LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
July 11 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: Four Days Left To Bid
- Great News For Mitochondrial and Aging Research
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
LUNCH WITH RAY KURZWEIL: FOUR DAYS LEFT TO BID
Time is counting down on the Ray Kurzweil celebrity lunch auction - you and up to five friends have four days left to put in a bid, with all proceeds going to the Mprize for rejuvenation and longevity research:
As I note at Fight Aging!, Ray Kurzweil is a fascinating character: inventor, entrepreneur, futurist and life extension advocate, just for starters. He is an excellent example of what you can achieve if you just set your mind to it:
Kurzweil's advocacy for life extension - and the technology needed to bring it about - has benefited the wider healthy life extension community. A world in which more respected, influential people are talking seriously about how to greatly extend the healthy human life span is a world in which actually achieving this end becomes easier.
GREAT NEWS FOR MITOCHONDRIAL AND AGING RESEARCH
Rafal Smigrodzki, who works with a research group attempting to find ways to repair damaged mitochondrial DNA, recently announced confirmation of their methods:
"Today our team confirmed our previous preliminary data showing that we can achieve robust mitochondrial transfection and protein expression in mitochondria of live rats, after an injection of genetically engineered mitochondrial DNA complexed with our protofection transfection agent. A significant fraction of cells in the brain is transfected with this single injection even though we so far did not optimize the dose. This achievement has important implications for medicine: protofection technology works in vivo, and should be capable of replacing damaged mitochondrial genomes."
What does this mean? It means that mitochondrial science is now strongly positioned to grow, accelerate and produce meaningful therapies, just as stem cell science was a decade ago. Both fields offer enormous potential for treating age-related disease; a number of age-related conditions are either caused or aggravated by damage to mitochondrial DNA. The promise of therapies for those conditions will, like the promise of regenerative medicine based on stem cells, lead to increased funding and faster progress.
As you may know, accumulated damage to our mitochondrial DNA - general wear and tear as a result of normal metabolic processes and free radicals, rather than specific genetic malfunctions - is most likely one of the root causes of general age-related degeneration. Biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey briefly outlines why this is the case and what we could do about it at his Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence website:
The path between repairing a single specific genetic defect in laboratory animals and repairing the vast array of nonspecific mitochondrial damage accumulated over a lifetime in humans is a long one - but the technologies of rejuvenation for this portion of the aging process are now on the horizon.
If you'd like to read more about mitochondria, free radical damage, aging and related science, you might start with the following items and the resources they link to:
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
Understanding A Tumor Suppression Gene (July 10 2005)
It should be fairly clear from the past decade of research that understanding the underlying biochemistry of disease leads to targeted, effective therapies. From EurekAlert: "A critical event in the development of melanoma and other human cancers is the inactivation of a gene known as 'p16.' Normally, p16 keeps cells from growing rapidly, a condition that sometimes leads to tumor formation. ... The p16 gene works by producing a protein that attaches to [key growth-promotion enzymes], preventing them from performing their function. When the researchers added the p16 protein to colonies of cancer cells in culture, it diminished the size of many colonies, wiping out some of them. It also decreased the total number of cancer cells."
Nonsense Spreads, Silver Lining Sought (July 10 2005)
The less helpful side (i.e. most of) the "anti-aging" marketplace is growing, and growing rapidly. From this study, we see the projection that "America's obsession with youth will continue to drive demand for formulated anti-aging products, which will rise 8.7 percent per year to $30.7 billion in 2009." A world in which marketing of useless cosmetics and uncertain practices so greatly outweigh the scientific search for real anti-aging therapies is a world in which we will all age, suffer and die, having spent our irreplaceable resources and time on things that do not work. What is the silver lining? That the light and noise of the anti-aging marketplace demonstrates real desire for longer, healthier lives - desire that could be redirected to support a better way forward than that provided by the frauds, quacks and opportunists.
EMBO Reports On Aging Research (July 09 2005)
The latest issue of EMBO Reports includes a fair number of papers on aging, anti-aging and longevity research - very readable for non-scientists, too. Just click on the "Full Text" link beside each article in the table of contents. Promising science and can-do attitude is on display (alongside a few less exemplary papers - but life is a mixed bag); good reading material for the weekend ahead for those of us who support and advocate efforts to greatly extend the healthy human life span. From Arthur Caplan: "Those who want to make the case against treating ageing as a disease must show why human beings are not capable of solving the challenges that a longer life expectancy would create. There is no intrinsic ethical reason why we should not try to extend our lives."
On The Free Radical Theory Of Aging (July 09 2005)
From ScienCentral, more on recent research into free radicals and aging: "Rabinovitch's group genetically engineered mice to produce a natural antioxidant enzyme called catalase. The mice lived 20 percent longer than normal mice - on average they lived five and a half months longer than the control animals, whose average life span was about two years. ... It means that an individual who lives to age 70, now, with the benefits that we achieved in the mice if these could be carried forth to humans, they might live instead to 84 years old. What we have achieved is the best documentation yet that increasing the level of antioxidants in a general fashion can enhance the health and the lifespan of mice."
Carbon Nanotubes For Bone Growth (July 08 2005)
Carbon nanotubes have a way of showing up in every field of science and engineering - regenerative medicine is no exception, as we learn from this EurekAlert report. "The success of a bone graft depends on the ability of the scaffold to assist the natural healing process. Artificial bone scaffolds have been made from a wide variety of materials, such as polymers or peptide fibers, but they have a number of drawbacks, including low strength and the potential for rejection in the body. ... Bone tissue is a natural composite of collagen fibers and hydroxyapatite crystals. Haddon and his coworkers have demonstrated for the first time that nanotubes can mimic the role of collagen as the scaffold for growth of hydroxyapatite in bone." Any improvement in bone regeneration is likely to prove useful for the millions who suffer from osteoporosis.
