LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
November 07 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.
- $1 Million Closer To Healthy Life Extension Medicine
- Another Way You Can Advance Anti-Aging Research
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
$1 MILLION CLOSER TO HEALTHY LIFE EXTENSION MEDICINE
I'm sure that many of you have already head the big news this week: an anonymous and exceedingly generous philanthropist has donated $1 million to the MPrize for anti-aging research. With the results of past research prizes as a guide, we know that this $1 million gift will inspire tens of millions of dollars in research funding to rejuvenate aged mice over the lifetime of the MPrize. This represents dozens or even hundreds of studies and experiments that would otherwise never have been carried out - this is the stuff of which progress is made.
Just as importantly, this donation raises the profile and credibility of the Methuselah Foundation, making it much more likely to receive further large donations in 2006. I am as pleased as anyone that all the hard work, outreach and generosity on the part of volunteers and donors has lead to such wonderful progress so soon. While seven-figure donations were always in my vision for the years ahead, I certainly didn't expect to see one in 2005! You can find the initial press release here:
You'll notice that this newsletter and the Fight Aging! blog are mentioned as stepping stones - alongside media coverage of biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey - on the path that led this philanthropist to the MPrize. My modest efforts in healthy life extension education and advocacy seem to be paying off in a more tangible manner as the years pass. This is very gratifying, and I hope that it encourages many of you who blog and publish to keep up the good work - we really do make a difference.
Back in the early days of the MPrize, I talked of modest donations as the first pebbles in the avalanche ... there went the first boulder. Well done.
ANOTHER WAY YOU CAN ADVANCE ANTI-AGING RESEARCH
Via the Methuselah Foundation website, you can now directly fund LysoSENS research. This is the first Methuselah Foundation funded research program to deal directly with removing age-related damage - in the form of accumulated lysosomal junk - from within cells, based on Aubrey de Grey's Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. Read up on the science at the following page:
Progress has already been made in the identification of bacterial enzymes that could do the job, but as de Grey notes: "We need a lot more work on this project. It will take time to find the right enzymes in the soil microorganisms, to find the ones that work well in mammalian cells and are not toxic, to modify them so that the cell knows how to target them to the lysosome, and so on. This is a project that is very 'parallelisable' - if lots and lots of laboratories work on it, it will succeed sooner."
If research prizes and mice are not your cup of tea, I would hope that this direct funding of real anti-aging research is more to your taste. Please consider a donation to advance progress for a presently underappreciated pillar of SENS:
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/
Seven Percent, More Than Enough (November 06 2005)
You can change the world if you can get even a few percent of the general population on your side at the beginning - many of the most successful advocacy campaigns of the 20th century started in the hands of a dedicated minority. Bearing this in mind, look at this recent poll reported in the Poughkeepsie Journal: "In the poll of 1,000 adults, health tops the list of fears about aging; it was listed by 78 percent of women and 68 percent of men. Other fears include the possibility of 'losing the ability to care for yourself,' cited by 75 percent of women and 66 percent of men, and the loss of mental abilities, 73 percent of women and 65 percent of men. ... On average, people become "elderly" at 71, the poll found, but except for the 7 percent who say they want to live forever, the average desired life span is 87." Everyone cares about health, but a sizable minority care about radical life extension, it seems. Good news.
Old Stem Cells May Be Harmful? (November 06 2005)
Via PubMed, a study suggesting that old stem cells can be harmful: "Local injection of hematopoietic stem cell enriched cells, including mouse lin(-) cells, accelerates vascularization in animal injury models, apparently by release of angiogenic factors. Locally injected lin(-) cells from non-diabetic mice dramatically improve, but those from obese diabetic mice inhibit vascular growth in obese diabetic mouse skin wounds. ... Our data suggest that bone marrow-derived cells may be poor candidates for therapeutic use in older patients, and could actually harm such patients." Is this a function of the cells themselves, or a function of the environment they find themselves in? More research is needed, especially given the use of diabetes as a proxy for aging in this study.
