LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
November 28 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.
- Send Soil Samples for LysoSENS Research
- Something You Can't Talk About in Email...
- $100,000 Matching Research Fund For Alcor
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
SEND SOIL SAMPLES FOR LYSOSENS RESEARCH
LysoSENS is a distributed scientific project financed by the Methuselah Foundation from donations made by folk like you and I. The work aims to find ways to break down the many forms of junk that accumulate in and around your aging cells; harmful compounds that your body cannot break down and that ultimately lead to a variety of common, fatal age-related conditions. The present LysoSENS methodology is to identify soil bacteria capable breaking down these compounds without harming the cellular environment - from there, scientists can work with these baterial toolkits to produce therapies capable of reversing this portion of the aging process.
Research is still in the initial stage, however, which is to screen as wide a diversity of soil samples as possible in search of suitable bacteria. The more researchers, and the more samples, the better! John Schloendorn is one of the LysoSENS researchers, and he would like to get you involved in his collection of samples:
"Lyso-SENS works by using methods from environmental bioremediation to find soil microbes capable of degrading the target substance. We then hope to isolate the enzymes used by these microbes to do so and use them for therapy in a way that is similar to current enzyme replacement treatments for congenital lysosomal storage diseases. However, not all soil microbes are amenable to our screening methods, not all enzymes we may discover will work in the human physiological environment, some will have deleterious side-effects, and so on. So we need many sources of different microorganisms to begin with.
"THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN. Please send us soil samples from your area, from places that you think are likely to contain microbes capable of degrading age-related aggregates. About a handful of soil (100-200 grams) will be plenty. The more microbial diversity we can put into these experiments, the better will be our chances of sustained success. So your participation will truly increase the chances of success of the Lyso-SENS project."
Please read the full post at the Immortality Institute - link below - for details on useful locations for soil samples, as well as packaging, labeling and shipping information. Step up and give a hand!
SOMETHING YOU CAN'T TALK ABOUT IN EMAIL...
...assuming you want to keep your email from falling victim to spam filters, that is. But it seems worthwhile to mention it in any case - read the following Fight Aging! post for details:
$100,000 MATCHING RESEARCH FUND FOR ALCOR
Alcor, the largest cryonics provider, is the beneficiary of a $100,000 matching fund for ongoing vitrification research; vitrification is an alternative to freezing for the preservation of tissue that avoids many of the issues and objections relating to tissue damage. All donations to this research program will be matched from the fund until January 31st 2006 - so if you have been of a mind to support the future development of cryonics, the only plausible scientific alternative for those unfortunate enough to die before real anti-aging medicine is developed, now would be a very good time to do so.
You can learn more about cryonics, vitrification and the matching fund offer in the following Fight Aging! post:
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/
Stem Cell Therapy In China (November 27 2005)
The Kansas City Star takes a look at the work of Huang Hongyun, representative of a number of groups worldwide performing varied stem cell therapies in a professional manner, but without the rigors and tests of scientific trials. "Right now, besides ALS and spinal injury, we do brain damage, MS. Also, we treated another patient whose genetic disease caused vision damage. He lost his vision. Not totally. He only can see very, very little. After several weeks, he got some, not very much, but got better. ... So far, he hasn't produced controlled studies that compare the progress of patients who receive the therapy to those who don't. And critics say much of his evidence of patient improvement is based on anecdotes, rather than on hard scientific measurements." Caveat emptor.
Tomorrow's People (November 27 2005)
A potentially interesting conference - with a live stream to the Internet promised - will be hosted by Oxford University's James Martin Institute in March 2006, entitled "Tomorrow's People: The Challenges of Technologies for Life Extension and Enhancement." It has the sound of an affair with modern luddite leanings (i.e. the hard work and uncertainty of progress is all but dismissed in favor of discussions of ethics, control, slowing things down, poorly assessed "risks," and the "need" for governance), but many of the speakers and panellists are scientists first and foremost, and a number were at the Second Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence conference. One would hope that these sensible folk can keep the bioethicists from turning the conference into an exhibition of bad bioethical behavior.
A Worm Is At Work (November 26 2005)
From the website of Gregory Benford and Michael Rose, behold the missing chapter from The Long Tomorrow, subtitled "An Insider's View of The Genetics of Aging, circa 2004." It makes for an interesting read: "The future, it seems to me, lies with research that attempts to give to us the beneficent life of the evolved Methuselah flies. They live even longer when they are calorically deprived, but such deprivation is not necessary to their postponed aging. If we could eat our normal diets, keep our normal activity levels, take care of our children, AND do all of these things for longer, then we would have true amelioration of aging. The creations of the gene jockeys and the diet manipulators can be admired for their brilliance, their scientific acuity. But they aren't supplying a future for humankind that most of us are likely to want." You may recall that Rose thinks calorie restriction will not significantly prolong human life in any case.