From Correlation to Mechanism (July 08 2005)
People expend a great deal of energy attempting to obtain health benefits based on studies demonstrating correlations between aspects of diet, lifestyle and health. Determining underlying biochemical mechanisms is a step beyond, however - it brings precise therapies and explanations for variations in effectiveness of the old strategies. Here, EurekAlert reports on new understanding of some cancer-protective compounds: "Compounds like sulforaphane in broccoli and resveratrol in wine have been shown to prevent cancer. They do that by signaling our bodies to ramp up the production of proteins capable of preventing damage to our DNA. We now have a good idea how that signal works."
Back To Social Changes And Longevity (July 07 2005)
WorldChanging discusses the social and cultural changes likely to develop from the technologies of healthy life extension. It seems self-evident that things will change as healthy life span increases - and equally self-evident that any such change is for the better ... unless you think death and suffering on a massive scale is a positive thing, as Leon Kass seems to. So it puzzles me to see the degree of hand-wringing over "problems" caused by increasing longevity. These "problems" invariably turn out to be caused by damaging, restrictive and downright repressive laws and government programs - enforced retirement being up there near the top of this list of Bad Ideas.
Large Brazilian Stem Cell Trial (July 07 2005)
Following on from more modest trials of first generation stem cell therapies for heart disease, a 1200-member trial is to begin in Brazil. "As for the patients, they will certainly have better quality of life with less need to use medications and fewer hospital visits. And it is also estimated that the new treatment could save as many as 200,000 lives over a three year period." Accumulated damage to heart tissue kills many, many people - approximately 2000 each and every day in the US alone. The heart is a good place to start on regenerative medicine. It is a comparatively unsophisticated organ, requiring less tailored, complex therapies - and any effective therapy will bring health benefits and additional years of healthy life to large numbers of people.
Investing In Embryonic Stem Cell Research (July 06 2005)
Wired reports, as have others, that private investment in embryonic stem cell research is picking up. From Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology: "With the passage of Proposition 71 there's been an influx of interest in stem cells. We're in a whole new world. We're flush with cash, and just months ago we were struggling as a private company to even make payroll and to keep the phones on." The article notes that "will soon announce an $8 million investment from private and venture investors, with more on the way" and that "the company has nearly tripled in size." Capital investment is the engine of progress - good to see more of it in a field that will produce cures for age-related disease.
Aging Is Getting Old (July 06 2005)
(From Tech Central Station). Glenn Reynolds adds his voice to those discussing Aubrey de Grey's latest paper on the state of biogerontology and a cure for degenerative aging. "[Aging] takes healthy vigorous people who can take care of themselves, and it turns them into frail weaklings who require lots of (expensive) supportive care until they expire from some condition to which it has made them more susceptible. ... I've been spending a lot of time in nursing homes lately, and it's quite obvious that the people there have something wrong with them; to suggest otherwise is, I think, little more than a species of denial. Aging is a disease, a disorder, a killer. We should be doing something about it."
No Shame In Seeking Rejuvenation (July 05 2005)
Randall Parker comments on Aubrey de Grey's latest paper over at FuturePundit. "Aubrey thinks many biogerontologists entered the field when there was little hope of ever stopping or reversing aging. Therefore most entered to satisfy their curiosity rather than to achieve goals which have practical uses. ... But we no longer live in that era when rejuvenation was absolutely out of the question. ... [new technologies] allow increasingly precise and cheap manipulation of biological systems down at the scale of cells and molecules. Computers allow automation and scaling of processes which required enormous quantities of manual labor in past decades. ... Many scientists are already attempting to develop treatments that effectively reverse some processes of aging."
Ray Kurzweil Luncheon Auction Underway (July 05 2005)
The charity auction of a luncheon engagement with inventor, entrepreneur and healthy life extension advocate Ray Kurzweil - author of Fantastic Voyage: Life Long Enough to Live Forever, amongst other books - is now underway at eBay. The luncheon will be held at a time convenient to the winners and Kurzweil, and all proceeds will go to the Mprize for rejuvenation and longevity research. The Mprize, brainchild of biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey and entrepreneur Dave Gobel, aims to encourage scientists to develop real, working medicine capable of repairing and reversing age-related degeneration. As Aubrey de Grey points out, the scientific community is close enough to this goal that every day counts.
More Good News For Parkinson's Research (July 04 2005)
From EurekAlert: "Analysis of the brain of a patient suffering from Parkinson's disease has shown for the first time that an experimental treatment can reverse the loss of nerve fibres. Analysis of the brain of a patient suffering from Parkinson's Disease has shown that the experimental treatment he received caused regrowth of the nerve fibres that are lost in this disease. ... This is the first neuropathological evidence that infusion of GDNF in humans causes sprouting of dopamine fibres, in association with a reduction in the severity of Parkinson's Disease. ... GDNF, which stands for glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor, is a natural growth agent needed by brain cells to produce dopamine." Any progress towards therapies for neurodegenerative diseases is good news for the future of healthy life extension.
DNA Damage And The Immune System (July 04 2005)
Interesting research into the mechanisms by which the immune system responds to DNA damage is reported at EurekAlert. "Our study is the first to show that there are mechanisms in place for the immune system to identify cancer cells. It reveals how natural killer [NK] cells distinguish something they're supposed to get rid of versus something they're supposed to keep. ... What's new about our study is that we found that cells with damaged DNA can also involve other cells in the fight, triggering a mechanism that signals other cells - specifically NK cells - to attack. It could be another ingenious trick that the body uses to ward off cancerous cells." Understanding existing mechanisms for removing cells with damaged DNA is a step on the path towards SENS technologies to repair the causes of aging.