Wisconsin Anti-Research Bill Vetoed (November 05 2005)
As expected, and reported here by the Daily Cardinal, the state govenor has vetoed anti-research legislation that banned therapeutic cloning, a technology vital to much of the most promising stem cell research. "Although the bill banned human cloning, complaints arose over the bill's language, which opponents say did not distinguish between therapeutic and reproductive research. ... Everyone agrees that human cloning is not acceptable, but that's not what this bill was really about. This legislation was a very cynical way to try to scare people into stopping life-saving research that is going on at this university." After years of this, I still find it hard to wrap my head around a worldview that values small numbers of unthinking, unfeeling cells - no different than those you shed from your skin, in essence - more than actual human beings.
CIRM, Ongoing Woes (November 04 2005)
The Argus looks at the continuing struggle over public funds and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM): "A year after California voters approved Proposition 71 to fund a $3 billion stem cell research program, the new state agency finds itself stymied by lawsuits and yet to issue a single dollar in grant money to scientists. ... In September, the institute approved 16 grants to scientific institutions, including $3.6 million to the University of California, Berkeley, during the next three years, to train scientists in stem cell research. But those funds can't be given out until the lawsuit is resolved and bonds are issued. The earliest estimate is January." Such is the fate of large public projects - endless waste and battle, as predicted.
Forbes On Mainstream Longevity Research (November 04 2005)
This Forbes article looks at the funded (if not necessarily best in the long term) mainstream of aging and longevity research: longevity genes, metabolic tinkering, calorie restriction mimetics, and companies obtaining funding to follow paths only tangentially related to longevity. "The Nature papers caught the eye of Christoph Westphal, then at Polaris Venture Partners. He figured drugs stimulating the human version of sir2 (called sirt1) might harness natural defenses against diseases of aging. He helped raise $45 million to found Sirtris Pharmaceuticals in 2004 and became its chief. Westphal's team is now crafting compounds that have more potent sirt1-activating effects than resveratrol, hoping they might help tackle diabetes and Alzheimer's. The next crucial step will be extending the findings to people. Westphal says he has zero interest in developing drugs for aging."
$1 Million Mprize Donation (November 03 2005)
The Mprize for anti-aging research has received its first million dollar donation - today is a good day for scientific anti-aging research! Let me be one of the first to thank the anonymous donor for his or her generosity and for greatly raising the level of vindication experienced by the Mprize volunteers and other donors. This is a big step forward for efforts to revitalize serious scientific progress towards a cure for aging and the end of age-related disease and degeneration. There is a long way to go yet - and more seven figure donations, I hope - but thank you, anonymous donor, for doing so much to push the best present day effort into the major leagues.
More Klotho Science (November 03 2005)
Scientist continue to look into the klotho gene following earlier research suggesting its connection to longevity. Via EurekAlert: "The klotho gene, named after the Greek goddess who spins life's thread, is associated with preventing aging in mammals. The klotho gene product, or Klotho protein, is secreted in the blood and functions as an anti-aging hormone. A defect in the klotho gene in mice leads to a syndrome closely resembling human aging, while overexpression of the gene extends lifespan in mice. Now Makoto Kuro-o, assistant professor of pathology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, has discovered one way in which Klotho extends lifespan. Using both cultured cells and transgenic mice, the researchers showed that Klotho increases resistance to oxidative stress."
Exploring Stem Cells (November 02 2005)
While not immediately relevant to regenerative medicine, research reported at ScienceDaily provides an interesting new take on stem cells: "it could be the case that at least some of the known adult stem cell types are 'only' the rudiments of earlier embryonal differentiation processes, or even dispersed leftovers from previous evolutionary stages. Indeed, these cells are still showing plasticity which is a characteristic of stem cells, but no direct physiological function can be deduced from it." So the many existing stem cell categories could each be complex, mixed groups of varied function and usefulness - as a rule, when biologists find additional complexity, they're usually on to something. Simplicity in biology is always suspicious.
