LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
June 06 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.
- On Protandim
- Mprize in the News
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
Every few months, we see a burst of venture-capital-fueled hype over a new "anti-aging" supplement. It was resveratrol not so long ago and it was Protandim just last week. If you caught any of the publicity, please do read these Fight Aging! posts before running off, money in hand:
It is somewhat frustrating to watch well-oiled publicity machines going to work to promote what is essentially useless junk in the grand scheme of things. There is some moderately interesting science in the intersection of metabolism and longevity at the bottom of all this, but it's not science that will deliver firm answers or meaningful progress any more rapidly than the folks currently working - from a far more sound scientific basis - on calorie restriction mimetics. It certainly won't deliver any surety in whatever bottled compound they're selling today.
As I've remarked before, the whole field of metabolic science is useful, but any healthy life extension to come from it will be a form of tuning the machine - using better motor oil, running the engine at the most efficient speed, that sort of thing. This suffers from much the same problems as supplementation - you can spend as much time and money as you like tinkering and experimenting ... are you ever really sure you are making progress? Is it a productive use of your resources once you have gone past the basics?
These studies do not address ways to either repair or block the underlying damage that lead to age-related degeneration. If we are to see radical life extension in our lifetimes - gains of decades in healthy life span, even for those first treated in the late stages of aging - then serious research programs to fix the root causes of age-related degeneration must get underway post-haste. If it took thirty years to get to where we are today in cancer research, and ten years for Alzheimer's disease, then you can be sure that beating aging will take decades even if backed by major funding initiatives.
So the sooner we get started the better.
MPRIZE IN THE NEWS
Speaking of getting started, it was good to see the Mprize for anti-aging research in the press again this past week:
To quote biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey, "Many people say curing aging might be a bad idea, but deep down we all know that's nonsense. We cling to silly doubts about it only because we don't want to get our hopes up too soon. Eventually, though, this will stop being appropriate: we'll know enough to wage a 'war on aging' with a fair chance of winning it in a few decades. At that time, ambivalence will costs lives - 100,000 lives each day - by slowing down the research and development to turn our knowledge into working rejuvenation therapies. I will explain that we have recently reached that point: the time for the war on aging has arrived."
One of the points raised by Aubrey de Grey is that scientists have not discovered any new modes of age-related damage in the past twenty years - and not for lack of looking, either. Researchers know what has to be fixed, and modern biotechnology can now provide the tools to confirm these suppositions and develop the required therapies. All that is lacking is funding and public support - the Mprize aims to correct this problem.
The future of healthy life extension is not in chasing after each new well-marketed production of the "anti-aging" industry. Rather, it is in taking the time today to ensure that scientists will develop real, working anti-aging medicine soon enough to make a difference. So support the Mprize:
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 Perils Of Public Funding (June 05 2005)
There are good reasons as to why public funding is horribly inefficient - perhaps as much as fifty times less efficient than private funding in a competitive environment. Equally, there is the matter of hidden costs - how much time and money has been spent on California's stem cell initiative to date? In a more libertarian society, supporters would just get on with raising the money to go directly towards research - which would be off and running already. Instead, we are stuck with endless resource-draining battles over control and politics ... and comparatively little actual research. This update on said battles is from the Washington Post.
SAHF, Cancer And Aging (June 05 2005)
From the LEF News, a short piece that is illustrative of the present day intersection of genetics, molecular biochemistry, cancer and aging research. "As cells reach senescence, an alteration in chromatic structure called senescence-associated heterochromatin foci (SAHF) silences the genes that trigger the cells growth. ... SAHF are domains of tightly packed chromatin that repress activity of the genes that normally trigger cell proliferation. [Researchers] have identified at least three proteins in the cell that contribute to the formation of SAHF. ... This research suggests the possibility that PML arises because the PML protein is not able to do its job in forming SAHF. If this is true, this study might help in the design of therapeutic drugs to treat cancer patients and even lessen some aspects of aging."
More On Alzheimer's, Plaque Removal (June 05 2005)
Promising research into Alzheimer's is reported at InfoAging: The brain cells in a mouse model of Alzheimers disease (AD) recovered rapidly after the characteristic brain plaques were removed ... The researchers injected the mice with an antibody for a key component of brain plaques, the amyloid beta (Abeta) pepide. In areas where the antibodies cleared the plaques, many of the swellings observed on nerve cell branches rapidly disappeared. Prior to the experiment, many scientists believed plaque damage to nerve cells was something that only needed to happen once. The new findings suggest that the plaques might not only cause damage but also actively maintain it." This is good news for groups currently working on Alzheimer's vaccines designed to attack the plaques.
The Future Is In Simulation (June 04 2005)
To revisit a topic I have explored at Fight Aging!, the future of biomedical research - faster, cheaper, better, open to non-professionals - is in simulation. Why run all your experiments in the real world when you can run ten times as many at a fraction of the cost in a computer system? Not to mention that the curve in processing power costs means that you'll have twice the experimental capacity at the same price a few years down the line - and that many more organizations can contribute to advancing science. This article from Medical News Today looks at one of the forerunners of future simulational research software; healthy life extension advocates will begin to effectively organize their own research in the years ahead as the costs keep falling.
A Start On Biomolecular Nanomachines (June 03 2005)
(From Medical News Today). It's never too early to start in on the research that will lead to medical nanorobots of the sort envisaged by Robert Freitas. Advanced nanomedicine will take over from regenerative medicine as science progresses further down the path of extending the healthy human life span - but we are only just getting started today. The first research projects into "wet" nanorobotics are all about developing a technology base on which to build therapeutic applications; this is the work of decades, all told. For more information on the likely future of these technologies, you might want to read Chris Phoenix's "Nanotechnology and Life Extension."
