LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
December 05 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.
- Interesting Science From the Past Week
- $50,000 More For LysoSENS Research
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
INTERESTING SCIENCE FROM THE PAST WEEK
If you take a broad perspective as to what is helpful to the future of healthy life extension medicine, it becomes hard to focus - progress is everywhere. So much of medical science today adds to our understanding of cells, genes, cellular processes and mechanisms; in the long run, none of this is useless information. Still, some items stand out from the crowd, and here are a couple from the past week:
"Insulin disappears early and dramatically in Alzheimer's disease. And many of the unexplained features of Alzheimer's, such as cell death and tangles in the brain, appear to be linked to abnormalities in insulin signaling. This demonstrates that the disease is most likely a neuroendocrine disorder, or another type of diabetes ... We're able to show that insulin impairment happens early in the disease. We're able to show it's linked to major neurotransmitters responsible for cognition. We're able to show it's linked to poor energy metabolism, and it's linked to abnormalities that contribute to the tangles characteristic of advanced Alzheimer's disease. This work ties several concepts together, and demonstrates that Alzheimer's disease is quite possibly a Type 3 diabetes."
"The problems associated with the ageing immune system and vaccination were discussed recently at an international workshop ... the meeting included discussions on T and B cell differentiation and ageing, as well as dendritic cell and neutrophil data, with the emphasis on T cell immunosenescence, perceived as the most important hindrance to satisfactory responses to vaccines in the elderly. The main questions to be addressed in this context are the reasons for dysfunctionality of T cells in the elderly and what to do to improve T cell function."
A lot of things go south when the immune system starts to fail under the burden of accumulated age-related damage. Over the long term, we can hope that present work on a range of immune therapies and stem cell medicine provides a far greater understanding of the immune system - leading to the ability to repair or prevent age-related damage. If you want to extend the life span of a complex machine, you certainly have to extend the life span of the components.
$50,000 MORE FOR LYSOSENS RESEARCH
The leading sponsor of the Methuselah Foundation's LysoSENS research - presently screening soil samples for bacteria capable of breaking down harmful age-related byproducts that accumulate in and around our cells - has contributed another $50,000 to the program. Good for him! As biomedical gerontologist and Methuselah Foundation chair Aubrey de Grey has noted, scientists work for food. If you want to see healthy life extension research accomplished, then find a way to fund it - and convince others to do the same. Read more here:
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/
A Middle Path Of Optimism (December 04 2005)
Via Gadget, here is a piece on the future of aging by British Telecom futurist-in-residence Ian Pearson: "Nor will getting older imply having to slow down and put your feet up until much later in life. We can expect to live longer, but also remain healthier, almost up to the last minute. We'll still die, but not so gradually. ... And for those of us that are still young today, technologies such as nanotechnology will come on stream just in time for us to benefit from micro-machines living inside our bodies, reinforcing the body's own defences and maintenance systems. Longevity will increase, health will increase, vigour will increase, and old power will increase. I wouldn't go so far as to say I can't wait, but I'm certainly not worried about getting old." Pearson is not sold on actuarial escape velocity, it seems, but the end of health and life is something that can potentially be put off for a very, very long time.
Prostate Cancer Stem Cells Identified (December 04 2005)
The Times reports that researchers have identified cancer stem cells for prostate cancer: "Identifying the cancer stem cell is the most important element: stem cells feed the whole repertoire of cancer cells that complete the tumour. ... the equivalent of finding the 'engine room' that drives cancer to grow, spread and resist treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Finding such stem cells is like looking for a very small needle in a rapidly growing haystack. This study has identified the first 'hints' that such novel stem cells do exist in prostate cancer." If you can eliminate the errant stem cells at the root of a cancer, you eliminate the cancer - the convergence of stem cell research, immune therapy and other very precise cancer treatments means that scientist should soon be able to do just this.
