Longevity Meme Newsletter, July 04 2005

July 04 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.



- Lunch With Ray Kurzweil, Author of Fantastic Voyage
- Aubrey de Grey: Resistance to Debate Costs Lives
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


I'm pleased to note that the Methuselah Foundation is auctioning a celebrity luncheon with Ray Kurzweil, co-author of Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever. All proceeds will go to the Mprize for rejuvenation and longevity research, where they will be used to encourage the scientific community to develop medicine capable of repairing age-related damage and reversing the aging process. The auction kicks off on Tuesday, July 5th at eBay:


"Bidders can join together in groups of up to 6 to win the luncheon with Dr. Kurzweil, but groups should select one person to do the actual bidding on eBay on behalf of the group. The luncheon will be arranged at a time convenient to the winners and Dr. Kurzweil. Lunch will be provided by Mprize volunteers according to the dietary guidelines set forth in Dr. Kurzweil's most recent book, 'Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever.'"

If you enjoyed Fantastic Voyage, or simply think that Ray Kuzweil is the best thing since sliced bread, then now is your chance to gather up six of your friends and make a bid. As a reminder, an excerpt from Fantastic Voyage can be found at the Longevity Meme:


Tell your friends!


In his latest article published by EMBO Reports, Aubrey de Grey refines his pointed arguments against the current game plan within the field of biogerontology:


"Here, I discuss whether our obstinately modest funding is due, as most of my biogerontologist colleagues evidently feel, to a failure on our part to communicate the scientific and biomedical realities to our political paymasters, and is therefore best rectified by continuing to repeat the arguments we have used for decades until they sink in. I argue that it is instead because those arguments are genuinely weak. ... our field is passing up the opportunity to elevate itself to its rightful level of public appreciation and investment, with the result that much longer healthy lives are being denied those who will die before 'real anti-ageing medicine' arrives unless we start working harder towards it now."

If you have not yet read any of Aubrey de Grey's writing on the practice, sociology and funding of scientific efforts to greatly extend the healthy human life span, this would be a good place to start. You might also consider reading "The Curious Case of the Catatonic Biogerontologists" at the Longevity Meme:


as well as the Fight Aging! post entitled "Manifestations of Conservatism in Gerontology":


This might all sound fairly dry, but the state of funding and the culture of real anti-aging research in science is literally a matter of life and death for all of us. I cannot overemphasize how important this struggle is. In order for those of us reading this today to benefit from future healthy life extension technologies - before suffering from age-related disease and ultimately dying due to age-related degeneration - the scientific and funding communities must begin ramping up to large-scale research today. Right this minute, today.

The ramp up in research has been accomplished for cancer, accomplished for AIDS, and is underway for Alzheimer's. What is taking so long for aging and longevity research? The clock is ticking, and the alternative to success is terrible suffering and death - both personally and on a vast scale across the world, as you'll see in the following post:



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



Linking Aging, Metabolic Disorders (July 03 2005)
From EurekAlert, signs that the exploration of the biochemical and genetic mechanisms of metabolism is paying dividends: "During the last decade researchers have made a number of important discoveries about the molecular mechanisms regulating aging. This research has suggested the exciting prospect that the rate of aging can be manipulated and slowed, leading to longer human lifespan. A major peer-reviewed [article] describes the intimate links between these pathways of aging and those of metabolic disease, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. The authors describe how these insights open the door to novel classes of drugs which can be developed to not only treat diabetes and obesity, but also effectively slow the aging process and extend lifespan." It makes for an interesting read, even while being boosterism for the current crop of for-profit ventures focusing on this area of science.

How Much Can Human Life Span Be Extended? (July 03 2005)
Science Magazine recently put together a list of "125 big questions that face scientific inquiry over the next quarter-century" with an article for each question. Coming in the top 25 is our favorite: "How Much Can Human Life Span Be Extended?" As the article notes, "Just 2 or 3 decades ago, research on aging was a backwater. But when molecular biologists began hunting for ways to prolong life, they found that life span was remarkably pliable. ... Can these strategies help humans live longer? And how do we determine whether they will? Unlike drugs for cancer or heart disease, the benefits of antiaging treatments are fuzzier, making studies difficult to set up and to interpret." The more these concepts are discussed, the more funding we will see for further, better healthy life extension research.

