LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
December 12 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.
- Reports From the Mprize Three Hundred Dinner
- A Chance to Support Cryonics Research
- Calorie Restriction Society Membership Drive
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
REPORTS FROM THE MPRIZE THREE HUNDRED DINNER
If you have been waiting for reports from those present at the Methuselah Foundation's December 8th dinner for members of The Three Hundred - with Ray Kurzweil, Aubrey de Grey and hosted by Jason Pontin - then you should read the following Fight Aging! post:
Foundation volunteer April Smith is quite clearly the resource of choice for calorie restriction cooking tips.
A CHANCE TO SUPPORT CRYONICS RESEARCH
Cryonics, low temperature storage for the deceased that preserves cellular structure in the brain, allowing for later restoration to life using plausible future technologies, is very much like that fire extinguisher hanging on the wall. It takes a certain amount of effort to keep it in readiness, you hope to arrange your future life such that it will never be needed, and you'll certainly lose out if it is needed but you didn't make that effort. For all the uncertainty, there is no better scientific option available for those people who will not live long enough to benefit from the future of working anti-aging medicine:
As noted in the most recent Alcor newsletter, cryonics supporters have until the end of January to help max out a $100,000 matching grant for vitrification research. Follow the link below to read more about the grant, how to donate, and how vitrification - a form of low temperature storage - works:
If you are interested in learning more, the best place to find out about the science and practice of modern cryonics is the Alcor website:
CALORIE RESTRICTION SOCIETY MEMBERSHIP DRIVE
While we're on this topic, I should mention that the Calorie Restriction Society is presently holding a membership drive. Society members do their best to help folk new to calorie restriction (CR) as a diet and lifestyle, as well as encourage research and further understanding of the biochemical roots of increased longevity through CR:
From the CR Society president: "For $35 per year (if you join before the end of the year) you will receive invitations to CR Society regional gatherings, a subscription to the CR Society newsletter, 'The CRS Insider,' plus discounted registration fees to all CR Society conferences -- the next one will take place in Tucson in April. And you'll know that you've done your part to support the organization that provides you with the information and support you need to follow the only lifestyle shown to slow biological aging in mammals. During this special week, we're also offering a signed copy of The Longevity Diet, an introduction to CR that I co-authored with Lisa Walford (daughter of CR pioneer, Roy Walford, and one of the co-founders of the CR Society) for every Lifetime Membership -- that's a one-time donation of $500 or more."
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 Trial For Crohn's Disease (December 11 2005)
Two years ago, I pointed to a therapy for Crohn's disease as a good example of progress in stem cell research. Two years on, companies like Osiris Therapeutics are still navigating the oppressive FDA regulatory maze in order to bring a demonstrated treatment to market. "Osiris Therapeutics, Inc. announced today that it has received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin enrollment in a Phase II clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of [an] intravenous formulation of mesenchymal stem cells [obtained] from the bone marrow of volunteer donors between 18-32 years of age." There is a good reason why responsible, commercial stem cell therapies are presently only taking place outside the US, and that something is a three-letter abbreviation for the worst aspects of government interference in medicine and freedom of research.
Obesity, Loss of Vision (December 11 2005)
As yet another gentle reminder of the weight of scientific evidence demonstrating that excess fat is a very bad thing for long term health, we have this report from Israel21C: "being overweight - in addition to the known numerous health risks such as heart disease and cancer - also greatly increases your chances of losing your vision. Following a review of than 20 research studies on thousands of patients around the world, [scientists] found a consistently strong correlation between obesity and the occurrence and development of all four of the major eye diseases that cause blindness ... In some of the cases the reasons for linkage between obesity and these diseases was clear - for example, since glaucoma, diabetes and [age-related macular degeneration] all affect the vascular system and excess weight is known to create pulmonary problems, the blood vessels in the eye are affected, and sight deteriorates. But when it comes to cataracts, the link is less obvious."
