Longevity Meme Newsletter, September 05 2005

September 05 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.



- Second SENS Conference This Week
- 13th Foresight Conference In October
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


The second Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) conference kicks off this week in Cambridge, England, with media attention brewing and presentations to be given by such luminaries as Michael West of Advanced Cell Technology and South Korean stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang:


"The purpose of the SENS conference series, like all the SENS initiatives (such as the journal Rejuvenation Research and the Methuselah Mouse Prize), is to expedite the development of truly effective therapies to postpone and treat human aging by tackling it as an engineering problem: not seeking elusive and probably illusory magic bullets, but instead enumerating the accumulating molecular and cellular changes that eventually kill us and identifying ways to repair - reverse - those changes, rather than merely to slow down their further accumulation."

All in all, it is very heartening to see support for efforts aimed explicitly at halting and reversing the damage of aging rather than just tinkering with genes and metabolism to slow down age-related degeneration. Yet there is still a long way to go in winning further support and generating significant levels of funding; I hope that this conference will succeed in further raising the profile of SENS-like research both within and without the scientific community. As always, you can read more about the science of SENS at the following locations:


I should note that attending Immortality Institute members are planning a pre-conference get-together with biomedical gerontologist and conference organizer Aubrey de Grey. Full members can view the discussion and details here:



While we're on the subject of conferences involving Aubrey de Grey and discussions of the best path to working healthy life extension technologies, I should remind you that the 13th Foresight Conference on nanotechnology is coming up in October in San Francisco. Aubrey de Grey and a number of other interesting people will be speaking at the event; you may recall that de Grey penned the material for the Health and Longevity Foresight Challenge:


For a primer on how futurists and forward-looking scientists see the use of advanced nanotechnology radically improving medicine and extending healthy life span, you might want to read Chris Phoenix's article "Nanotechnology and Life Extension" at the Longevity Meme:



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



Towards A Real Artifical Kidney (September 04 2005)
Medical News Today reports on progress in shrinking down replacements for dialysis technology: "Researchers have developed a human nephron filter (HNF) that would eventually make possible a continuously functioning, wearable or implantable artificial kidney. ... In the ideal RRT device, this technology would be used to mimic the function of natural kidneys, continuously operating, and based on individual patient needs. No dialysis solution would be used in the device. Operating 12 hours a day, seven days a week, the filtration rate of the HNF is double that of conventional hemodialysis administered three times a week." Nanoscale engineering is making a great many interesting concepts possible in the world of prosthetic replacement parts.

The Aging Enigma (September 04 2005)
The Harvard Magazine looks at aging research: "Is aging necessary? Are the wrinkles and gray hair, weakening muscles, neurodegeneration, reduced cardiovascular function, and increased risk of cancer that afflict organisms toward the end of their lives inevitable? Or are these age-related changes part of a genetic program that can be altered?" The article is a review of the conservative gerontological position on aging and where we are in our attempts to understand and manipulate the aging process - all metabolic or genetic investigation and tinkering, in other words, with no mention of SENS-like work to repair and reverse the damage of aging. This absence is very much part of the problem when it comes to making meaningful, rapid progress towards healthy life extension.

Common Sense On Wealth And Longevity (September 03 2005)
Plain common sense on the relationships between wealth, health and longevity is, sadly, hard to find in the mainstream media. Here is some from the Financial Times: "The older segment of the population does consume a high share of resources simply because of the higher probability of disease and death with advancing age. But this does not hold for the individual patient: for the same condition, older patients use less healthcare than younger ones. The highest costs occur in the 12 to 18 months prior to death, and this is true at any age. What is expensive is the cost of dying, not the cost of ageing. ... Put simply; health, plus longevity, generates wealth." Live healthily for longer and you can work and save for longer. Mandatory retirement forced by law is deeply unethical, as are wealth transfer schemes like social security.

