Longevity Meme Newsletter, May 09 2005

May 09 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.



- Noteworthy Research: Rejuvenating Stem Cells
- It's the Getting Old That Gets Old...
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


I felt that I should draw your attention to recent research into stem cell aging and rejuvenation, just in case it had passed you by:


In essence, it looks like a large component of age-related decline in the ability of stem cells to repair damaged tissue can be reversed with the use of suitable biochemical cues. How exactly does it work? We don't know yet. Will there be side effects that make it hard to rejuvenate failing stem cells in humans? We don't know yet. Is it a big deal? Absolutely.

It is fortunate that this aging-related research is in a field of medical science (adult stem cell research) that is currently popular, uncontroversial and well funded - it means there is a strong possibility of further, diverse study of stem cell aging and how to reverse it.


I would like to be around, alive, healthy and active tomorrow; I imagine I'll feel much the same way about each successive tomorrow in ten years or hundred years from now if I can keep my health. Some wisdom along these lines from the Speculist crew:


"It's not life that gets old. It's the getting old that gets old."

People are funny creatures; too many folk think that they'll get bored with a life that is a few decades longer than the current standard. But I know from experience that I can get bored in a matter of a few minutes, an hour at most, if I really put my mind to it - as could anyone else. So if you can accept the possibility of an interesting and rewarding life of 80 years, why not one of 150? Or 1000?


Mandatory aging, degeneration, ill health and death are terrible fates, but medical science will one day be able to do something about it. Whether that day is sooner or later is very much up to us. So let's work on making sure that keeping your health and life for as long as you like is an option - with that in hand, the rest will work itself out as it always does.



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



Support The Mprize (May 08 2005)
Since its launch in 2003, the Mprize - or Methuselah Mouse Prize for anti-aging research - has gathered $1.25 million in pledges and donations from the healthy life extension community. The Mprize is on the way to breaking the research funding logjam in the gerontological community - encouraging more researchers to develop therapies that extend healthy life span and thus open the funding floodgates for directed, scientific anti-aging research. Your support is needed to make this happen! Donate today to place your vote, to have your say, for better medicine and longer lives. Make your opinion count and join The Three Hundred: show that you care about the future of health and longevity and you want to see something done.

CIRM Settles On SF (May 08 2005)
As many sources have noted, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has settled on San Francisco to host its new headquarters. The San Francisco Examiner gives slight insight into the sort of bidding war with public funds and private donations that went on behind the scenes; it looks like we can expect international stem cell research conferences and other addendums to the business of CIRM in the future. Given the timing of events to date - even fast as they have been for government work - those folks who speculated that grants would not be awarded until 2006 may yet be proven right. "Now that the real estate competition is over, we must focus our collective energy on supporting the critical work of stem cell research; finding cures for diseases and saving lives."

Gene Linked To Inflammatory Diseases (May 07 2005)
Finding a gene commonly associated with age-related conditions or damaging processes - like the inflammatory response - is a very good thing. With a gene in hand, researchers can make good progress towards an understanding of the biochemical processes involved, and thus craft a direct, targeted therapy. ScienceDaily has this to say: "The gene variant was first identified in an animal model ... The researchers discovered that people with the variant ran a 20-40 per cent greater risk of developing rheumatism, MS or a myocardial infarction. The gene variant is also common: an estimated 20-25 per cent of the population carry it. ... This gene variant can therefore be one of the single largest genetic causes of complex diseases with inflammatory components."

More On Stem Cell Aging, Young Blood (May 07 2005)
The BBC provides an overview of recent research into why stem cells fail with age and what can be done about it: "The study found special stem cells come to the rescue of damaged young muscles, but are not triggered in older ones. ... tests on mice suggest something in young blood spurs the stem cells into action to repair the muscle damage. ... We need to consider the possibility that the niche in which stem cells sit is as important in terms of stem cell aging as the cells themselves. ... This is an exciting leap in the research. It proves the fact that you can reverse this problem. But it's no small task to identify the factor in the blood that's involved." It's good to see this work gaining wider notice.

Calorie Restriction: A Good Thing (May 06 2005)
I'm preaching to the choir, I realize, but calorie restriction is a very good thing to look into if you haven't already. This MSNBC article takes the kinder, gentler approach: "Laboratory studies show that calorie restriction can lead to fewer and smaller breast cancers. It also appears to inhibit all cancers by slowing down the development of cancer cells, increasing their self-destruction and reducing DNA damage. ... Furthermore, one study shows that long-term calorie restriction by people with a healthy weight may also lower their blood cholesterol and blood pressure and significantly reduce heart-threatening build-up in blood vessels." You have to take best possible care of your health and longevity today if you want to live to see working anti-aging medicine in the future.

Stem Cell Institutes Keep Coming (May 06 2005)
Stem cell research is becoming a healthy (and healthily funded) field of science despite political opposition to developing cures for age-related conditions - you can tell by the rate at which new institutes are endowed. EurekAlert notes that "Financier Leon D. Black has committed $10 million to Mount Sinai School of Medicine to establish the Black Family Stem Cell Institute. The Institute, which will be directed by Gordon Keller, PhD, Professor of Gene and Cell Medicine, will integrate research in embryonic stem cells, developmental biology, and adult stem cell biology." This sort of philanthropic endowment is the visible tip of the funding iceberg, and something we would like to see in the near future for serious anti-aging research.