Patient-Specific Stem Cell Lines (November 26 2005)
Embryonic stem cell lines are essential for much of the most important stem cell research, and as Medical News Today points out, "producing individual patient cell lines for our own future needs is now something we might all want to consider. ... a method for replacing the nuclei of [embryonic stem cells (hES)] by somatic cell nuclei has been widely sought. ... The new technique involves the fusion of different types of somatic cells with hES cells. The resulting 'cybrids' were shown to have the genotype of the donor somatic cells and the 'stemness' (the ability of the cells to divide, change throughout our lifetime, to provide cells that can become specialised and to replace those that die or are lost) of the recipient hES cells." This is very promising for the near future of regenerative medicine if verified by the wider scientific community.
Scientists' Open Letter on Cryonics (November 25 2005)
The Scientists' Open Letter on Cryonics includes signatories of the calibre of Eric Drexler, Robert Freitas, Marvin Minsky and Gregory Stock, to pick just a few. "Cryonics is a legitimate science-based endeavor that seeks to preserve human beings, especially the human brain, by the best technology available. Future technologies for resuscitation can be envisioned that involve molecular repair by nanomedicine, highly advanced computation, detailed control of cell growth, and tissue regeneration. With a view toward these developments, there is a credible possibility that cryonics performed under the best conditions achievable today can preserve sufficient neurological information to permit eventual restoration of a person to full health. The rights of people who choose cryonics are important, and should be respected."
Aging And The Cell Nucleus (November 25 2005)
From PLos Biology, a very accessible look at what we know about aging and accelerated aging conditions in terms of change in the cell nucleus. "The cell nucleus in higher organisms is now recognized as a complex, highly organized repository of an individual's genetic information. ... The first hint to a surprising connection between nuclear architecture and aging came from yeast, when Leonard Guarente and colleagues found that a protein, Sir4, whose mutation results in extension of life span, localizes to the nucleolus, one of the most prominent subcompartments of the cell nucleus. The link between aging and nuclear organization was further strengthened by the observation that the localization of the protein and the morphology of the nucleolus itself changed as yeast cells aged."
Searching For The Roots Of Regeneration (November 24 2005)
If we understood the genes and mechanisms that control regeneration and healing, there is every likelihood we could make the process work in new and better ways - or stop failing as we age. With that in mind, EurekAlert covers research into the genetics of regeneration in planarian worms: "when a gene called smedwi-2 is silenced in the adult stem cells of planarians, the quarter-inch long worm is unable to carry out a biological process that has mystified scientists for centuries: regeneration. ... The smedwi-2 molecule is doing something early in the specification of stem cell progeny that modulates their ability to differentiate into the proper cell type ... How this molecule is modulating stem cells is one of the next steps that he and Reddien are trying to solve. The answer could have far-reaching implications, because genes similar to smedwi-2 are found in plants, animals and human beings."
Stem Cell Research: A Look Back (November 24 2005)
I'm a sucker for a certain type of popular science book, pulling back the curtain to watch the scientific method in progress. InformIT is excepting from a new book on the recent history of stem cell research: "The scientific and medical implications contained in this short paper are profound and unambiguous. Embryonic stem cells could be used to generate new tissue and organs for transplantations. Defective and dying tissues caused by diseases such as Parkinson's or diabetes could be replaced with an unlimited supply of specially grown stem cells. Cultures of human stem cells could be used as laboratory tools to help identify new drugs and therapies. For pure scientists like Thomson, observing stem cells in the laboratory could provide insights into how all animals embark upon the magnificent developmental process that begins with a single cell."
More On p53 (November 23 2005)
Medical News Today has a better article on the recent study of the p53 gene and longevity in fruit flies: "When the p53 gene is damaged or missing, cancer may result. In fact, more than 50 percent of human cancers carry p53 mutations. ... When p53 is hyperactive - pumping out higher-than-normal levels of tumor-suppressing protein - it accelerates aging and shortens life span in mice. ... What this new work shows is that there is a 'golden mean' with p53. By targeting a decrease in p53 protein, specifically in neurons, we can extend healthy life span in fruit flies. ... We believe that p53 is part of the caloric restriction life span extension pathway. It's not the entire explanation, but it appears to play a major role." The calorie restriction connection is fascinating, given recent news. It appears that much of interest in biochemistry touches on calorie intake in some way.
