LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
September 19 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.
- Meet the Muhlestein Family Trust Challenge
- Immortality Institute Conference, November 5th
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
MEET THE MUHLESTEIN FAMILY TRUST CHALLENGE
Some good news - and a challenge - from the Methuselah Foundation:
"The recent SENS II conference was a huge success and the Mprize for anti-aging research one of its beneficiaries. Mark Muhlestein saw the possibility of building on the amazing research presented at the conference - and accelerating the day when real anti-aging therapies are available - by supporting the Mprize. He has committed to $25,000 with an offer that expires Jan 1, 2006. Until then, every dollar donated to the Mprize will be matched by two dollars from the Muhlestein commitment until there are no more funds available. We're confident we can help ensure that this generous offer is taken full advantage of!"
If you've been thinking about donating to the Mprize to help grow support for the science of healthy life extension and accelerate progress towards real anti-aging medicine, then now is the time! Ultimately, we are responsible for the way in which the future turns out; if we want our future to be one of longer, healthier lives and effective medicines capable of reversing age-related degeneration, then we have to step up and help to make it happen. Sitting on the sidelines and hoping is not going to cut it - the future doesn't make itself, and the past is replete with examples of advances still possible yet never accomplished. I don't want to see healthy life extension left on the sidelines when progress is so clearly possible with greater public support and research funding; if you feel that way too, then donate!
IMMORTALITY INSTITUTE CONFERENCE, NOVEMBER 5TH
The Immortality Institute founder, Bruce Klein, is a strong advocate of pushing out the boundaries in public discussion of healthy life extension. The Institute has a provocative name and step-right-to-the-end-goal mission statement, and quite deliberately so. I've pointed out the benefits of this sort of strategy in the past - provided you are discussing scientifically sound propositions, your wider community has little to lose and much to gain over the long term:
Physical immortality - in the sense of a cure for aging - is sound science; we know of no obstacles beyond our own considerable lack of understanding and capabilities when it comes to our cells, medical technology and related fields.
If you live in the Eastern or Central US, the Immortality Institute conference in Atlanta on November 5th this year is an excellent opportunity to meet with biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, the brains behind the Strategies for Negligible Engineered Senescence:
In addition to Aubrey de Grey, conference speakers include biologist Michael Rose, Max More of the Extropy Institute, and representatives from the transhumanist end of the general artificial intelligence and cryonics communities. As an added bonus, the film "Exploring Life Extension", condensed from hundreds of hours of interviews conducted across the length and breadth of the healthy life extension community, will be giving its first public viewing at the event:
You can register for the conference - a quick and painless process - at the Immortality Institute website:
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
To view commentary on the latest news headlines complete with links and references, please visit the daily news section of the Longevity Meme: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/
Tracking Stem Cell Recipients (September 18 2005)
The BBC reports on a follow-up study of some of the first recipients of stem cell transplants: "Blood cancer patients who had stem-cell transplants are virtually as healthy as their peers 10 years later ... This study looked at patients who had received haematopoietic cell transplants (HCTs) to replace diseased blood-forming cells produced in the bone marrow. All of the patients received their transplants between March 1987 and March 1990. Most of them had been treated for these two conditions. After 10 years, researchers compared their health with that of 137 healthy people, most of whom were siblings of the patients." The absence of obvious, serious problems connected with this form of therapy is good news - hopefully this will continue to be the case as much larger groups of patients are studied: "More than 45,000 people receive stem-cell transplants across the world each year."
On Stem Cell Line Mutation Rates (September 17 2005)
Randall Parker shares his thoughts on mutation rates in embryonic - and adult - stem cell lines at FuturePundit: "These results suggest that existing embryonic stem cell lines are going to have limited utility in the development of therapies. Lots of research can still be conducted on these stem cell lines. But I'd be very reluctant to have any of these mutated embryonic stem cells injected into yours truly. Also, years will go by before these stem cells can get massaged into useful forms for therapies and they will accumulate even more mutations in that time. Stem cell lines created just when they are needed (whether embryonic or slightly more differentiated adult stem cell lines) would reduce the risk of mutations. However, even 'just in time' stem cell lines would need extensive genetic testing because whichever cell would be used for the starter nucleus might contain mutations that put the resulting stem cell line at heightened risk of creating a cancer."