SAGE Crossroads, Woo Suk Hwang (December 10 2005)
SAGE Crossroads has put up a video and podcast interview with stem cell researchers Woo Suk Hwang and Jerry Schatten, filmed prior to their public split. There is no transcript yet, unfortunately, and probably won't be for a few weeks given past timing - so dive in while it's fresh. If you have an interest in the advance of stem cell based regenerative medicine, you should certainly take the time to watch or listen to the interview. This field of research offers a plausible path to effective therapies for a wide range of age-related conditions and degeneration. The earliest results will likely involve the replacement of failing, vital tissue - small regions in the heart, liver, or parts of the brain, for example - but cell therapies ultimately offer much more than that.
State Of Play At CIRM (December 10 2005)
The Ledger looks at the state of Proposition 71 and the California Insitute for Regenerative Medicine: "After nearly an entire morning of sometimes heated debate the other day, the board overseeing California's $3 billion stem cell research institute took action. It asked the organization's president to draw up a plan for how to draw up a strategic plan. That is the way it has been going lately for the state's closely watched foray into the frontiers of medical science. More than a year after 59 percent of Californians approved an ambitious program to harness human embryonic stem cells to treat diseases, not a single dollar has yet been spent on research. Instead, the effort has been hobbled by litigation that has kept the project from raising money. It has been second-guessed by public interest groups and legislators. And it has been consumed by the bureaucratic minutiae required to set up rules for administering grants."
Myostatin Therapies On The Way (December 10 2005)
The New Scientist reports that "two treatments that block a protein called myostatin, which slows muscle growth, are now in the pipeline." You may recall the initial work on muscular mice that pointed the way to the biochemical mechanisms controlling muscle growth. Myostatin therapies have the potential to address age-related muscle loss as well as wasting diseases. "The first approach, announced this week, aims to use a drug to mop up myostatin. Meanwhile a second method, which is already in clinical trials in people with muscular dystrophy, uses antibodies to disable the protein. ... The company hopes to have initial results by late 2006."
Stem Cell Lines, Practicality (December 09 2005)
A BBC article gives us an idea of the practicality of regenerative medicine, research and tissue engineering based on embryonic stem cells: can it be done with few enough stem cell lines to make it a near-term prospect? "The scientists calculated that cells from 150 random embryos would, on average, be enough to provide the best possible match for 13% of recipients, a favourable level of match for 65%, and some use for as many as 85%. ... When the donor pool was narrowed down to those with the best possible set of genetics, the researchers found that just 10 stem cell types would be enough to provide a favourable level of match for 78% of recipients. ... What this research tells us is that the number of lines needed to achieve a significant clinical value is in the practical realm."
Stem Cells: To Store Or Not To Store? (December 08 2005)
(From the Guardian). A number of ventures are making it possible to store your stem cells for possible future needs, although the storage of newborn cord blood is more common. The price will drop if this service takes off as a business proposition. The advantage is that your stem cells presently have less age-related damage - genetic or otherwise - than they will at any point in the future. This is a speculative hedge against the path of medical technology in the years ahead: will it be the case that stem cells are vital to a regenerative therapy you require, but that no effective method exists to compensate for age-related cellular damage in your cells at that time? In that scenario, you'd probably be glad you banked your cells in a past decade.
Mechanisms of Metastasis (December 08 2005)
If you want to stop cancer from spreading throughout the body, a good start is to understand exactly how this process takes place. Via the BBC: "primary tumours emit chemical signals. These make the target sites for secondary tumours sticky and direct bone marrow cells to them to secure a foothold for arriving tumour cells. ... Once there, they cluster in groups, forming a support structure which stabilises the malignant cells that arrive later to begin forming a secondary, or metastatic, tumour. ... New York's Cornell University used antibodies to block bone marrow cells' migration in mice, and believe their work could help humans." Cancer is one of the largest obstacles to be overcome on the way to greatly extended healthy life spans - but the rate of progress is promising.