Future Of Korean Stem Cell Research (July 02 2005)
Medical researchers should be given a great deal more respect and freedom from interference than most get - after all, they are working hard to make our lives longer, healthier and better. In this article, BusinessWeek looks at the work of Hwang Woo Suk and the surrounding government-organized publicity. The planned schedule for future work is on the table: "Hopes of giving new life and joy to those suffering from incurable diseases makes me renew my determination ... Hwang's goal is to use laboratory-engineered stem cells to treat rats, dogs, and possibly monkeys for ailments such as damaged spinal cords. If the animal trials go well, in two to three years he'll apply for permission to conduct human trials in Korea and the U.S."

CIRM To Begin Funding? (July 02 2005)
I wouldn't hold your breath, but it looks like the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine may be starting on the disbursement of research funds. This has been held up as groups opposed to embryonic stem cell research have been filing lawsuits left, right and center - expensive legal battles are one consequence of a public funding mechanism, alongside many other forms of waste and inefficiency. From SFGate: "Officials leading the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine say they have reached 'essential agreement' with legislative foes to settle disputes about conflicts of interest and open meetings. Other contentious issues involving intellectual property and patent rights have yet to be settled. But even some staunch critics of the stem cell institute say the biggest fight seems to be winding down."

For Auction: Lunch With Ray Kurzweil (July 01 2005)
Via the GRG mailing list: Ray Kurzweil - scientist, inventor, life-extension visionary - has volunteered to donate his time for a celebrity lunch auction, all of the proceeds to go straight into the Mprize for rejuvenation and longevity research! The auction will open on eBay on Tuesday, July 5. Bidders can join together in groups of up to 6 to win the luncheon with Kurzweil, but groups should select one person to do the actual bidding on eBay on behalf of the group. The auction will be arranged at a time convenient to the winners and Dr. Kurzweil. Lunch will be provided by Mprize volunteers according to the dietary guidelines set forth in Dr. Kurzweil's most recent book, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever.

Gene Therapy To Repair DNA Damage (July 01 2005)
Repair of damaged DNA is of interest for advocates of healthy life extension; accumulated DNA damage is one root cause of age-related degeneration. It's likely to be a long haul to the introduction of technologies that can patch up varied wear and tear on DNA, but scientists can currently use gene therapies to repair specific classes of damage. As ScienceDaily reports, "Harnessing the strength of a natural process that repairs damage to the human genome, a researcher from UT Southwestern Medical Center has helped establish a method of gene therapy that can accurately and permanently correct mutations in disease-causing genes." This is useful in and of itself - many diseases have a basis in malformed genes - and we should see much more investment in this area in the years ahead.

Understanding Apoptosis (June 30 2005)
Since we're talking about cancer today, it is worth pointing out some new science on apoptosis, the process of programmed cell death. The relationships between aging, cancer and the biochemistry of cellular life span are complex (to say the least), but there is something to be said for starting with the most basic basics and working up to the big picture. "We think this gene will really be a hot spot in research ... The life and death of cells is a complex avalanche of reactions, controlled by a few molecules that sit atop a biochemical 'pyramid.' ... We think these findings are very significant. This is the first enzymatic step that regulates the degradation of proteins that control cell death."

More On Cancer Stem Cells (June 30 2005)
Cancer is one of the many common age-related conditions that must (and will) be defeated if any healthy life extension technology is to work - there is no sense in living longer only to be riddled with cancers. In many ways, it is the most important of all age-related conditions, since it is so intimately entwined with the biochemical mechanisms of aging and cellular repair. Research into cancer illuminates aging, and vice versa. The discovery of cancer stem cells is a promising step forward in the fight to cure cancer - it will lead to much more effective, efficient therapies with fewer side effects. This Nature article is an example of the sort of progress that can be made with greater understanding.