Protofection At SENS 2 (September 17 2005)
Kevin Perrott of Health Extension reports on biologist Rafal Smigrodzki's presentation on mitochondrial protofection at SENS 2: "It has become apparent that more than 90% of our [mitochondrial DNA] is mutated by adult life. He proposes that the mutation burden of mitochondria, although specific species may comprise less than 3% each, together combine to cause age related disease and point an even sharper finger at mitochondrial degneration as the main culprit in the aging process. ... If wholesale mitochondrial gene therapy becomes available AND [mutational damage to mitochondrial DNA] indeed turns out to be critical to the aging process, it is possible that this may be one of the most significant discoveries yet in biogerontology."
ACT Raises More Funding (September 16 2005)
From Mass High Tech, welcome news that Advanced Cell Technology has raised another $17 million in venture funding. "The proceeds of the financing are expected to be used by the company for general corporate purposes and to accelerate its research and development of human embryonic stem cell technology and stem cell therapies with particular emphasis on retinal, dermal and hemangioblast cell lines." ACT has been something of a bellwether for private funding of stem cell based regenerative medicine - this news indicates an upturn in the funding environment is well under way for this vital branch of medical science. Good news for those people looking towards a future of effective therapies for common age-related conditions.
Sonia Arrison On Longevity Research (September 16 2005)
Sonia Arrison - who, incidentally, will be speaking at the forthcoming Immortality Institute Life Extension Conference - opines on the state of healthy life extension research in this op-ed at TechNewsWorld: "Society's long-held view of aging probably left us years behind in research ... Fortunately, those days are over, and numerous scientists are working on finding ways to extend human life by fighting aging. ... a disease is defined as "condition in which the functioning of the body or a part of the body is interfered with or damaged." Cell damage involved in the process of aging clearly fits under this definition. Since that's the case, one might wonder why the very same agency sports a Web page titled "Healthy Aging." That's like saying "Healthy Disease" or "Healthy Cancer." The explanation for this logical inconsistency lies in our low-tech past, which we are quickly leaving behind."
Embryonic Stem Cell Heart Therapy (September 15 2005)
Express India reports on animal trials of regenerative medicine for the heart based on the use of embryonic stem cells. "An important aspect of their study was that the embryonic stem cells used in the research were not completely undifferentiated. They had been guided or coaxed into developing into heart cells before they were transplanted in the sheep. ... They are not fully differentiated. They will complete their maturation and their differentiation in vivo, once grafted into the heart ... I think that overall the (scientific) community has recognised the limitations of adult stem cells with regard to plasticity. If you really want to make cardiac cells you probably have to rely on embryonic stem cells." Adult stem cell therapies probably work via other means, as recent studies demonstrate.
Cancer Vaccine Progress (September 15 2005)
(From Science Daily). Cancer is one of the biggest obstacles to healthy life extension amongst the common age-related conditions. The good news is that development of cancer vaccines - a form of immunotherapy that reprograms the immune system to attack cancer cells - is progressing nicely: "A team from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has shown that by using [a cancer vaccine] they can cure mice with established breast tumors. ... We found that we can stop the tumor from growing out to 100 days, at which time we stopped measuring since this is a long time for experiments of this type. The tumors stopped growing or went completely away." The wider field of immune therapy is moving forward at a similar pace, as progress towards vaccines for Alzheimer's demonstrates.