Research Prizes For Better Science (September 03 2005)
The Mprize for anti-aging research gets a good mention in a recent PLoS Biology article on research prizes. Personally, I believe you'll be hard pressed to do better than harnessing the engine that is human competitive instinct - but not everyone thinks that way, it seems: "It is not so much that legitimate ageing researchers do not want to be seen as actively seeking a prize, as it is that a research strategy built on the goal of winning the prize would be way too high a risk. When I heard about [the M Prize] we were in the midst of our ovary transplant mouse studies and it crossed my mind momentarily that maybe we'd be in the running. ... If we were to ever win this prize (hypothetically), it would be by default rather than by inspiration; that is, we would claim the prize (since why not?) but that would not have been the driving force." To me that simply sounds like the Mprize fund needs to grow some more - so donate!

Supercentenarians And Skeptics (September 02 2005)
The BBC looks at those people who reach extreme old age and the longevity research that seeks to understand why. It's a reminder that most gerontologists - and journalists - are deeply skeptical of the ability of advancing science to improve human capabilities. From Tom Kirkwood: "It's a bit like the world record for the mile," says Mr Kirkwood. "Once it was thought that no one could run a mile in under four minutes. ... The current world record can always be broken, but it's highly unlikely we'll see anyone run the mile in two minutes." But there is a way to do it - it's called an automobile. Gerontologists are failing to account for the future of medical technology, and by their pronouncements are suppressing public support for research that could lead to greatly extended healthy life spans.

Reviewing Fat Stem Cell Research (September 02 2005)
The use of adult stem cells from adipose tissue (fat, in other words) is a growing field within regenerative medicine, as EurekAlert reports. "Findings suggest that adipose-derived stem cells can be used to repair or regenerate new blood vessels, cardiac muscle, nerves, bones and other tissue, potentially helping heart attack victims, patients with brain and spinal cord injuries and people with osteoporosis. The work to be presented reflects a growing number of researchers who believe that adipose tissue (fat) will be a practical and appealing source of stem cells for regenerative therapies of the future. ... Five years ago we were seen as mavericks. Now there is a sense of validation and growing enthusiasm from an increasing number of international researchers who view adipose tissue as a potentially valuable source of therapeutic cells."

Supercentenarian Research Foundation (September 01 2005)
The Supercentenarian Research Foundation (SRF) is opening its doors online. The SRF "is being formed as an international 501(c)(3) organization to accept tax deductible donations that will be utilized to fund research into the biology of aging. The initial focus will be on supercentenarians, their siblings, and offspring, but successively younger age groups will also be investigated. Before research into methods of intervening in aging are conducted, diagnosis of the causes and effects of aging as exhibited in supercentenarians will be studied in order to determine 1) why they live longer than most, and 2) what limits their life span. Consideration will be given to all reasonable theories of aging to answer these questions, but none will be adopted a priori."

Reminder: SENS2 Next Week (September 01 2005)
The Second Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) Conference kicks off on the 7th of this month in Cambridge, England: a gathering of scientists talking seriously about how to halt and reverse degenerative aging. Judging from the flurry of last minute registrations and media inquiries, it's going to be a packed, interesting event - very much the place to be this month. This year's SENS Lecture will be given by Michael West, CEO of Advanced Cell Technology, and Woo Suk Hwang is amongst the well known scientists in the field of regenerative medicine to be giving a presentation - the conference program contains a number of other luminaries. Healthy life extension is moving up in the world!

To Repair The Aging Ear (August 31 2005)
From the LEF News, a look at one set of efforts to repair age-related deafness: "A New Mexico State University researcher is studying sensory cells in the ear in hopes of finding treatments to restore destroyed cells, which can cause hearing or balance problems. ... sensory cells that look like hairs [perceive] the force of sound to allow hearing and the force of gravity to maintain balance ... When things such as noise, mutated genes or aging destroy the cells, they don't regenerate in humans. ... If scientists identify the gene that creates hair cells, they might be able turn it on to make another type of cell become a sensory cell." This is early, investigative work, but a good example of avenues in regenerative medicine opened by better tools and greater understanding of genetics.

