LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
October 24 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.
- Modest Healthy Life Extension Now Fundable
- Make the Mprize Your End of Year Cause
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
MODEST HEALTHY LIFE EXTENSION NOW FUNDABLE
You may have noticed that Leroy Hood's Institute for Systems Biology has been showing off its shiny new funding from the Gates Foundation, amongst other sources:
Systems biology is a unified approach to personalized medicine, tailoring therapies to individuals by using the new knowledge and tools of bioinformatics. When you know exactly how a therapy works at the biochemical level, and you know exactly what the patient's cellular environment looks like, you should be in a much better position to create effective results with no side effects. So far so good, but what makes this interesting is that Hood is very explicit and public in regards to his goal of a modest healthy life extension of 10 to 20 years. This is not much in the grand scheme of what is possible, but it's 10 to 20 years more than most other participants in mainstream medical research are willing to admit working towards (in public, at least).
For more on the present unsatisfactory state of conservatism, funding and silence in gerontology with regards to healthy life extension, you might want to read the following pieces:
But back to systems biology: the point to take away with you is that research institutions can now publicly aim at healthy life extension and still be funded to the tune of millions of dollars. One hopes that gerontologists are taking note: this is a big change from the status quo even just a few years ago, and one that I hope to see continue.
MAKE THE MPRIZE YOUR END OF YEAR CAUSE
The Mprize for anti-aging research is on course to hit $2 million in pledges and cash by the end of 2005 - provided we give a helping hand. So if you've still to pick your end of year charitable cause, then consider making an investment in the future of healthy life extension research:
Research prizes like the Mprize work! That truth has been demonstrated time and again; great things can be achieved when you harness the human urge to compete. With your help, the Mprize can bring the same improvements to serious anti-aging research - efforts to prevent and reverse all types of age-related cellular damage - that the X Prize brought to the private aerospace industry: invigoration, legitimacy, increased funding, and the creation of a solid base on which to grow.
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/
Klotho And Calcium Regulation (October 23 2005)
Forbes reports on the results of futher study of the klotho gene; you may recall the work linking klotho and aging, as well as some doubts as to whether anything significant had in fact been demonstrated. From the article: "Using a heretofore unknown mechanism, klotho, which is found in cerebrospinal fluid, urine and blood, helps to control blood calcium concentrations by regulating the amount of calcium that is allowed to enter cells ... Previous studies showed that aging is associated with calcium imbalances. ... As we age, it is more difficult to absorb calcium. So this might be due to the fact that these people have less klotho. The finding of the activation of the calcium channel by klotho may form the link between the negative calcium balance observed in the elderly."
More Bone Regeneration (October 23 2005)
The development of regenerative medicine for bone is proceeding nicely. The Globe and Mail reports on another new technique: "Using a protein that can seduce adult stem cells into becoming bone tissue, Cameron Clokie, head of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of Toronto, has pioneered a technique to reset the jaw's skeletal clock - coaxing bones to grow as they do in a newborn baby. ... This is pretty much back to the embryonic state of bone generation. With this patient we've actually regrown a jawbone that is identical [to the one] he lost. ... research has shown [bone morphogenetic protein] can affect the stem cells known to circulate in the body, even in adulthood."
More On Centenarians (October 22 2005)
From WFMY News, an overview of present knowledge regarding what contributes to present day human longevity. "Genetics clearly were critical to their long lives. It might skip a generation, but clearly the genetic component was in each of them. ... Each had siblings, parents, or grandparents who had lived a century, or nearly so. ... Each was born to rural life where hard physical work was the constant. It provided a healthy diet, fresh vegetables, fish, soy, and grains, although none was ever a big eater." The article goes into more detail, but the translation to general recommendations likely to increase your healthy life span is all common sense. In many ways, this is somewhat academic - your life span depends far more on the speed with which real anti-aging medicine is developed and commercialized. So support this research!
Boost For Systems Biology (October 22 2005)
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes new funding for the Institute for Systems Biology, an organization we've discussed previously. "The Institute for Systems Biology has received grants worth $13 million to recruit faculty and support research that could extend a person's life ... The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has issued a $10 million challenge grant of which ISB has already received $2 million. Amgen, the biotechnology company, has contributed $3 million. ... To receive the remaining money from the Gates Foundation, ISB will need to raise additional funds. Hood envisions a new type of medicine, which is based on DNA mapping, blood analysis, technology and prevention that could extend a person's life by 10 to 20 years."
Down With The Miserabilists (October 21 2005)
The Times makes a point I've been stressing for a while - the ridiculous nature of any attempt to paint increasing longevity as a problem: "Yet the 'ageing population' is seen as a big problem. It is assumed that more old people having a longer old age equals more people in expensive misery, needing ever more medical care. Why is there such a 'miserabilist' response to the increases we've seen in life expectancy in rich countries? The evidence is that the levels of ill-health and disability in older people at any given age are falling - a tribute to the effectiveness of health promotion, preventive medicine and acute medical care. Old people are living not only longer but also in better nick. ... If this means that we have to work longer, so be it. After all, you get weekends and evenings off at work. Death offers no such perks."
National Geographic On Longevity (October 21 2005)
The National Geographic looks at the prospects for enhancing human longevity through science in this article. The contents are mainstream and nothing new, but it's good to see the concepts of healthy life extension spreading in a somewhat more positive context than was prevalent a few years ago: "When asked about the most plausible methods for prolonging human life, Rose said, 'First drugs and then organs cultured using stem cells from your own tissues. It's just like cars are better now than they were at the turn of the century. We'll be able to give you a new body, bit by bit, and pathway by pathway. I don't necessarily think anyone should feel they need to live longer, nor do I see life extension as a moral virtue or a societal goal. But I am saying that if it's something you want to do, then we can offer the technical possibilities.'"
