LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
August 08 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.
- Multimedia Week at Fight Aging!
- Unhealthy, Healthy, Beyond Healthy
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
MULTIMEDIA WEEK AT FIGHT AGING!
A few interesting audio and video interviews on the subject of healthy life extension - and the medical technology needed to get us there - arrived online last week, two with futurist Ray Kurzweil and one with biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey. You'll find the links at the following Fight Aging! posts:
Ray Kurzweil with Charlie Rose:
Ray Kurzweil on the technologies of radical life extension
An Australian podcast interview with Aubrey de Grey
UNHEALTHY, HEALTHY, BEYOND HEALTHY
Most people understand how to be healthy. Very few unhealthy people in the Western world are unfortunate enough to be unhealthy because they genuinely do not know how to be healthy, or because they cannot be healthy. Good general health is not rocket science: eat a good diet, exercise, calibrate those two items to keep the weight off, and take supplements. Just talk to your physician if you have questions.
The difference between healthy and unhealthy in terms of life span can be a large one. If you really work at it, and your genes are merely competent at handling the damage caused by aging and metabolism, you can eat and laze yourself into an early grave at 50. Conversely, suboptimal health practices would seem to be only thing preventing most people living healthily into their 80s and more.
The question marks in healthy life extension start to crop up when you talk about going beyond what you can accomplish with good, optimal diet and lifestyle choices. Even the gold standard of present day healthy life extension life styles, calorie restriction, has question marks when it comes to extending life span in humans. It can certainly extend life span in every other mammal its been tried in, and it certainly has very positive effects on human health that lead the common sense crowd - myself included - to believe that calorie restriction will indeed extend human life span. But can we be 100% sure? No, we can't, at least not until it's too late and someone other than us is counting dead folks and the years they lived.
There are only three sure things in healthy life extension: firstly, that we're not there yet, secondly that we have to support scientists and medical research to the hilt, and thirdly that better health is likely to lead to a longer life. The results of heavily funded medical research into aging and real anti-aging research are the only way we're ever going to have far longer, healthier lives and be sure of it - and the longer we live, the more likely we are to see and benefit from the research we supported and encouraged.
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 State Of Stem Cell Heart Therapies (August 07 2005)
From Voice of America, an look into the current state of first generation adult stem cell therapies for heart disease: "Three months after the injections, more than 100 patients saw significant improvement in blood flow to the heart and the heart muscle worked twice as well as before the treatment. ... You can see where the blood vessel is blocked. You can see the blood flowing and then it just stops. Now, three months later, after injection of stem cells in that area, you can see that there's a new vessel bringing the blood down. ... Researchers say when it comes to building blood vessels, using your own cells could become a common treatment within a few years - very good news for the millions of people who suffer from heart disease."
More From The Aging-Cancer Overlap (August 07 2005)
There is a great deal of overlap between research into aging and cancer; both result from the same mechanisms of cellular life span. The BBC reports on the relationship between cellular senescence and certain cancers: senescence, "which is part of aging and is controlled by certain genes, results in cells - and tumours - failing to respond to normal growth signals. Men with prostate cancer lack the genes that appear to mediate this process ... [a study] in mice suggests correcting this could be a way to prevent prostate tumour growth." In the recent past, another group "found senescence kept human moles in a non-cancerous state for year, and without it they could develop into a dangerous form of skin cancer called malignant melanomas in the lab. Similarly, a team from Germany showed that cellular senescence is capable of blocking a cancer called lymphoma in mice."
How Much Of A Difference In Life Span? (August 06 2005)
This LEF News reprint isn't new news, but I wanted to point it out as a reminder of the difference we can make to our healthy life spans using only the simplest of methods available today - exercise and diet. Radical life extension and working anti-aging medicine have not yet arrived, but we have a fair amount of control over whether we live to see them. "A recent study conducted by UF found that mutations in the energy center, or the mitochondria, of a cell were caused by obesity and lack of exercise, he said. These mutations can lead to apoptosis, or programmed cell death, and may be directly related to the aging process. ... People don't respect food, they abuse it. Fifty percent of the U.S. is killing themselves by not being physically active and having a poor diet. ... By respecting your life and respecting your body, you could add 30 years to your life span. It's that simple."
Telomeres, Longevity, Not So Simple (August 06 2005)
Betterhumans reports on a recent PLoS Genetics paper: "Researchers are claiming to have found 'conclusive evidence' that the link between longevity and chromosome caps called telomeres is more complicated than thought. ... researchers have shown that the worms can succumb to old age despite having long telomeres and can move youthfully despite having short telomeres. ... Some long-lived species like humans have telomeres that are much shorter than the telomeres in species like mice, which live only a few years. Nobody yet knows why. But now we have conclusive evidence that telomeres alone do not dictate aging and lifespan." Nonetheless, there is a certain weight of science behind the correlation between shortened telomeres and age-related degeneration.
Neurodegeneration And Quinolinic Acid (August 05 2005)
(From Medical News Today). Interesting news from Alzheimer's researchers: "We found that all of the brains of dementia patients showed quinolinic acid neurotoxicity. This acid kills nerve cells in the brain, leading to brain dysfunction and ultimately death. ... Quinolinic acid is part of a biochemical pathway called the kynurenine pathway. The activation of that pathway is also found in other major brain diseases including Huntington's disease, stroke, dementia and schizophrenia. ... There are several drugs which can block this pathway, which are already under investigation by our laboratory and others ... Quinolinic acid may not be the cause of Alzheimer's disease, but it plays a key role in its progression ... While we won't be able to prevent people from getting Alzheimer's disease, we may eventually, with the use of drugs, be able to slow down the progression."