Better Biomimicry (November 23 2005)
(From Voice of America). If we can build artificial prosthetic arms, why not artificial, prosthetic skin or even blood vessels? The technology of artificial replacements blends into tissue engineering at its cutting edge, where work progresses on a competing set of methodologies to replace or repair damaged tissues and organs. "With a $6 million dollar grant from the U.S. Army, the Portland laboratory is studying elastin and other substances as tools for army medics on the battlefield. One of the products they developed is a patch made from chitosan, which is a fiber extracted from the shells of crustaceans, like shrimp and crabs. The bandage stops serious bleeding by fusing itself directly to a wound ... Dr. Gregory and his team hope to develop elastin tissue for all kinds of replacements: skin, stomachs, intestines, arteries and eventually entire body parts."
A History of Cancer Vaccines (November 22 2005)
Since we seem to be focused on cancer for the moment, here is an examination of the history of slow progress towards cancer vaccines from the LEF News: "Twenty years ago, when people announced immunology would conquer cancer, people didn't realize how little they knew about the immunology of cancer ... For 20 years, scientists have dreamed of creating vaccines that teach the body to destroy tumors. Yet after hundreds of clinical trials, not a single vaccine has been approved to treat cancer. Yet everybody is still trying. There are at least six cancer vaccine trials planned or under way in South Florida, and more than 100 other trials around the country. Their goal is not to prevent cancer, but to treat it -- to stimulate the body to attack cancers of the skin, prostate, pancreas, breast and lungs, to name a few."
More Evidence For Cancer Stem Cells (November 22 2005)
Via EurekAlert, more evidence for cancers being caused by errant stem cells: "Researchers elsewhere already have implicated stem cells in the development of leukemia, and Steindler's lab previously discovered stem-like cells in brain cancer. Others have identified these same cells in some breast cancers. ... The cancer stem cell theory holds that a small subpopulation of rogue stem cells exists within a tumor and has the ability to sustain itself. As these abnormal cells divide, they may generate the bulk of a malignant tumor, then help to spur on its growth. ... The next step, which is ongoing, is isolating and growing tumors from these cells in animals and then finding ways to interfere with that growth based on their stem cell biology."
p53, Cancer and Aging (November 21 2005)
Cancer and aspects of cell aging share many of the same biochemical mechanisms and components; the present structure and life cycle of cells is probably an evolutionary balance between protection from cancer and avoidance of other life-shortening conditions. From EurekAlert: "The p53 protein is known to be a critical player in our body's natural defense against cancer ... Although researchers over recent years have established a foothold in understanding how p53 protects against cancer, the mechanisms by which it might contribute to aging and lifespan are not well studied. In work reported this week, researchers studying p53 function in fruit flies show new evidence that despite the protective role of p53 as a guardian against tumor formation, normal levels of p53 activity - at least in some cell types - may indeed contribute to aging and decreased lifespan."
A Cell Is A Cell Is A Cell (November 21 2005)
The myriad classifications for human cells, all running on the same basic biochemical and genetic toolkit, are really an indication of our ignorance of the details of that toolkit and it's complexities. As our knowledge grows, we start to see fascinating experiments like this one, detailed at Medical News Today: "the microenvironments of two human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines (federally approved) induced metastatic melanoma cells to revert to a normal, skin cell-like type with the ability to form colonies similar to hESCs. The researchers also showed that these melanoma cells were less invasive following culture on the microenvironments of hESCs." Cellular machinery responds to triggers, and we know all too few of them. Exploration of this sort helps move us towards a world in which cancer can simply and easily be turned off.
More On Those Ten Longevity Genes (November 21 2005)
Medical News Today has a better piece on the ten new longevity-related genes discoved in yeast: "the researchers tested two - Tor1 and Sch9 - to confirm their connection to caloric restriction. One test combined caloric restriction with the genetic mutation to Tor1 that reduced signaling on the TOR pathway. They saw lifespan increases in the resulting yeast cells that were about the same as a cell that had just the Tor1 mutation, indicating that the mutation was doing the same thing as caloric restriction. The TOR pathway is evolutionarily conserved, meaning it is common to many lifeforms. We'd like to know if this is the pathway through which caloric restriction affects lifespan. We think this may be why mice live longer with calorie restriction, because of TOR pathway down-regulation."