Investigating Memory Loss (December 03 2005)
(Via Gainsville.com). Why does the aging brain lose memory abilities? "The traditional thinking is that when older people lose the ability to 'bank' new memories, it may be because of deterioration in the brain's temporal lobe. Loring believes it is possible that some older people actually lack the attention span to log new information into their memory, which places the problem in the prefrontal cortex - the brain's attention center - rather than the temporal lobe. ... We have all the tools in our hands; the problem is combining the right people with the right cells to answer the question of what kind of genes contribute to long-term memory formation. Nobody really understands on the level of specific cells how many genes work together. We are excited because this is the first time we will be able to monitor all the genes in specific neurons."
Towards Prosthetic Limbs (December 03 2005)
What will arrive first: tissue engineered or regenerated replacement limbs, or prosthetic limbs that function just as fully as the original? From Wired: "Cyberhand would be attached to amputees below the elbow and covered by several layers of synthetic material that would seek to copy the features of a natural hand by making the prosthetic replacement soft, compliant, and flexible. ... Patton says it represents 'the first prosthetic hand that really is fully integrated into the nervous system.' Linked to the nerves by tiny electrodes and biomimetic sensors, it would let patients sense the position and movement of the hand as well as stimuli from the outside environment." There is still a great deal of work to do, but scientists are making impressive progress in tapping into the peripheral nervous system.
Preventing Age-Related Muscle Loss (December 02 2005)
Promising research is noted at EurekAlert: "Muscle in adults is constantly being built and broken down. As young adults we keep the two processes in balance, but when we age breakdown starts to win. However, adding the amino acid leucine to the diet of old individuals can set things straight again. ... After the age of 40, humans start loosing muscle at around 0.5-2% per year. ... The team of researchers believe that the age-related problem results from defective inhibition of ubiquitin-proteasome dependent proteoloysis, a complex degradative machinery that breaks down contractile muscle protein, and that leucine supplementation can fully restore correct function." It's good that a diet change could potentially patch this issue, but it is likely that a real fix - and greater understanding of biochemistry - will come from the follow-on research that this discovery inspires.
Good Mitochondrial Research (December 02 2005)
Something a little more scientific today from the Journal of Physiology, but a good sign: "The mitochondrial theory of ageing proposes that the accumulation of oxidative damage to mitochondria leads to mitochondrial dysfunction and tissue degeneration with age. However, no consensus has emerged regarding the effects of ageing on mitochondrial function, particularly for mitochondrial coupling (P/O). One of the main barriers to a better understanding of the effects of ageing on coupling has been the lack of in vivo approaches to measure P/O." The researchers go on to show a way of accomplishing this task - which means groups working on ways to repair age-damage mitochondria will have an objective measure of how successful they are.
UK: More Public Stem Cell Funding (December 01 2005)
Via the Financial Times, news that government funding for stem cell research will double in the UK: "between £650m and £820m is to be invested in stem cell research over the next 10 years." Increased funding is the case in most stem cell research communities around the world; it's a pity that a sizeable fraction will be in the form of poorly managed public money, but we can expect to see an acceleration of results in the years ahead - highly publicized public funding is always outweighed by less reported private investment. From a long term perspective, perhaps the most important product of stem cell medicine will be a greatly increased understanding of cellular biochemistry and processes - and the tools to take advantage of this knowledge. These developments will enable and blend into the emergence of advanced medical nanotechnology ... and things will get interesting thereafter.
Civilization And Longevity (December 01 2005)
(From Tech Central Station). The history of civilization can in many ways be viewed as the history of increasing longevity. While historical increases in life expectancy occurred for reasons that have little to do with how biotechnology will lead to radical life extension in the future, it is still informative to look at the big picture: "The life expectancy, if I can go back to 1700, was only about 35 years at birth. In 1900, 200 years later, it had increased by about 12 years - it was in the neighborhood of 47 in Western European countries. And, today it's 77 or 78, so in a century we added 30 years to life expectancy, maybe a little bit more. ... Public health reform, cleaning up of the water supply, cleaning up of the milk supply. But if you said what was the single most important factor, it's technological change."
