Longevity Meme Newsletter, June 20 2005

June 20 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.



- Immortality Institute Conference, November 2005
- Is SENS Research Taking Place?
- Folding@Home Team Update
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


You may have noticed the (bright blue) Immortality Institute Conference banners at the Longevity Meme and Fight Aging! in the past day or so. The conference, an event for anyone interested in healthy life extension, transhumanism and the future of a wide range of medical technology, will be held in November of this year in Atlanta. For much more information, see the conference home page:


The list of speakers includes biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey - so those of you who have a hankering to meet Aubrey in person should certainly consider registering.

The final cut of the Immortality Institute film, Exploring Life Extension, will be shown at the conference. Both film and conference are good examples of the growth of the Institute as an influential organization in the healthy life extension community. Bruce Klein, the founder, and the other active directors are doing a wonderful job in building connections and providing a place for people to talk and organize around healthy life extension.



I posted to Fight Aging! last week on the topic of Rafal Smigrodzki's research into mitochondria - the power stations of our cells - and tools to manipulate and repair mitochondrial DNA:


"A few months ago I promised to post an article on mitochondria and aging which I was writing with Shaharyar Khan, and finally I can keep my promise. 'Mitochondrial microheteroplasmy and a theory of aging and age-related disease' will be published in Rejuvenation Research in August. Here is the text (without figures) and I can send the pdf to anyone interested."

As you may know, mutation in mitochondrial DNA is one of the seven modes of age-related damage described in Aubrey de Grey's Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS):


This all begs the question: just how much research into SENS-related science is quietly taking place at the moment? Has phase I of the SENS game plan - to attract initial attention to SENS concepts and get scientists interested in working in this area - started to pay off? According to Aubrey de Grey, the answer is yes:

"Work to remove extracellular junk and extracellular crosslinks is already in clinical trials, as are various therapies to reverse cell depletion (e.g. with stem cells). Work to remove superfluous cells (such as visceral fat) is well underway in mice, and various approaches to obviating or removing mitochondrial mutations are being pursued, of which Rafal's is the newest. So actually there are only two that are really still on the starting blocks - and one of them, removal of intracellular junk, is the subject of a variety of pilot studies just starting up, which I've been able to initiate in labs in the UK and USA."

"Quietly taking place," and taking place with short term aims related to treating age-related conditions rather than aging itself, is a long way from a Manhattan Project for research into rejuvenation medicine, however. That maximal level of research will be required if we are to see significant progress in our lifetimes - if we are to see medical technologies that can effectively repair and reverse the degenerative effects of aging before we die, in other words. A start is a start, however. Aubrey de Grey is to be congratulated - and supported to the hilt - for making the uphill progress he has to date within the scientific community.



The Longevity Meme Folding@Home group is powering ahead in the team rankings thanks to an influx of new members and the dedication of existing members. We recently shot through the 700 mark and are still going strong. Keep up the good work!

I have promised that all team members will receive commemorative goodies of an appropriate nature when we hit a team rank of 500. If you have thoughts or opinions on handouts and logos, please do post them to this Fight Aging! entry:


If you want to find out more about Folding@Home - and how you can help to advance medical research into protein folding and age-related disease using the spare processing cycles of your computer - then read on at the following page:



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



Obesity Is Bad, Part XIV (June 19 2005)
Newsweek cuts right to the chase in this article on obesity and health: "Whatever the exact relationship between obesity and mortality, there is no question that excess weight can ruin your health. Obesity can foster diseases ranging from cancer to heart failure, and it's a clear factor in the country's growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes. ... So don't place too much stock in the latest mortality figures. If you value your legs and your eyesight, warding off type 2 diabetes should still be a priority. ... Diabetes is the quintessential lifestyle disease. But lifestyle diseases have lifestyle cures, and the only side effects are good ones." If you don't want to suffer crippling - and ultimately fatal - age-related diseases as a result of excess weight, the solution is fairly clear.

