track of such things, the Financial Times is carrying an overview of current Federal stem cell politics in the US. "A bipartisan proposal to loosen restrictions on federal funding for stem-cell research has gained unexpected momentum in Congress ... As backing for the measure increased, Mr Castle won a surprising guarantee from Republican leaders for a vote on the issue by July 4." The normal cavaets apply: everything would go so much faster if politicians had left well alone at the start; politicians and their threats to ban research are the root cause of the current comparatively poor state of research. Legislatively imposed delays and regulatory costs translate to lost lives and suffering.

Searching For The Root Of Cancer (April 15 2005)
The Life Extension Foundation News is reprinting a piece on the work of Thanos Halazonetis: "Cancer is more than 100 different diseases, and what this group has found is a commonality in early stages of development ... Since 1989, scientists have known that [the gene p53] plays a role in the way cells become cancerous ... Halazonetis, 45, argues that there is a way to kill a cell without p53. He said the DNA breaks occur only in cancerous or precancerous cells and therefore can be targeted and forced to die with or without p53's intervention." Early stage identification and prevention of cancer is a big deal - and a cure for cancer is absolutely essential to healthy life extension. A targetted therapy that only killed precancerous cells would be a real breakthrough, and scientists are nearing the point at which they can do this.

Regenerate 2005 (April 14 2005)
The strength of a field can be measured in conferences and new buildings - by this metric, regenerative medicine is doing well. The Regenerate 2005 conference in Atlanta this June is a good example of the current line of conferences focusing on the technologies of regenerative medicine: "Regenerate combines a premier scientific program with an industry-focused forum and trade show, bringing together basic scientists, clinicians, students, business development experts, entrepreneurs, and representatives of government funding agencies to advance the science of tissue engineering/ regenerative medicine." There are a number of interesting names and presentations noted in the agenda.

Crafting New Bone (April 14 2005)
An article from the Examiner looks at progress towards tissue engineered bone grafts based on the use of scaffolding materials, stem cells and knowledge of the chemical cues that prompt differentiation. "Under the microscope, the scaffold looks like a jungle gym made up of a bunch of little glass balls fused together. Each of the balls is composed of a polymer that harmlessly degrades in the body. To the polymer scaffold, he adds adult stem cells that have been isolated from a patient's fat tissue ... There they come under the influence of a [bone morphogenetic protein, or BMP] that has been also added to the scaffold ... One of the functions of BMPs is to transform adult stem cells in the bone marrow into bone-forming cells, or osteoblasts."

Alzheimer's Antibody Progress (April 13 2005)
Newsday.com reports on more progress towards the use of antibodies to attack Alzheimer's amyloid plaques: "The patients received infusions of immunoglobulin, a mix of antibodies derived from human blood donors. It was originally developed to treat children born with damaged immune systems and is now used for diseases including lupus and multiple sclerosis. ... The human antibodies in immunoglobulin destroy the sticky brain plaque called amyloid that is a hallmark of Alzheimer's. ... The benefit of the approach, called passive vaccine therapy, because it administers antibodies rather than require the body to manufacture the antibodies, is that it can be stopped at any sign of a problem."

Ronald Bailey On "Death Shortage" (April 13 2005)
(From Reason Online). Ronald Bailey points out the flaws in "The Coming Death Shortage," a pro-death lament from the pen of Charles Mann. "Mann outlines an improbably dystopian vision of greedy geezers growing ever richer as their deserving children languish in poverty ... Mann dim-wittedly treats economics as a zero sum game. Evidently he thinks that there are a limited number of jobs available and the only way for a youngster to get one is for someone older to die. ... Slowing the Grim Reaper down will undoubtedly create some transition problems, but Mann has not identified any insuperable ones. The only shortage that he has demonstrated is the characteristic shortage of imagination that so many other pro-mortalists exhibit."

Sifting For Stem Cells (April 12 2005)
ScienceBlog notes an advance in the technology of identifying and isolating pluripotent adult stem cells. A truly efficient means of doing so would be a big boost to regenerative medicine based on the use of a patient's own stem cells to accelerate healing or replace damaged cells. "There are just 10,000 primitive cells in the average adult's bloodstream. Of those, only 500 might have the potential to replace embryonic stem cells. Stem cell research requires millions of these cells. ... Various properties of these primitive cells have been used to try and isolate the 5% or so with the highest stem cell potential, but no single technology has proved completely successful for human stem cells."

34th Annual AGE Meeting (April 12 2005)
The 34th annual meeting of the American Aging Association (AGE) - entitled "Aging: Mechanisms and Prevention" - will be held in California in June of this year. You may recognize some the names and research fields in the presentation list - calorie restriction and related research is featured extensively, and rightly so. There's much more than that, however, so take a look. "Among this year's topics, we count: genetic and cellular mechanisms of aging; role of IGF-1 signaling; caloric restriction in the human; genetics of human longevity; brain aging and novel therapies for neurodegenerative disease; use of genomics and proteomics in gerontological research.

Profiling Bob Klein (April 11 2005)
SFGate profiles Bob Klein, the wealthy patient advocate who is the driving force behind the $3 billion Proposition 71 and the new California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. "Robert Nicholas Klein II, 59, has no scientific or medical expertise, but managed to convince everyone who mattered, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, that he was the obvious choice to lead one of the world's most closely watched medical-research ventures, an enterprise that may serve as a model for states wanting to finance their own 'intellectual infrastructure' in the stem-cell field." There are many wealthy people in the world, but few who stand up and make real waves - we could do with more people like this backing directed research into longevity medicine.

The 25 Year Timeline (April 11 2005)
Live Science is running an interview with our favorite biogerontologist, Aubrey de Grey; the focus is on his projected timeline for the development of effective therapies to halt or reverse aging. "Our human genomes will be modified to include the genetic material of microorganisms that live in the soil, enabling us to break down the junk proteins that our cells amass over time and which they can't digest on their own. People will have the option of looking and feeling the way they did at 20 for the rest of their lives, or opt for an older look if they get bored. Of course, everyone will be required to go in for age rejuvenation therapy once every decade or so, but that will be a small price to pay for near-immortality." You can read the details of Aubrey de Grey's proposals at his Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence website.



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