LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
July 18 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.
- Why Embryonic Stem Cell Research?
- Book Recommendation: Liberation Biology
- Lunch With Ray Kurzweil: Auction Report
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
WHY EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH?
Despite the vast amount of ink spilled on the subject, it's actually rather rare to find a sensibly written scientific commentary on why embryonic stem cell research - and the freedom to pursue it - is important to medical progress. Hence, I point you to this one:
"My laboratory is studying embryonic stem cells in hopes of making blood stem cell transplants safer and more widely applicable. A critical part of the strategy is using somatic cell nuclear transfer to generate stem cells that are customized to the specific patients I mentioned earlier, kids with leukemia, immune deficiency, and sickle cell anemia. We hope to correct the genetic defects in these patient-specific cells, direct their differentiation into blood, and transplant kids with these genetically matched autologous cells. This strategy is already working in mice, and we are eager to translate this work into humans."
Newer readers can find my own views on embryonic stem cell research here:
BOOK RECOMMENDATION: LIBERATION BIOLOGY
Ronald Bailey, a supporter of freedom of medical research and healthy life extension, has completed his reply-in-book-form to those who would use government power to restrict these areas of human growth and endeavor. Some pointers are contained in the following Fight Aging! post:
The advance of biotechnology is exactly and absolutely a liberation. Just look at the last century of progress and tell me that the average person in a Western nation in 2005 is not liberated compared to their 1905 counterpart. Liberated from chronic disease, liberated from an earlier death, liberated from an absence of basic medical technology and knowledge. This process of liberation will continue ever more rapidly: with the appropriate levels of funding and public support, and in the absence of government restrictions, we will eventually be liberated from age-related degeneration. Now there is something to look forward to.
LUNCH WITH RAY KURZWEIL: AUCTION REPORT
Thanks to Ray Kurzweil's generous offer to match the winning bid, not to mention the spirited bidding, the charity auction raised $8,000 to go to the Mprize fund. The lunch will be held later this year in Boston once everyone has agreed on a time. This money will be used to encourage scientists to work on technologies capable of greatly extending healthy life span:
A great deal of hard work goes into these fundraising events - the ongoing growth and success of the Mprize for anti-aging research is due to the commitment and dedication of volunteers and donors alike. As always, many thanks go to everyone who helped out in one way or another.
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 Front Lines Of Cancer Research (July 17 2005)
The cutting edge of cancer research today looks very different from the work performed a decade ago. Scientists strive to understand the biochemistry and genetics of the cellular life cycle, as cancer results from failures in these mechanisms. It is an added bonus that this research will greatly benefit attempts to halt or reverse the aging process. From Medical News Today: "This is one of the few genes that has been discovered that directly controls two pathways, cell proliferation and cell apoptosis, or cell death. Sustained growth of cancer cells requires activation of the cell proliferation machinery and suppression of a system called the apoptotic failsafe mechanism. The combination of suppressed cell death and deregulated cell production is likely a key element in cancer."
Update On Myostatin And Mighty Mice (July 17 2005)
(From Medical News Today). You may recall that scientists demonstrated impressive muscle growth in genetically engineered mice that lacked the growth regulator myostatin. The same team has now shown that "it's possible to get the same effect by blocking the gene for myostatin, rather than entirely knocking it out. ... Until now, it's been purely theoretical that we could block the gene and obtain the same muscle-building effect as deleting the gene." This makes therapies for age-related muscle loss and wasting diseases much more plausible in the years ahead, although "for human applications, this research is just the beginning."
Banish This Phrase (July 16 2005)
Medical News Today notes that the gerontological powers that be have decided that yet another age-related degeneration from good health is not "a normal part of aging." Personally, I think that we should banish this phrase from our lexicon, and the sooner the better. Why accept any form of age-related degeneration as inevitable or "normal"? We live in an age of dynamic science, at the very beginning of an increasingly rapid revolution in medicine and biotechnology. If you don't want to lose your health as you age, then speak up! Scientific research will ultimately allow us to sever the present connection between age and ill health, but only if large scale funding and widespread public support starts now.
How Old Are Your Cells? (July 16 2005)
The replacement rate of cells in our body varies greatly between different types of cell, but up until now scientists couldn't make precise estimates. Nature reports the latest results: "Samples taken from the visual cortex, the region of the brain responsible for processing sight, were as old as the subjects themselves, supporting the idea that these cells do not regenerate. ... Other brain cells are more short-lived ... In an average person of some 30 years of age, intestinal cells are about a decade old and skeletal cells a bit older than that. Cells that endure a great deal of physical stress, such as red blood cells, are known to turn over every few months. The research team believes that dating cells using carbon-14 will shed light on the role of cell death in cognitive disorders."
News From Suspended Animation (July 15 2005)
It's been a while since we've heard anything from cryonics company Suspended Animation. From the Tallahassee Democrat, in an otherwise unsympathetic article: "Suspended Animation expects to open in August. The facility was approved 4-1 by Boynton Beach commissioners in March, after being repeatedly rejected by Boca Raton officials. ... The South Florida lab will primarily act as a processing facility to freeze dead bodies, Platt said. It will not store bodies. Alcor is negotiating with Suspended Animation to receive bodies. The companies share a board member, Saul Kent [of the Life Extension Foundation], also with South Florida ties." Learn more about the science and practice of cryonics here at the Longevity Meme or at the excellent Alcor website.