More Engineered Blood Vessel Progress (June 19 2005)
(From Newswise). In an important step forward for tissue engineering, scientists have grown muscle mass complete with an embedded blood vessel system and implanted it in a mouse. "Until now, most scientists have not attempted to provide engineered tissue with its own blood supply. Instead, they have implanted the new tissue into the body and waited for the body itself to infiltrate the tissue with blood vessels. ... The different cells quickly organized themselves on the scaffold, with the myoblast cells transforming into aligned and elongated muscle fiber tubes and the endothelial cells organizing themselves in tubes nestled between the myoblasts." Clever stuff - getting the blood vessels right has been a stumbling point for growing larger tissue masses.

Stem Cell Research Funding Emerges (June 18 2005)
Private funding for stem cell research is starting to pick up now that the political climate is merely unsettled (an improvement from dire and threatening). From Medical News Today we hear that Columbia University Medical Center is "halfway toward realizing the first phase of a multi-year campaign ... the $50 million goal for the first stage of the campaign, $25 million has been raised from the private sector, specifically for diabetes and neural stem cell research. ... The initial $50 million for the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative will enable Columbia to outfit a new stem cell center, construct a state-of-the-art facility to produce cells for experimental and therapeutic use, and establish a separate laboratory dedicated to growing new human embryonic stem cells for new studies."

Immortality Institute Conference (June 18 2005)
Betterhumans reminds us that the Immortality Institute Conference takes place in November in Atlanta, Georgia - and offers a discount on conference registration to Betterhumans premium members. Bruce Klein of the Institute has a simply amazing network of connections in the transhumanist and healthy life extension communities - this is reflected in the list of speakers, which includes Aubrey de Grey and Ralph Merkle. For good measure, "a screening of of the Immortality Institute's documentary film Exploring Life Extension will also take place during the conference." If you haven't yet experienced the Immortality Institute forum - an energetic place if ever there was one - now would be the time to dive in.

Relationships Between Cancer And Aging (June 17 2005)
A report from the LEF News concisely notes the ways in which cancer and aging are thought to be related: "Adult stem cells are responsible for tissue renewal and exhaustion of their replicative capacity may contribute to tissue aging. Loss of unlimited proliferative capacity in some of the adult stem cells and/or their progenitors may have involved the evolutionary trade-off: senescence prevents cancer but may promote aging. Embryonic stem cells exhibit unlimited self-renewal capacity due to the expression of telomerase. Although they possess some cancer cell characteristics, embryonic stem cells exhibit a remarkable resistance to genomic instability and malignant transformation. Understanding the tumor suppressive mechanisms employed by embryonic stem cells may contribute to the development of novel cancer treatments and safe cell-based therapies for age-related diseases."

Progress In Growing Blood Vessels (June 17 2005)
(From MSNBC). Growing blood vessels is something of a sticking point in the tissue engineering of organs or even modestly sized masses of tissue - so it is good to hear that progress is continuing in this area. "Scientist have grown human blood vessels from cells taken from elderly patients in a ground-breaking experiment that could lead to new treatments for heart disease within the next decade. ... Growing new blood vessels from a patient's own cells would enable doctors to bypass clogged arteries in patients whose own vessels are not suitable. ... The scientists, who reported their research in The Lancet medical journal, grew blood vessels in the laboratory from cells taken from four men aged 47-74 who were having coronary bypass surgery."

Hibernation And The Thymus (June 16 2005)
An intriguing article from Betterhumans looks at research into hiberation and its connection to regeneration. "The thymus is a tiny organ located near our breastbone that is present in all mammals. It is the major site for T lymphocyte differentiation and immune response. In humans, the thymus is most active during puberty, but as we age it shrinks and loses functionality, leading to immune system decline and increased susceptibility to colds, flu and other ailments. But the thymus doesn't degenerate in all mammals. Hibernating animals such as the Alaskan ground squirrel are able to renew the lymphoid tissue of their thymus as they sleep every winter." Highly speculative research is often the most interesting - and regeneration of the aging immune system is an important goal.