Early Nanotech Versus Cancer (November 02 2005)
Canada.com reports on the more promising and widespread approaches to the use of nanoscale engineering in cancer therapies: "The [study] involved engineering nanoparticles embedded with the cancer drug Taxotere. The particles were then injected directly into human tumours created from prostate cancer cell lines and implanted into the flanks of mice. ... The technology being tested involves a nanoparticle made of a hydrogen and carbon polymer with bits of drug bound up in its fabric and attached to a chemical that hones in on cancer cells. The polymer gradually dissolves, exposing the nuggets of drug little by little." Killing cells is easy, but killing specific cells is very hard. Accurate, targeted delivery is the hard problem of the day.
Organs, Heal Thyselves (November 02 2005)
Lab Notes looks at how to go about making aged stem cells work once more: "The regenerative properties of organs are tied to the behavior of stem cells. So I focus on what happens to those cells with aging. Why don't they work anymore and can we fix them? ... The problem is that as the body ages, the molecules that regulate stem cells eventually change and inhibit their regenerative properties. Simply adding a new supply of stem cells to a damaged muscle, for instance, won't work because the foreign environment will interfere with the cells' behavior. ... They'll quickly stop repairing the muscle. But if you can supplement them with regulatory factors and also protect them somewhat from the aged environment, they'll behave better."
Michael Rose, The Long Tomorrow (November 01 2005)
Biologist Michael Rose's work and book, The Long Tomorrow, are examined by the St. Petersburg Times: "Animals fed a nourishing diet containing 20 to 40 percent fewer calories than they normally consume will live about 20 to 40 percent longer. Apparently, flies that consumed less food diverted calories from egg production to fat storage, which kept them healthier longer. So fat promotes longevity? No, but caloric restriction certainly improves health and extends longevity in many species, including humans. When humans consume fewer calories, their blood pressure drops, their bad cholesterol declines, their good cholesterol increases, their immune function improves and the levels of insulin and glucose in their blood remain enviously low. But how does caloric restriction produce these benefits?"
Nitric Oxide Again, Alzheimer's (October 31 2005)
Nitric oxide production may be linked with longevity in calorie restricted mice, but it's not good in the brain: "An enzyme [iNOS] that triggers the production of nitric oxide (NO) - a gas that helps immune cells fight off invading pathogens - accelerates the formation of brain lesions in Alzheimer's-prone mice ... For nearly a decade, researchers have known that iNOS was present in the brain lesions of patients with Alzheimer's disease, but nobody had addressed whether its presence was making the disease worse. Nathan and colleagues now show that Alzheimer's-prone mice that lack iNOS live twice as long and develop fewer brain lesions than iNOS-expressing mice." Biochemistry is a complicated business, but snapshots like this fail to show the bigger picture: roiling, energetic progress in understanding and knowledge.
On Relinquishment (October 31 2005)
There are days on which I can't help but feel that advocates for technology relinquishment really don't think that life is a good thing. This AlwaysOn piece runs through a litany of wonderous advances for the future, building upon progress in medical nanotechnology - such as radical life extension, complete health and even physical immortality - and then tries to convince us that it's all a crock, that somehow we'll suffer more through experiencing change and progress than we would through disease, infirmity and death. There is no shortage of bioethical nonsense in the world; why are these people so eager to ensure that everyone suffers and dies on a schedule that gives them comfort?
Imminst Conference This Weekend (October 31 2005)
The Immortality Institute conference will be held this coming Saturday, November 5th in downtown Atlanta. The full day event will focus on the human brain and life extension. The speakers - including biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, researcher Michael Rose and scientist Ralph Merkle - will present advanced ideas and methods in anti-aging, artificial intelligence, cryonics, brain-computer interfacing and more. Awards for the Immortality Institute's Essay Contest, The Oblivion Question, will be presented. The Institute's film, Exploring Life Extension, based on interviews conducted across the length and breadth of the healthy life extension community, will be shown for the first time at the conference.