Mitochondria, Aging Research Again (July 15 2005)
(From EurekAlert). Mitochondria are a hot topic in aging research these days. "Growing old, according to the new study, occurs, in part, as mutations build up in the DNA of energy-generating mitochondria, triggering the death of critical cells that lead to such things as hair and weight loss, hearing and vision impairment, loss of muscle mass, weakened bones and fewer circulating red blood cells. ... We think that the key to what is happening in aging is that as (genetic) mutations or DNA damage accumulates, critical cells die. These experiments favor a major role for programmed cell death in aging." Keep an eye on mitochondrial research - it offers intriguing possibilities for healthy life extension medicine over the next decade.
More Mitochondria, Aging Research (July 14 2005)
EurekAlert reports on the work of Prolla and Kujoth, who find "that accumulation of mitochondrial mutations that promote apoptosis, or programmed cell death, may be a central mechanism driving aging and may be unrelated to the release of free radicals, previously thought to cause aging. ... By breeding mice with the inability to detect and repair mistakes in the DNA replication process, researchers discovered there was no increase in oxidative stress despite an increased mutational load. However, there was a significant increase in apoptosis. ... The finding disproves the previously believed mitochondrial 'vicious cycle' theory of aging, which states that increases in mitochondrial mutations increase oxidative damage, which is one cause of aging."
Last Day of Auction, Kurzweil To Match Bids (July 14 2005)
If you and your friends would like to meet inventor, entrepreneur and healthy life extension advocate Ray Kurzweil, today is the last day of bidding on the Mprize celebrity lunch auction. All proceeds will go to encourage scientists to develop working rejuvenation therapies, and Ray Kurzweil has generously offered to match up to $4,000 of the winning bid. "The MPrize - in the spirit of the fabulously successful X Prize - is a powerful vehicle for mobilizing the scientific community to eliminate the degeneration associated with aging. In addition to my earlier donation, this is a fun way to support a cause I believe in - helping people live longer, healthier lives. I look forward to sharing an afternoon of food and conversation with others who are similarly committed."
Stem Cells Suppress Inflammation? (July 13 2005)
The results of more speculative stem cell studies are starting to show up these days - one sign of increasing funding. This is an interesting one, reported at the National MS Society: "[adult mouse neural stem cells] injected into the blood of mice with MS-like disease were able to suppress the immune attacks that damage the brain and spinal cord tissues. ... These surprising findings, if confirmed, suggest that neural stem cells that reside in the adult brain may not only serve as replacement cells for tissue repair, but in some circumstances may also protect the brain from inflammation. Further research is needed to confirm these results and to address multiple issues involved in translating such experiments into finding ways to fight the immune attack and protect and repair brain tissues."
On Death As An Unnatural Process (July 13 2005)
Kevin Perrott of HealthExtension.net annotes bioethicist Arthur Caplan's article in the latest EMBO Reports. "Why are the physiological changes and deteriorations that are associated with ageing considered to be unremarkable natural processes whereas similar debilitative changes are deemed critical diseases when they occur in younger people? Progeria - rapid ageing in a child - is considered a horrible disease, whereas the same changes occurring 80 years later are considered normal and unworthy of medical interest. ... This applies even to young adults who if they had the blood sugar response of a 'normal' 65 year old would normally be classified as diabetic. By any dictionary definition, aging qualifies as a disease with multiple pathological symptoms so why is medicine so reluctant to treat aging as a proper disease target?"
Enhancing Aging Muscle Regeneration (July 12 2005)
Medical News Today delivers the latest on understanding and enhancing muscle regeneration: Plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) "levels appear to increase with aging, and may explain, in part, the loss of repair capacity as we age. [Scientists] plans to see whether manipulating PAI-1 levels can restore muscle repair in old muscles. ... PAI-1 levels also appear to be higher in muscle diseases [in which] muscle repair processes can't keep up with the degeneration caused by the disease. ... The plasminogen system likely has multiple roles in muscle repair. Understanding how the plasminogen system works in skeletal muscle may give some clues to improving repair of different tissues, especially heart, which is similar in many ways to skeletal muscle."
What The Politicians Are Up To (July 12 2005)
(From Wired). The US Senate is debating embryonic stem cell research again. While various politicians are in the limelight, it is well worth remembering that this same group of people are those responsible for restrictive anti-research legislation and scaring away private funding - years of blocking progress towards cures for the millions who continue to suffer and die. "Bald and gravelly-voiced from cancer treatments, Specter said the debate itself makes him angry. 'Yeah, well I am, as a matter of fact,' Specter said. 'Try a few chemotherapy treatments and see how you feel' watching others debate medical research funding. 'The potential for stem cells has been held in abeyance much too long.'"
Awakening The Elder Stem Cells (July 11 2005)
SAGE Crossroads takes a look at our current understanding of what happens to stem cells with age - and what could be done to rejuvenate their capability to heal. "Stem cells are still there in old age; they just seem to be quiescent ... [this is] the next huge area in stem cell research." Scientists have demonstrated that they "can manipulate the stem cell environment to improve the function of its residents. ... After researchers delineate the orchestra of signals that guide stem cells, perhaps we'll no longer have to cover our gray. We'll be able to use stem cells to put the bounce and shine back into tissues in addition to our hair." The prospect of using biochemical cues to reactivate aging stem cells is intriguing, to say the least.
Viewing The Future Of Bioengineering (July 11 2005)
It is interesting to step back and assess just where biotech is taking us, how fast science is moving, and where we may be a decade from now. "The ability to sequence an individual's genome for less than $1,000 is a major goal of genome scientists, and nanopore technology has the potential to make personal genome sequencing available for as little as $100 ... we can discover the genetic basis for variation in health among humans ... advances in regenerative medicine, where manufactured tissues infused with cells, developmental nutrients, and growth stimulants can help regenerate nerves or restore tissues." In summary, "this is the 21st century. We expect that we are going to be able to do something about disease."