Nerve Regeneration From Nose Cells? (November 30 2005)
From the Guardian, a look at a research group that is attempting to use cells from the nose to regenerate presently untreatable nerve damage: "Studies in animals have established that the cell implants can restore nerve functions. Rats with severed nerves have regained functions of a forepaw. But the first human study, which tests the safety of the procedure, will be limited to patients with one very specific and similar injury to ensure the results are clear. ... If successful, with refinement and research the procedure could be tried on people in a wheelchair. It also has the potential to heal other nerve injuries, such as those caused by stroke, blindness and deafness."
Update On CIRM, Lawsuits (November 30 2005)
(From SFGate). The lawsuits holding up the issuance of public funding for stem cell research from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine appear to be on the way out: "California's embattled Proposition 71 stem cell program took a big step Tuesday toward overcoming lawsuits that have blocked its first grants from being issued. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Bonnie Sabraw denied essentially every legal argument brought by the plaintiffs in litigation alleging that Prop. 71 violated the state Constitution because it would allow taxpayer-backed bond revenues to be distributed without direct legislative control." The legal grounds of these lawsuits have nothing to do with the reason they were brought - ideological opposition to embryonic stem cell research, regardless of the benefits it will bring. Which is not to say that I agree with public funding initiatives and all the trouble that invariably comes with them.
Profile Of A Tissue Engineer (November 29 2005)
A look at one of the faces behind tissue engineering research is in the New York Times: "We are the people interested in building living systems in humans and animals called the tissue. We start with the basic building blocks of these systems, which are cells or different proteins or molecules, and then we reassemble them into something that becomes living tissues within a body. The promises of tissue engineering are many. In trying to regenerate cartilage, we're very far along. In terms of progress, things related to our cartilage, bones, skin, we're likely to see products within 5 to 10 years. The really big impact areas - treatments for Parkinson's disease and diabetes - those will happen later, within my lifetime."
Same Old, Same Old (November 29 2005)
(From Salon). It takes a certain type of doublethink to write a mainstream article on the future of nanomedicine, it seems. How else to explain a piece that lists the tremendous benefits to come, and then tries to convince us - with an array of hoary old straw men and disproved arguments - how terrible it will be to live in such a world? "It's the not-too-distant future, say 2016. You have been diagnosed with Stage III melanoma. Cancer has metastasized throughout your body. Just ten years ago, in 2006, the choice of treatment would have been based on the type of primary cancer, the size and location of the metastasis, your age, general health, and your treatment history. Your prognosis would have been gloomy. But that was back in 2006, before we entered the era of nanomedicine."
Stem Cell Commercialization Spreading (November 28 2005)
From Today Online, an indication that the commercialization of stem cell therapies is spreading - outside the US, in any case: "With its doctors at the vanguard of pioneering stem cell therapy, South Korea is looking to become a 'medical tourism' destination for foreigners unable to find cures in the own countries. Two foreigners have already received therapy at South Korean medical firm Histostem, which has perfected a method of stem cell therapy using umbilical cord blood and boasts the biggest stock of cord blood and stem cells in the world." This is good news for anyone seeking to benefit from early regenerative medicine within the next ten years - it looks like things are beginning to take off.
Gene Therapy Versus Atherosclerosis (November 28 2005)
Via ScienceDaily, news of another promising gene therapy in the works: "Cardiology researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have found that a single injection of a harmless virus engineered to carry a beneficial, mutant gene enabled animals to manufacture their own supply of the gene's protein product that protects against plaque buildup in blood vessels. As a result, the amount of plaque was significantly reduced, as was an immune reaction that can lead to plaque buildup and rupture, which can cause a blocked artery and heart attack or stroke. ... a clinical trial was conducted in humans with similar results. After five weeks of once-a-week injections, [the protein produced by the gene] significantly shrank plaque in coronary arteries. The protein appeared to actually remove bad cholesterol, even from sites on arteries where plaque had accumulated."