LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
October 03 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.
- Aging Science From the Past Week
- Muhlestein Family Trust Challenge Met, Mprize Swells
- The Three Hundred Dinner, December
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
AGING SCIENCE FROM THE PAST WEEK
Here, for your reading pleasure, are a few items that caught my eye this past week:
SENS 2 Report: Moving Mitochondria
"Rather than fixing mitochondrial mutations, we can obviate them. We can make copies of those 13 genes and put these copies into the chromosomes in the nucleus. Then, if and when the mitochondrial DNA gets mutated so that one or more of the 13 proteins are no longer being synthesized inside the mitochondria, it won't matter -- the mitochondria will be getting the same proteins from the nucleus. This is exactly what Dr. Weiner has done; the first case of one of these 13 mitochondrial proteins in particular having the gene for making it expressed in the nucleus rather than in the mitochondrial DNA."
Conversing on Biomarkers and a Definition for Aging
How can you rapidly determine that you have successfully developed an anti-aging technology that works in humans if you cannot tell how advanced the aging process is in any given individual, or if you cannot even agree on a working scientific definition for aging? Obviously you can wait around to count years and deaths, but that reliable fallback is not a good approach for those of us who would like to see working healthy life extension medicine in our lifetimes.
Genetics of Longevity Webcast Transcript Arrives
"In the meantime, the yeast community has gone and made a deletion of every single gene, each in one strain. So there are 5,000 strains now that all have a deletion of each nonessential gene in yeast. What we're doing now is scanning through those, just randomly looking for ones that are long-lived. We're finding that there are a lot of other pathways in addition to [SIR2] that are regulating aging."
MUHLESTEIN FAMILY TRUST CHALLENGE MET, MPRIZE SWELLS
You'll recall I recently mentioned the Methuselah Foundation's $25,000 Muhlestein Family Trust Challenge:
I'm happy to report that the challenge has already been met - you have to move fast if you want to get in on fundraising events around here! Read the details in the following Fight Aging! post:
The Mprize for longevity research has grown by a good $200,000 in the past few weeks thanks to the Muhlestein family, new members of The Three Hundred, and an anonymous donation of $125,000. At this rate, it would not be unreasonable to think that the total in pledges and cash could reach the $2 million mark by the end of the year. I think we can safely say that things are moving forward swimmingly for the Methuselah Foundation's efforts to encourage meaningful research into extending healthy life spans. Many thanks go to everyone who has donated since the prize launch - we couldn't have done it without you. You can read more about the Mprize at the foundation website:
THE THREE HUNDRED DINNER, DECEMBER
This would seem to be a good time to remind you that The Three Hundred dinner - with guests Aubrey de Grey and Ray Kurzweil - will be held in the Boston area in December of this year:
You have to be a member of The Three Hundred to attend, but there's plenty of time to join up! Follow the link below to learn more about The Three Hundred and how you can easily join a select group of healthy life extension supporters:
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/
Deciphering Arthritis (October 02 2005)
(From EurekAlert). Scientists are making good progress in following the biochemical chain of events back to the root cause of arthritis - and other autoimmune and inflammatory conditions: "a novel type of "T helper" cell [is] the culprit for initiating chronic inflammation and autoimmunity in a variety of body tissues. This newly described T cell - which they call inflammatory TH cells (or THi) - produces interleukin 17 (IL-17), a potent cytokine that researchers have already linked to an immune system gone awry. ... These findings suggest that shutting down the activity of these THi cells might stop chronic inflammatory diseases from developing in the first place." Tests of first generation gene therapies for arthritis have already taken place; the next generation should be much more effectively targeted and efficient.
CIRM Stem Cell Conference Underway (October 02 2005)
As reported by the San Franciso Examiner, the first scientific meeting of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is presently underway. "The two-day conference will feature some of the most renowned stem cell researchers in the world and is aimed at forming research strategy for the institute, which will hand out $3 billion in scientific grants over the next decade." That is if the political battles ever end; even the process of bond issuance is bogged down in legal attacks by anti-research groups. But back to the science: "University of California professor Dr. Hans Keirstead - best known for enabling paralyzed rats to walk again by injecting them with human brain cells - will be speaking Sunday about his recent discovery in generating human embryonic stem cells that are pure enough for research."