Killing Cancer With Progeria (June 30 2005)
You may recall that scientists cracked the secrets of Progeria - an accelerated aging disorder - in 2004. This Reuters AlertNet piece details some of the follow-on work: "In 2003, a team of [scientists] found that progeria was caused by mutation in a protein called Lamin A, which lines the nucleus in human cells. ... mutated Lamin A actually disrupted the repair process in cells, thus resulting in accelerated ageing. ... the enzyme Zmpste 24 was responsible in converting prelamin A to functional Lamin A. Zhou's laboratory is now developing inhibitors to Zmpste 24, which he hopes to apply to tumours. These inhibitors should theoretically disrupt Lamin A production, thwart the repair function in cancer cells, and bring on their premature aging and death."

Another Stem Cell Proof Of Concept (June 29 2005)
The technological demonstrations in stem cell medicine continue to roll in. Here, Genetic Engineering News reports on the latest from Advanced Cell Technology: "Therapeutic cloning, a technique aimed at producing stem cells for use in tissue replacement therapy to treat human degenerative diseases, will only be successful if the transplanted stem cells are able to survive and multiply over time, and evidence of such long-term survival has now been reported ... Many human diseases such as Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injury reflect loss of function of cells that are not repaired or replaced. This study demonstrates that it will be possible to use cloning to derive replacement cells that are immunologically matched to the patient."

Progress Towards Curing Parkinson's (June 28 2005)
Progress towards cures for the main categories of neurodegenerative disease is of great interest to healthy life extension advocates - other organs will be replaceable in years to come, but you certainly can't do that for the brain. All the damage has to be repaired in situ, and repaired well. This SciAm article gives a summary of recent progress in Parkinson's research: "Although much remains unknown about Parkinson's, the genetic and cellular insights that have come to light in just the past few years are highly encouraging. They give new hope for treatments that will combine with existing ones to slow disease progression and improve control of this distressing disorder."

SciAm: The Future Of Stem Cell Medicine (June 28 2005)
A Scientific American special issue focuses on stems cells with a brace of articles and opinion pieces. Good stuff. "Stem cells serve as a biological repair system, with the potential to develop into many types of specialised cells in the body. They can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells. When a stem cell divides, each daughter can remain a stem cell or adopt a more specialised role such as a muscle, blood or brain cell ... Controlling this differentiation process is one of the biggest challenges in stem cell research. ... Biologists believe most degenerative diseases are too complex to treat effectively just by giving patients drugs or even gene therapy. Living cells, which produce a far larger number of biologically active molecules, stand a better chance of success."

Stem Cell Technology Advances (June 27 2005)
(From Medical News Today). One important portion of scientific research is developing the tools and techniques that will speed further work. The technologies for working with stem cells are improving, step by step: "Investigators from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) have used new techniques in the laboratory that allowed them for the first time to derive unlimited numbers of purified mesenchymal precursor cells from human embryonic stem cells. Mesenchymal precursor cells are capable of giving rise to fat, cartilage, bone, and skeletal muscle cells, and may potentially be used for regenerative stem cell therapy in bone, cartilage, or muscle replacement."

Understanding Neurodegeneration (June 27 2005)
Understanding of biochemical mechanisms enables faster research paths to targeted, effective therapies. Medical News Today notes progress in knowledge of mechanisms of a range of age-related neurodegenerative conditions: "Many of these diseases are characterised by accumulation, inside nerve cells, of clumps of toxic proteins. ... failure of the dynein system causes the degeneration in a form of motor neuron disease, and that it is also involved in other conditions such as Huntington's disease. [The study] also provided further evidence for the idea [that] a key factor in the severity of these diseases is the rate at which these toxic clumps of protein can be removed. Enhancing the degradation of these protein clumps has the potential to delay the onset of, or even reverse, this group of diseases."



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