On Korean Research Plans (October 20 2005)
Impressive South Korean progress in stem cell research - using a fraction of the resources employed in other regions of the world - demonstrates what can be achieved in an atmosphere of public support and enthusiasm for medical research. From the Digital Chosunilbo: "We are one step ahead: there is no need to get big-headed. For cell cloning technology to be used in clinical treatment, we need the technology to grow stem cells into particular organ tissues, and there we lag behind the U.S. and Britain ... Stem cell research can make a contribution to national wealth as well as national prestige only if it can be used in the clinical treatment of patients suffering from as-yet incurable diseases. And for that we need a safe, cheap and effective treatments using stem cells, and systematic cooperation with experts in veterinary medicine, immunology and molecular biology and other related fields."
Regeneration From Fat Stem Cells (October 20 2005)
Via Hype and Hope, news of further progress towards regenerative therapies based on the use of adult stem cells from fat (adipose tissue): "This is the first preclinical study in which the injected cells were autologous, meaning they came from the animals' own tissue, were not cultured, so that they did not undergo multiple cell divisions to achieve a target dose of cells, and were harvested and administered on the day of the heart attack. ... Additionally, it shows that a sufficient number of cells could be accessed from adipose tissue in real-time to achieve a therapeutic effect, which closely approximates a clinical setting where timely delivery may be critical." The absence of extra steps, such as culturing, would seem likely to lead to a comparatively low-cost procedure once commercialized.
Stem Cell Capabilities Growing (October 19 2005)
(Via ScienceDaily). Dramatic dvances in the field of medical research are built upon improvements in very ordinary, everyday underlying technologies and capabilities. You have to watch the infrastructure to understand the big picture: "A team of bioengineers led by the University of Toronto has discovered a way to increase the yield of stem cells from umbilical cord blood, to an extent which could broaden therapeutic use of these cells ... From their studies in mice, the researchers know that new stem cells obtained through their expansion technology can engraft in bone marrow and maintain special properties such as the ability to migrate in the body." The researchers are optimistic on moving ahead to use these cells in clinical trials in 2006.
Measuring the Effects (October 19 2005)
The Daily Princetonian reports on a study measuring the effects of years of anti-research politics in the US: "The United States' share of new publications in stem cell research is unexpectedly low and declining, according to a recent paper by Aaron Levine, a doctoral candidate in the Wilson School. The paper speculates that the U.S. political environment may be a factor. ... The United States' share of embryonic stem cell publications was 30 percent, compared to an average of 51 percent for five other biomedical technologies including DNA microarrays, polymerase chain reaction, yeast two-hybrid screening, green fluorescent protein expression tagging and RNA interference."
More On Calorie Restriction (October 18 2005)
The Life Extension Foundation News is reprinting an interesting article: "It is widely held that caloric restriction (CR) extends lifespan by preventing or reducing the age-related accumulation of irreversible molecular damage. In contrast, our results suggest that CR can act rapidly to begin life and health span extension, and that its rapid genomic effects are closely linked to its health effects. We found that CR begins to extend lifespan and reduce cancer as a cause of death within 8 weeks in older mice, apparently by reducing the rate of tumor growth. ... Further, in late adulthood, acute CR partially or completely reverses age-related alterations of liver, brain and heart proteins. CR also rapidly and reversibly mitigates biomarkers of aging in adult rhesus macaques and humans."
Living To 100 And Beyond (October 18 2005)
From the Society of Actuaries: "Centenarians represent one of the fastest growing age groups in the U. S. Yet, factors indicating longevity and its time trends remain to be fully understood. Natalia Gavrilova and Leonid Gavrilov conducted this research, which explores possible predictors of exceptional human longevity such as familial factors, early-life living conditions, month-of-birth, and birth order." Actuarial data is of interest, if only to remind us that no existing influence on your potential healthy life span even begins to compare to the effects of future medical research and working anti-aging technologies - it's up to us to make sure those effects are large and positive!
Bioethics, Ignorance Versus Progress (October 17 2005)
The Stanford Daily provides an excellent example of the way in which institutionalized bioethics has largely become an exercise in hindering research from a position of ignorance: "But at the moment, Weissman's proposed mouse project still has not begun as he waits for the scientific community's approval after reviewing the ethical concerns raised by the experiment. 'This project will test human neuronal cells in a mouse brain micro-environment as a prelude to studying stem cells that have human genetic diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's, and cerebral palsy. Which of these diseases should we not be working on as fast as we can?'" A salaried bioethicist has no incentive to help people by speeding research - the incentives in this position are all in the direction of inventing new obstacles to progress in medicine.
The Business Of Regenerative Medicine (October 17 2005)
From PharmaLive, a look at the business of regenerative medicine, which "offers the possibility of replacing damaged or diseased cells and tissues. If it were possible to replace insulin secreting cells in the pancreas, type I diabetes could be cured. If it were possible to replace dopamine-secreting cells in the brain, Parkinson's might be cured. Cures, not just palliative treatments, are promised by regenerative medicine. ... There are over 200 tissue types in the human body; the loss or degeneration of any individual type is likely to cause disease or at least unwelcome changes in appearance. ... the worldwide revenues for cell and cytokine therapies in regenerative medicine is estimated at $12.7 billion in 2005. This market is expected to expand to $20.7 billion in 2010, an AAGR (average annual growth rate) of 10.3%." The potential for business success drives private research funding in any field.