Life Expectancies Still Increasing (October 01 2005)
Actuaries are generally on the conservative end of aging research, but you'll still see a recognition of the prospects for healthy life extension in their work. The BBC has the latest: "The life expectancy of men who are 65 may rise by another three years during the next decade to nearly 90. ... For the first time, the authors of the actuaries' continuous mortality investigation (CMI) have refused to make an official projection of future life expectancy based on their new mortality research." A continuing rise in life expectancy is to be expected as medical science advances; our bodies are simply complex machines, so better repair and maintenance techniques lead to longer, healthier lives. Still, this incidental healthy life extension is a slow process - directed research into repairing the root causes of aging would be much faster.
Think Tanks Thinking (October 01 2005)
The Demos group, a UK think tank, is attempting to stimulate public debate on human enhancement, including healthy life extension and the development of working anti-aging technologies. "The aim of this project is to initiate a public debate about issues of human enhancement in the UK. We'll be commissioning a series of essays from different perspectives about the implications of human enhancement to be published as a Demos collection in January 2006." Given the nature of these sorts of groups, the result is likely to oppose freedom to research and use medical technology - and just plain freedom for that matter - with all the normal flawed thinking on regulation, choice and the role of government in people's lives. That said, when more discussion of healthy life extension takes place, more people are likely to decide to support it.
Looking To The Future, Medicine and Longevity (September 30 2005)
A long article in the South African Engineering News Online looks at the near future of medical technology and the effects of advances on human longevity. Conservative but optimistic, it might make a good introductory piece to pass to that healthy life extension skeptic you know (despite the obligatory misguided poverty gap lecture at the end - new technology is always expensive, but always falls in price and improves in quality if allowed the freedom to develop). "Never before has it been as possible to outwit the fiercely-ticking biological clock for longer. ... The good news is [that] the ageing process is much more malleable - susceptible to modification - than used to be thought."
New Calorie Restriction Gene In Yeast (September 30 2005)
(From PhysOrg.com). Researchers have discovered more genes related to the mechanisms by which calorie restriction increases longevity: "Deleting Hst2 and Sir2 blocked most of the beneficial effect of caloric restriction. When Hst2 was overexpressed, so the gene was more active than normal, the yeast lived longer than normal. A third gene, Hst1, appears to act when both Sir2 and Hst2 are missing. Sir2 and the newly identified Hst genes account for all of the life-prolonging effects of caloric restriction in yeast." While yeast may or may not be a good place to start, it seems that scientists are on the verge of completely understanding calorie restriction. This bodes well for the prospect of therapies that can produce the same beneficial effects on healthy life span.
The Tithonus Error Is Alive And Well (September 29 2005)
Leon Kass is still trying to convince us we should all do nothing to try and prevent age-related suffering and death, this time in the Washington Post. Here, he elists the comprehensively refuted yet still widespread Tithonus Error - the belief that a longer life would mean a greater time spent in increasing depths of decrepitude. All envisaged healthy life extension technologies will accomplish nothing of the sort, of course - they will lead to more healthy, active years. Kass is, as usual, saying whatever he thinks will bring the audience around to his way of thinking, without regard for truth, accuracy or science. His own choice is his own choice, but he and others like him cannot be allowed to dictate access to longevity research and medicine for the rest of us.
Wired On Regenerating Mice (September 29 2005)
Wired is running an article on Ellen Heber-Katz's regenerating strain of mice: "Researchers systematically amputated digits and damaged various organs of the mice, including the heart, liver and brain, most of which grew back. ... When cells from the regenerative mice were injected into normal mice, the normal mice adopted the ability to regenerate. And when the special mice bred with normal mice, their offspring inherited souped-up regeneration capabilities. ... If we identified the molecules that allow mice that don't regenerate to regenerate ... and I think we could be close to doing that, then I think the next step is to consider what these molecules would do in individuals." This research was most recently presented at the SENS 2 conference.