Towards A Parkinson's Vaccine (June 16 2005)
Nature reports on progress towards a vaccine for Parkinson's disease - but it's early days yet. "A vaccine developed to fight brain disorders such as Parkinson's disease has shown promise in preliminary animal trials. But experts caution that the positive results may not translate into an effective treatment for humans. The formation of abnormal protein aggregates in the brain, known as Lewy bodies, has been linked to several neurological disorders in adults. ... Many think that getting the immune system to attack the protein aggregates is a good step towards finding a treatment. So several research teams have been pursuing therapeutic vaccines. Biologists have already succeeded in giving mice specially designed immune cells to save them from neurological damage. Now they have gone a step further by getting mice to produce their own immune protection through a series of injections."

What Is Aging? (June 15 2005)
The Washington Times ponders the nature of aging: "What you mean by aging, and the genetics of aging, varies with different people. It's an unsettled question at present. There are many theories of aging, and they are all persuasive. In all cases, there is an environmental component, but the response has a genetic component. At one extreme, [aging] can be defined as the composite of a lot of pathological problems -- some people develop kidney troubles [as they age], etc. The other view is that there is an independent process of aging quite apart from pathology. Depending on the type of definition, you have a lot of different factors involved. Aging becomes like pornography. You know it when you see it."

More Medical Nanomachines (June 15 2005)
Randall Parker of FuturePundit has more on new research aimed at developing medical nanomachines - to deal with arterial plaque in this case. He makes a good point: "This is another example of development of a treatment that falls within the typology of 7 Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) to halting and rejuvenate bodies by the removal of accumulated extracellular junk. ... Widespread acceptance of SENS for rejuvenation is not necessary for the development of many SENS treatments. My guess is that for at least the next decade most treatments which will accomplish objectives which support SENS will be justified under the old paradigm of development of treatments against specific diseases. Efforts such as this one develop tools that will be useful for rejuvenation. So we are making progress toward the goal of engineered negligible senescence or perpetual youth."

Regenerating Brain Cells (June 14 2005)
Progress towards complete understanding and control of our cells continues, step by step. The Independent reports on the latest new research: "Scientists have grown fully mature brain cells in a laboratory for the first time, using a technique that mimics the natural process of brain regeneration. It promises to open the door to new ways of treating and possibly curing debilitating brain diseases such as Parkinson's, epilepsy and Alzheimer's. ... Now we can make a lot of brain cells from just a very small number of these stem cells, which is great because we'd have to do that to repair neurological disease. ... The home run is that we will find drugs to mobilise our own population [of brain stem cells]."

Still Smoking? Not Good At All... (June 14 2005)
There are many, many good reasons to quit smoking already - but Nature provides a new and very compelling one: "Like the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces, telomeres help to protect genes against wear and tear. ... Tim Spector [and] his team have shown that telomeres shrink dramatically in patients who are obese or heavy smokers. ... Heavy smokers, who consumed a pack a day for 40 years, showed seven years of extra biological ageing. Researchers already knew that smoking and obesity could cause a kind of stress in cells that produces reactive chemicals, which in turn are known to wear away telomeres. Spector's large study looks directly at this effect to quantify just how much a cigarette can age you."

Nanotechnology And Stem Cells (June 13 2005)
From the Washington Times, some topical nanotechnology boosterism: "Cutting-edge nanotechnology is beginning to help advance the equally pioneering field of stem-cell research, with devices that can precisely control stem cells and provide self-assembling biodegradable scaffolds and magnetic tracking systems ... Nanotechnology might show people once and for all that you really can help regenerate organs with stem-cell biology and help people walk again, help people after heart attacks, help people after stroke." This is early nanotechnology - nanoscale manufacturing turned to medical applications rather than true nanorobots or other more futuristic plans.

Aging And Mitochondrial Dysfunction (June 13 2005)
More attention is going towards the relationship between degenerative aging and mitochondrial dysfunction - given that this is one of the seven pillars of Aubrey de Grey's SENS, I think that this is a good thing. From the Life Extension Foundation News, a brief note on recent research: "Cumulative [mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)] damage occurs in aging animals, and mtDNA mutations are reported to accelerate aging in mice. We determined whether aging results in increased DNA oxidative damage and reduced mtDNA abundance and mitochondrial function in skeletal muscle of human subjects ... These results demonstrate that age-related muscle mitochondrial dysfunction is related to reduced mtDNA and muscle functional changes that are common in the elderly."



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