Free Radical Protection In Mice (May 05 2005)
Betterhumans reports on modest healthy life extension in mice, achieved by boosting their protection from damaging free radicals. "Rabinovitch and colleagues focused on the enzyme catalase, which helps convert hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. This is important because hydrogen peroxide is a waste product of metabolism that can be a precursor of free radicals. The researchers studied mice with a genetic variation that made them produce extra human catalase. ... Mice with higher catalase levels in the mitochondria had about a 20% increase in average and maximum lifespan." Scientists have already shown that life extension at this level is quite plausible through manipulation of metabolic processes.

Reprogramming Cells (May 05 2005)
Early stage work in the manipulation of cellular and bacterial mechanisms is covered by the Telegraph: "Proponents aim to make living cells function as if they were tiny computers so they can be harnessed as workhorses that detect toxins by glowing, help to build things, or repair tissues and organs within the body. ... They want, for example to design a cell that will swim around blood vessels and digest fatty deposits on artery walls." Researchers are not too far beyond the stage of creating basic patterns and cellular devices as a proof of concept - but computer scientists were at that same early point not so many decades ago. The future looks interesting indeed.

Worms And Regeneration (May 04 2005)
As Wired notes, "a small piece of a planarian worm can regenerate an entire new body. The worm's ability to regenerate is so powerful that a tissue fragment only 1/279 of the worm's length can grow into a new animal." Researchers have been working to identify all the genes involved in this regenerative process - if human medicine can benefit from understanding salamander regeneration, then it will likely benefit from research into lower forms of life as well. "It's too soon to tell whether research into planarian worms might one day let doctors regrow amputated limbs or diseased organs in people. Nevertheless, since many of the genes found in flatworms are also present in humans, scientists believe they may provide insights into how to use adult stem cells to replace diseased or damaged human tissue."

More On Unique, Personalized Medicine (May 04 2005)
Randall Parker of FuturePundit adds his thoughts on the future of unique personalized medicine heralded by falling costs. "Precise disease prediction will be feasible for many diseases. For example, I would expect disease prediction to be much more feasible for osteoarthritis, heart disease, kidney disease, and other ailments that strike once sufficient damage has accumulated over time. Also, predictive capabilities will become more useful as our toolbox of treatments expands. Why wait for a knee to become painful and severely damaged if we can detect the problem years earlier and send in stem cells to do repairs before repair becomes much more difficult."

Weaponized Antibodies Attack Cancer (May 03 2005)
From ScienceDaily, an article on an elegant class of potential cancer therapies. This is a good example of what can be achieved with a greater understanding of biochemistry: existing mechanisms hooked together to produce a controlled biological system that attacks only cancer cells and can be turned on and off as needed. "[An antibody currently in clinical use], with the attached alliinase in tow, soon found and bound to the target cancer cells. Subsequently, the mice were repeatedly injected with the inert chemical alliin which, upon contact with alliinase, was processed into allicin molecules directly on the cancer cell's surface. Within three days, almost all of the human lymphoma cancer cells were destroyed in those mice."

Towards Regeneration Without Stem Cells (May 03 2005)
An alternate path towards regenerative medicine - that requires a deeper understanding of cellular mechanisms - involves manipulating genetic and biochemical cues to induce cells into regeneration. EurekAlert reports that "heart-muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes, were previously considered incapable of replicating in mammals after birth, which is why heart attack is such a problem: once killed, heart tissue can't regenerate. Dr. Mark Keating and Dr. Felix Engel now show that an enzyme known as p38 MAP kinase suppresses cardiomyocyte replication, and that inhibiting p38 enables these cells to proliferate. ... This is just one baby step toward regenerative therapy, but it's an important one. Inhibiting p38 is now a candidate therapeutic strategy."

"Stemness" And Stem Cell Aging (May 02 2005)
Why do stem cells - and thus our ability to heal - falter in effectiveness as we age? This Newswise release outlines the results that suggest "this behavior may be regulated by genetic mechanisms found in most human cells ... The current thinking is that there must be some unique 'stemness' gene that no other cell expresses, but what we found is that what makes stem cells special -- their ability to renew themselves and differentiate into other tissue types -- may be attributed to fundamental mechanisms of cell physiology common to all cells. ... The difference between those robust, self-replicating young [stem cells] and older cells appears to be the degree of expression of these two regulatory genes governing fundamental cell physiology." Might it be possible to restore old stem cells to youthful vigor?

Mechanism of Macular Degeneration (May 02 2005)
EurekAlert reports on new understanding of age-related macular degeneration: "Age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, occurs when a common inherited gene variation is triggered, possibly by an infection, according to a new study ... The gene, known as Factor H, encodes a protein that regulates immune defense against infection caused by bacteria and viruses. People who have an inherited variation in this gene are less able to control inflammation caused by these infections, which may spark age-related macular degeneration (AMD) later in life, the study finds. ... By targeting the molecules involved in inflammation and its regulation we believe we can begin to develop therapies and diagnostic tools that could help countless people keep their sight."



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