On Placental Stem Cells (September 28 2005)
The Pitt Chronicle examines the state of knowledge and use of placental stem cells: "If we could develop efficient methods that would allow amnion-derived cells to differentiate into specific cell types, then placentas would no longer be relegated to the trashcan. Instead, we’d have a useful source of cells for transplantation and regenerative medicine ... Provided that research advances to the point that we can demonstrate these cells' true therapeutic benefit, parents could conceivably choose to bank their child's amniotic epithelial cells in the event they may someday be needed, as is sometimes done now with umbilical cord blood." These cells share many of the same characteristics as embryonic stem cells.
Cryopreserved Stem Cells Work Fine (September 28 2005)
A paper from the Journal of Dental Research describes how scientists took frozen - cryopreserved - tissue, extracted stem cells and successfully put them through their paces. "These cryopreserved periodontal ligament stem cells maintained normal periodontal ligament stem cell characteristics ... . Collectively, this study provides valuable evidence demonstrating a practical approach to the preservation of solid-frozen human tissues for subsequent [adult] stem cell isolation and tissue regeneration." This research group has a good history of stem cell research for regenerative dental work. Work on cryopreserved stem cells is of wider interest for those people considering storage of their stem cells for use in later life.
SENS 2 Report, John Furber (September 27 2005)
Another of Frank Rummel's reports from the recent Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence conference (SENS 2) is up, with a focus on John Furber of Legendary Pharmaceuticals. As his SENS 2 presentation makes clear, Furber is involved in the search for AGE-breakers - drugs or therapies capable of breaking down the detrimental accumulation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and crosslinked proteins with age. "Extracellular aging - accumulating molecular damage by glycation, oxidation, and crosslinking of long-lived extracellular proteins, mainly collagen and elastin - is a major cause of several important human aging pathologies." This is an interesting area of study, and perhaps the field of SENS most likely to benefit from traditional approaches to drug discovery and medical research.
Socialized Medicine, Broken By Design (September 27 2005)
Socialized medicine - such as Medicare, or indeed almost any other medical program in the US or Europe - is broken by design, as any the many articles on the costs imposed by increasing life spans make clear. Only in a socialized program does healthy life extension become a problem rather than a wondrous opportunity - oh no, people are living healthily for longer, what will we do? It should be immediately apparent to an observer just how ridiculous and unethical all this faux hand-wringing is. If people live longer, healthier lives, they will be productive earners for longer, capable of saving more and having the choice of the use of more medical technology. More importantly, they will be alive and healthy rather than suffering or dead! The problems only start with programs that disconnect basic financial incentives from consumption by allowing you to spend other people's money.
Tissue Engineering A Diabetes Cure (September 26 2005)
(From EurekAlert). Scientists working on a cure for type 1 diabetes have developed "a 'reversibly immortalized' cell line that can supply large amounts of insulin-producing human beta-cells. ... The resulting cells produced about 40% as much insulin as normal beta-cells and successfully controlled blood sugar levels in diabetic mice for more than 30 weeks. ...
plans to develop a 'universal beta-cell line' are well underway, and Dr. Yoon anticipates that human clinical trials might begin as soon as three to five years from now." This tissue engineering process is clever; it could be applied to age-related medical conditions that result from the failure of comparatively small numbers of specialized cells.
Parkinson's Gene Therapy: Modest Progress (September 26 2005)
EurekAlert reports on modest progress towards a gene therapy for Parkinson's disease: "One year following treatment, patients exhibited a statistically significant improvement in motor function on the side of their body correlating to the treated part of the brain. ... [this is the] first study to use a viral vector (the non-pathogenic adeno-associated virus, or AAV) for the treatment of an adult neurological disease. In the Neurologix-funded trial, the vector was injected into a specific target site in the brain in order to transfer a gene to treat Parkinson's disease. ... The goal of this research is to determine whether we can 're-set' a specific group of cells that have become overactive, causing the characteristic impaired movements associated with Parkinson's disease."