Aubrey De Grey At Stanford, June 8th (June 03 2005)
(Via the Stanford Transhumanist Association). For those of you in the area, biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey will be speaking at Stanford University next week, June 8th. "Many people say curing aging might be a bad idea, but deep down we all know that's nonsense. We cling to silly doubts about it only because we don't want to get our hopes up too soon. Eventually, though, this will stop being appropriate: we'll know enough to wage a 'war on aging' with a fair chance of winning it in a few decades. At that time, ambivalence will costs lives - 100,000 lives each day - by slowing down the research and development to turn our knowledge into working rejuvenation therapies. I will explain that we have recently reached that point: the time for the war on aging has arrived."
Biotech, Finally (June 02 2005)
BusinessWeek provides insights into privately funded medical research - a busy, fascinating realm of human endeavor that the mainstream media largely ignores (most likely because reporting on it requires actual work). "Medical care is reaching a tipping point. Not that most patients will be healed right away -- the vast majority of sick people continue to dose themselves with tiny bits of chemicals, otherwise known as pills, that represent medicine's Old Guard. But the times are changing. The past 30 years of biological discoveries, insights into the human genome, and exotic chemical manipulation have unleashed a wave of biological drugs, many of them reengineered human proteins. These molecules have the power to change the prognoses for a huge range of diseases all but untreatable just five years ago."
Pondering Inponderables (June 02 2005)
A slow news day, ergo you are treated to freeform musings on radical life extension from Glenn Reynolds over at Tech Central Station. "Would people who lived to 150 or 300 take time to retool? And, if they did, would they be as creative as they were when they were fresh out of school? I'm not sure. On the one hand, people who live to 300 can't expect to coast for a lifetime on the intellectual capital of their youth. And the opportunity costs in terms of lost time would be much lower as a percentage of lifespan than they are for a 55-year-old today." There's more in that vein, but think for most of us it boils to down to whether it is better to see for ourselves or to suffer and die - no contest there!
Massachusetts Approves Stem Cell Research (June 01 2005)
(From Boston.com). The winding path of stem cell politics in Massachusetts has ended - for the moment - with legislation permitting human embryonic stem cell research. There are rumblings about public funding, but "lawmakers refused to promise any follow-through on Travaglini's suggestion in March that the Legislature might earmark up to $100 million in stem cell-related research grants, infrastructure, and scholarship programs. With support for a large appropriation unclear in the Legislature, both legislative leaders said they want to size up how private investors respond to the new Massachusetts stem cell law before committing taxpayer money. ... Before the new law, scientists conducting embryonic stem cell research were required to seek the approval of their local district attorney."
Human Embryonic Stem Cells Stable (June 01 2005)
Welcome news from the Scotsman: "Researchers from Cambridge University appear to have cleared a major obstacle that may have scuppered hopes of using stem cells to repair damaged nerves and organs. They have shown that human embryonic stem cells are highly stable and not liable to undergo changes that could make them unsafe." As the article points out, the same is not true of embryonic stem cells in mice, which has caused some concern in scientific circles of late. "This was a surprise, because we know from mouse stem cells that these kind of genes are altered in the course of mouse embryo development. The fact that human stem cells are so stable is good news."
CNN On The Mprize (May 31 2005)
CNN devotes an article to the Mprize for anti-aging research today. To quote Steven Spindler, the current Mprize record holder, "we need to convince policy makers that finding the causes of aging is a reasonable thing to do. Some people still consider extending life span as quackery, but like every other field of medicine, the more we know the more we are able to reverse things and extend life span, not just the bad years - but by slowing down the aging process." The Mprize is funded by people like you and I who want to see more and faster progress towards significant healthy life extension therapies - it is a popular prize in the best sense of the term. Join in and make a difference!
Immunity & Aging Tribute To Roy Walford (May 31 2005)
The work of the late Roy Walford is recalled at the open access journal Immunity & Aging: "Roy Walford died on April 27, 2004, at the age of 79. His contributions to gerontological research in such diverse areas as caloric restriction, genetics of lifespan, immunosenescence, DNA repair and replicative senescence were truly remarkable in their depth and innovation. Significantly, most of the areas that he pioneered during his illustrious research career remain the 'hot' areas of current gerontological research. ... it is highly fitting, therefore, to remember him on the anniversary of his death by briefly reviewing the contributions of Roy Walford to this important facet of gerontology. Indeed, it was Roy who actually first coined the commonly used term 'immunosenescence'".
A Profile Of Hwang Woo Suk (May 30 2005)
The International Herald-Tribune profiles Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk and the advances he and his team have achieved. "On one hand, you have 15 micrometers of skin cells, on the other a patient who has suffered from an incurable disease. Maybe this 15 micrometers of skin cell can relieve and save the life of a human being next to me, someone who has suffered for 50 years or must suffer for 50 years. Of the two, which do you think is ethically reasonable to save?" Peering past the the light and noise of the South Korean government publicity and myth-making machine at work, it is still clear that promising medical science is taking place; we can hope that the newly developed techniques will spread rapidly as promised.
On Evolutionary Theories of Aging (PDF) (May 30 2005)
The latest newsletter from the American Aging Association (AGE) includes a PDF format discussion on the state of the evolutionary biological theory of aging. It "predicts a polygenic basis for aging and the likelihood that multiple mechanisms are involved. Then how, many would ask, can the theory be reconciled with the mounting evidence that single gene mutations in worms, flies and mice can lead to enhanced life spans? And how to reconcile the fact that a single environmental intervention - caloric restriction - can enhance the life spans of so many species?" Aubrey de Grey and Leonid Gavrilov are amongst those offering opinions, making it well worth reading. As a reminder, the 34th AGE annual meeting starts this week in California.