Nanomedical Innovation Revisited (September 14 2005)
You might recall a clever delivery mechanism for cancer drugs based on the latest in nanoscale engineering: here we have another delivery mechanism for cancer therapies crafted using a completely different branch of nanotechnology. It's equally clever, however: "The vehicles look nothing like delivery trucks, though that is their function once inside the body. Instead, these so-called nanoparticles, which are assembled from three short pieces of ribonucleic acid, resemble miniature triangles. The microscopic particles possess both the right size to gain entry into cells and also the right structure to carry other therapeutic strands of RNA inside with them, where they are able to halt viral growth or cancer's progress." Advanced, low-cost biotechnology will give rise to a whole new generation of ingenuity and experimentation - we are seeing but the smallest first step.
Aubrey de Grey On Aging, Cancer Research (September 14 2005)
From Casey Research, we have biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey on the parallels between cancer research and real anti-aging research: "Once we realize that combating aging is an engineering problem, no different in essence from maintaining a car, many things become clearer. First, it's actually wrong to focus single-mindedly on preempting the accumulation of damage: we should prevent what we can, sure, but we should also strive to repair damage that has already occurred. ... Just how likely does success at a given venture, within a given time frame, have to be to justify trying? ... [Radical life extension is] pretty big benefit, and one worth fighting a war for, even if we think it'll only be in time for our kids and not for ourselves. More than that: just as the War on Cancer continues unabated (and with intense public support) today, despite the slowness of progress, so a war on aging, once started, will continue until it's won."
More On Tengion's Tissue Engineering (September 13 2005)
MSNBC looks at tissue engineering company Tengion, who have been in the press since receiving significant venture funding. "Tengion plans to use the proceeds from the private stock sale to further the development of its lead products, which are organs and tissues derived from a patient's cells that can be used to replace a patient's diseased or impaired organ or tissue. The company's most advanced product - not yet tested in humans - is an autologous pediatric bladder. In biology, autologous refers to cells, tissues or proteins that are taken from the individual being treated and reimplanted in order to augment, repair or replace specific organs or tissues. ... Tengion's goal is to use regenerative medicine to enable people with organ and tissue failure to lead healthier lives without donor transplants or the side effects of current therapies."
Kirkwood On Genetics And Aging (September 13 2005)
From Science Daily, a fairly content-light piece on researcher Tom Kirkwood's views on aging, evolution and genetics: "there is no single gene for aging. Throughout time, Humans have used energy to get food, produce offspring and survive danger - not to repair and maintain cells. So the maintenance system in the body slowly breaks down. ... But genetic factors do exist. 'Approximately 25 percent of how a person ages is inherited from parents. Stress, environment, nutrition, lifestyle and immunity play an additional role. Great variation between individuals can be seen in organisms such as round worms - and in humans.'" A much better summary of Kirkwood's views can be found in an EMBO Reports article from earlier this year.
Fighting The Wrong War On Cancer? (September 12 2005)
A long, very interesting article at Fortune looks at efforts to defeat cancer and finds them wanting: "virtually all these experts offered testimony that, when taken together, describes a dysfunctional "cancer culture" - a groupthink that pushes tens of thousands of physicians and scientists toward the goal of finding the tiniest improvements in treatment rather than genuine breakthroughs; that fosters isolated (and redundant) problem solving instead of cooperation; and rewards academic achievement and publication over all else." Cancer research perhaps has more in common with the current sorry state of aging research than might be thought - I don't think the author correctly identifies the nature of the problem, but his piece echoes major concerns regarding the efficiency of medical research from other sources.
Cancer Stem Cells In The Brain (September 12 2005)
As we now know, at least some cancers are created and sustained by errant stem cells. Cancer itself is an age-related condition, the end result of malfunctions in our complex cellular mechanisms - these malfunctions become ever more likely as we accumulate genetic damage over time. Researchers have been broadening their investigations, as Reuters notes: "Continued research into the biology of adult stem cells will aid in the understanding of how cancers originate and develop and may lead to possible new therapies for treating aggressive, currently incurable brain tumors ... This could help explain why these tumors are so hard to cure. Surgery and radiation therapy my remove the tumor, but the cancer could be replenishing itself from the stem cells."