Mechanics Of Tissue Engineering (August 31 2005)
Researchers are making good progress in improving the techniques of tissue engineering, as this Innovations Report article illustrates: "Repairing major damage to the derma is a difficult problem facing plastic surgeons. But now researchers at Linkoping University have hit upon a highly promising method. By injecting tiny balls of gelatin, they have managed to get various types of cells to grow spontaneously in the areas where new tissue needs to be generated. ... All types of cells attempted grew extremely well in the gelatin balls: skin cells, connecting tissue cells, cartilage cells, early stages of fat cells, and mammary gland cells. Experiments with transplanting in mice also yielded favorable results. Injection under the skin of spheres containing connecting tissue cells and fat cells led to good regeneration of tissue."

Good News For Progeria Sufferers (August 30 2005)
Research into progeria, an accelerated aging condition, has improved our understanding of normal aging. It is good to hear that scientists have made unexpectedly good progress towards a therapy that addresses the biochemistry of progeria: "farnesyltransferase inhibitors (FTIs), originally developed for cancer, are capable of reversing the dramatic nuclear structure abnormalities that are the hallmark of cells from children with progeria. This is a stunning surprise, rather like finding out that the key to your house also works in the ignition of your car." This discovery comes a mere two years after "researchers in Francis Collins's lab at the National Human Genome Research Institute discovered that mutations in the lamin A (LMNA) gene cause" progeria. Such rapid progress in medical research is a striking sign of the times - and very promising.

More Bone Tissue Engineering (August 30 2005)
(From LocalTechWire). It is good to see that progress is being made in the tissue engineering of bone with a range of different approaches - variety is a sign of a healthy field. "Dr. Elizabeth Loboa's research at the North Carolina State University cell mechanics laboratory uses a unique approach to create bone tissue from adult stem cells. Loboa, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and her research assistants are growing bone tissue. The process uses fluid shear stress applied to human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) that have been seeded into a polymeric scaffold. ... the team believes that this discovery could lead to clues about how mechanical stimuli modulate hMSC differentiation into bone." This is a clever approach to controlling stem cell behavior.

13th Foresight Conference (August 29 2005)
Healthy life extension supporters will no doubt be interested to hear that biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey will be speaking at the 13th Foresight Conference on nanotechnology next month. You may recall that de Grey provided the expert opinions for the Foresight Challenge on using nanotechnology to increase human health and longevity. As the press release says, "The Vision Weekend provides a rare opportunity to hear speakers including Peter Diamandis of X Prize Foundation, Aubrey de Grey of University of Cambridge, Eric Drexler of Nanorex, and Richard A.L. Jones, University of Sheffield, discuss the future of nanotechnology candidly and off-the-record." All good, clean fun for those of us who look forward to a future of advanced nanomedicine capable of supporting radical life extension.

Towards Tissue Engineering (August 29 2005)
Wired reports on European efforts to collaborate and move ahead with tissue engineering: "The $32 million project, funded by the European Union, gathers 23 of Europe's leading companies and research centers from 13 countries. ... The project hopes to give biomedical companies the jump start they need to turn a profit through tissue-engineering technologies ... Despite plenty of progress, tissue engineering has not achieved tremendous clinical success or commercial success. At the moment we can successfully produce a very small amount of tissue, but nothing good enough to replace large areas of skin or cartilage. We want scale up the process. ... The partners will work on a wide range of problems in parallel, tackling the logjams that face commercial tissue engineering."

Folding@Home Team Hits Rank 500 (August 29 2005)
Congratulations are due to to the members of the Longevity Meme Folding@Home team, who have pushed us past rank 500 in such a short time. What is Folding@Home? It is a program by which folks like you and I can team up to compete in the donation of spare processing time from our computers to advance the understanding of protein folding - vital to tackling age-related conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. As promised, I will be mailing out mementos to those members who joined prior to August 28th, 2005: if you are one of them, please do send an email with "Folding@Home 500" in the subject line to let me know a) your mailing address and b) your Folding@Home username.



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