Stem Cells To Overcome Aging (August 05 2005)
From EMBO Reports, an excellent article (and some bold claims) on the prospects for stem cell research and regenerative medicine to overcome age-related degeneration: "All ageing phenomena - tissue deterioration, cancer and propensity to infections - can be interpreted as signs of ageing at the level of somatic stem cells. As the regenerative prowess of a living organism is determined by the ability and potential of its stem cells to replace damaged tissue or worn-out cells, a living organism is therefore as old as its stem cells. ... an understanding of the molecules and processes that enable stem cells to initiate self-renewal and to divide, proliferate and then differentiate to rejuvenate damaged tissue might be the key to regenerative medicine and an eventual cure for many diseases."
How Does Regeneration Work? (August 04 2005)
Transfusions of adult stem cells have shown promise in human trials, but researchers are still searching for definitive conclusions on how these therapies work. From EurekAlert: "Adult stem cells can be found locally in various tissues and organs, and we have presumed that they are participating in the repair and maintenance of organ functions. The controversial idea is that adult stem cells have the potential for transdifferentiation; in other words, that they are able to transmutate from one type of organ cell to another. ... [Scientists] have discovered by a number of different experimental approaches that mesenchymal stem cells only show a rudimentarily developed potential for transdifferentiation processes. All cases in which functional skeletal muscle cells arose from mesenchymal stem cells were based on the fusion of stem cells with already differentiated muscle cells."
The Monster In Your Mitochondria (August 04 2005)
Medical News Today reports: "'Complex I' is the first of several protein complexes or enzymes in mitochondria and bacteria that work together in the 'respiratory chain' to produce the energy that all cells need to function ... Complex I is one of the largest iron-sulphur cluster and protein assemblies and is sometimes called the 'monster' by scientists." Researchers are making progress in understanding the monster and have discovered an unexpected cluster involved in suppressing free radical production, thought to be a source of age-related damage to your cells: "It is important now to explore, by genetic modifications, how changes to this cluster might affect the rate of oxygen radical production. This might help us to learn more about longevity and aging."
More On Carbon Dating Tissue (August 03 2005)
The New York Times has more on a recent advance in radiocarbon dating of tissue in the body. A lot of you is not as old as you might think. From the article: "But if the body remains so perpetually youthful and vigorous, and so eminently capable of renewing its tissues, why doesn't the regeneration continue forever? Some experts believe the root cause is that the DNA accumulates mutations and its information is gradually degraded. Others blame the DNA of the mitochondria, which lack the repair mechanisms available for the chromosomes. ... 'The notion that stem cells themselves age and become less capable of generating progeny is gaining increasing support,' Dr. Frisen said. He hopes to see if the rate of a tissue's regeneration slows as a person ages, which might point to the stem cells as being what one unwetted heel was to Achilles, the single impediment to immortality."
Changing The Day You Die (August 03 2005)
A morbid headline, but an accurate portrayal of the subject matter from the Belfast Telegraph - I have to admit that I prefer to think of healthy life extension and the search for actuarial escape velocity as a positive, continuing process of scheduling additional days of healthy life. Finality can wait. The message here: take care of your health today and increase your chances of being alive and active to benefit from the life-extending medicine of tomorrow: "We are now beginning to talk about curing old age. It really does look as though there is no fixed, non-changeable upper limit to life span. ... All the metabolic side-effects whose accumulation is eventually pathogenic are amenable to repair."
A Dose Of Common Sense (August 02 2005)
It's somewhat refreshing to see an article on general health and aging in the mainstream press that demonstrates plain common sense. From the Washington Post: "Despite the constant promotion of products claimed to extend life and prolong vigor, nothing you can buy in a box, bottle or tube has been shown to extend anything other than your credit card balance. ... You've probably heard about promising research, in animals and to some early degree in humans, about benefits of severe caloric restriction - say, cutting daily calories by about a third. ... the results on smaller caloric-restriction studies in humans have been stunning: Cholesterol levels, blood pressure and other major risk factors for heart disease plummeted, along with risk factors for diabetes."
Genetics Of The Aging Brain (August 02 2005)
(From Medical News Today). You may recall that it wasn't all that long ago that researchers announced results from a study of changes in gene expression with age in the human kidney. Now we have more of the same, but for the aging brain. Researchers "found a pattern of age-related changes in the expression of hundreds of genes. ... One common theory of aging holds that damage is done to DNA and proteins by "free-radicals" (highly reactive molecules produced by the metabolic activity of mitochondria). It predicts that more metabolically active tissues will show greater age-related differential gene expression. The results of this study support this theory since the more metabolically active cortex shows a greater reduction in gene activity." Use it more and it tends to wear out faster.
Innovation In Nanoscale Engineering (August 01 2005)
(From the BBC). Add a little nanoscale engineering and even old-fashioned cancer treatments can be made much more safe and effective: "The MIT team tackled the problem by creating a structure for the nanocell that resembled a balloon within a balloon. The researchers loaded the outer membrane of the nanocell with an anti-angiogenic drug and the inner balloon with chemotherapy agents. They also created a surface chemistry which allowed the nanocell to evade detection by the immune system." Very clever - imagine what the future has to offer if this is an example of the first generation in applied ingenuity and comparatively basic nanoscale work.
ABA Review Essay On Longevity Science (August 01 2005)
Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has posted an online copy of his recent review essay from the ABA's law and technology journal, entitled Live Long - And Prosper? "It seems that we have arrived at some sort of 'harmonic convergence' of scholarship on the subject of longevity and life extension - so much so that the journal Gerontology published an entire symposium issue on the subject as this Essay was in progress. That being the case, it is worth taking some time to look at longevity and life extension and to think about where we might be heading. ... There is now some reason to think that lifespans may become considerably longer in the not-too-distant future."