Preventing Neurons From Dying (December 07 2005)
A good deal of hype in this LEF News reprint, but it sounds like they have something worthy of further research and development: "The studies show how a naturally occurring protein called KDI tri-peptide (KDI) can serve as a defense mechanism to prevent brain damage normally caused by Parkinson disease. They also demonstrate KDI's potential to treat ALS as well as stroke ... The second study looked at humans and mice with ALS, a devastating neurological disease that causes neurons in the brain and spinal cord to die ... It appears that the body tries to protect itself by producing KDI, but in most cases it is not able to produce enough KDI on its own to stop the damage. ... the brain reacts to stroke damage by naturally producing KDI in the healthy tissue surrounding the seriously damaged brain areas. ... We are currently testing KDI's ability to prevent stroke damage, and based on our results so far I feel very optimistic."
More TheraVitae Coverage (December 07 2005)
Israel21c has more on TheraVitae and their stem cell heart therapy: "We've treated 65 patients, and the number is going up daily, and we're very optimistic. Based on the data gathered, it will be much easier to get initial approval for Phase I trials in the US, which we're planning to apply for within the next few months ... As the therapy is still in its early stages, only those classified by doctors as 'no option' - meaning that conventional solutions such as angioplasty and bypass surgery have been exhausted - are eligible. ... We're treating patients that have no other therapeutic option. There's no pill they can take, their lives are headed in one direction. This therapy is one that can bring them in the opposite direction." This flurry of press coverage is the visible sign of what will soon be a wave of commercialized stem cell therapies.
Time On TheraVitae (December 06 2005)
Time takes a look at TheraVitae and its newly commercialized stem cell therapy: "Fulga's treatment repairs damaged or inactive heart tissue using adult stem cells harvested from the patient's blood and processed outside the body by mimicking the body's environment. Unlike other stem-cell therapies, which make use of bone marrow or - more controversially in the U.S. - the blood of human embryos, Fulga believes the procedure patented by TheraVitae is simpler, safer and less invasive. ... Fulga and his colleagues are tapping into the estimated $54 billion-a-year market of cardiac patients in need of treatment. The company projects that it will break even soon. 'We want to be the Intel of cell therapy.'"
Interview With Michael Rose (December 06 2005)
The New York Times interviews evolutionary biologist Michael Rose: "the common assumption is that young bodies work and then they fall apart during aging. Young bodies only work because natural selection makes them healthy enough to survive and breed. As adults get older, natural selection stops caring about them, so we lose its benefits and our health. If you don't understand this, aging research is an unending riddle that goes around in circles. ... aging isn't some general breakdown process, like the way cars rust. Aging is an optional feature of life. And it can be slowed or postponed. This implies that controlling human aging does not require the violation of some absolute scientific law. Postponing human aging is not like building a perpetual motion machine or faster-than-light space travel. It is a scientifically reasonable thing to try."
Beyond the Horizon (December 05 2005)
Newsweek mentions healthy life extension and the future of nanomedicine in this question and answer session: "In the 20th century, in the developed nations, our life span increased from about 50 years to about 80 years. In just 100 years, our species (which has been on earth for more than a million years) increased its life span by 60 percent. Right now changes in our lifestyle have more power to extend our life span than any medicines yet invented: sitting around waiting for a magical life-extending elixir isn't healthy." But this truth will change - if we all help to ensure that science develops healthy life extension medicine. If you are mindful enough to save for retirement, why not also help to ensure that future medicine can extend your healthy life span. The distance to the horizon depends on where you stand, after all.
The Late Life Plateau (December 05 2005)
ScienceDaily notes the interesting phenomenon whereby the decline of aging - measured by your statistical chance of dying in each year - appears to plateau in late life. That plateau is at a high chance of dying each year, of course, but it raises questions regarding how and why age-related degeneration happens. Is it programmed events, decay of components in a complex system, or a mix of both? Researcher Michael Rose adopted the phrase "biological immortality" to describe this behavior in flies - although he means something quite different from what most of us think when hearing those words. If you're interesting in reading more on the topic, his is the first essay in The Scientific Conquest of Death, now available online for free.