LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
January 02 2006
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.
- Aubrey de Grey on 60 Minutes: a Rousing Success
- Zen and the Art of Human Maintenance
- Why I Support SENS
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
AUBREY DE GREY ON 60 MINUTES: A ROUSING SUCCESS
I think we can safely say that Aubrey de Grey and the Methuselah Foundation volunteers hit a home run with the January 1st 60 Minutes segment on radical life extension - greatly extending the healthy human life span by eliminating age-related disease and degeneration. It's all about raising public awareness and support for research at this stage, as the science is far ahead of the funding. As we all know, large scale funding for scientific progress is only possible in an atmosphere of widespread public support and understanding - hence the Methuselah Foundation and the MPrize for anti-aging research:
In the few hours since the program aired, we've seen two new members of The Three Hundred and a number of smaller donations, as well as offers to volunteer - so I think it's working. While the segment was quite short, the views and positions, such as the concept of actuarial escape velocity, came across very well - it's a sign of just how far we advocates have come that the opposition viewpoint was that radical life extension *will* happen, just not so much and not as fast! I cannot imagine seeing that in the mainstream media even just a few years ago. Congratulations to everyone involved!
You'll find a link to the transcript and further commentary in this Fight Aging! post:
If you missed the show and are looking for video of the segment, you might want to try the following Immortality Institute discussion thread:
Or, alternately, the CBS website:
ZEN AND THE ART OF HUMAN MAINTENANCE
While we're on the subject, I should direct your attention to a Damn Interesting interview with Aubrey de Grey and Kevin Perrott, Executive Director of the Methuselah Foundation, entitled "Zen and the Art of Human Maintenance." It's well worth reading:
"Both men are advocates of the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) initiative, which is a to-do list that outlines the obstacles we'll need to overcome in order to cure aging. SENS is not in the realm of age-defying cosmetics, but rather it is an effort towards the permanent preservation of youthful health in all of humanity."
WHY I SUPPORT SENS
Why do I support the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS)? Aside from the obvious reasons relating to healthy life extension, that is - why this horse? A partial answer to this question can be found by following this link:
"The scientific method and the community of science that surrounds it is truly a powerful machine - able to take the worst aspects of human nature, sailing atop a river of garbage specked with half-wrong answers, and spin that mix into the gold of technology. It doesn't matter what your right to wrong to nonsense ratio is when it comes to deciphering the world; so long as you have the will to progress and your sifting mechanism is good enough, accumulating a whole pile of right is just a matter of time."
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/
Tweaking p53 Without Accelerating Aging (January 01 2006)
The p53 protein, and the gene producing it, are tied up in the mechanisms linking and driving cancer and aging. p53 makes a very attractive target for cancer therapies, but altering it reduces life span - accelerates aging - in most cases. Here EurekAlert reports on a possible workaround: "Mdm2 is a key inhibitor of p53 and therefore an attractive target to modulate p53 activity in cells. However, conflicting evidence exists regarding whether or not p53-mediated tumor suppression comes at the cost of accelerated aging. ... The possibility that inhibitors of Mdm2 could delay cancer in such people without causing detrimental side effects is bolstered by our demonstration that mice expressing 30-80% the normal level of Mdm2 develop fewer tumors than wild type mice, yet age normally."
New Methuselah Foundation Website (January 01 2006)
There's nothing quite like imminent television publicity to push forward needed updates: as I'm sure some of you have noticed, the Methuselah Foundation now has its own website, separate from the website for the MPrize for anti-aging research that has been the main foundation focus for the past two years. The new site gives equal billing to the nascent Institute for Biomedical Gerontology, Aubrey de Grey's organization, long on the drawing board, that has now started forward with LysoSENS research. The Institute will be going much further towards funding meaningful anti-aging science based on the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) in the future, we all hope.
Seemingly Endless Failure (January 01 2006)
A few of the seemingly endless failures of centralized, regulated health systems are illustrated in this News-Press piece. In a free market, needs - and the accompanying price signals - become opportunities for entrepreneurs to fund development and people to provide the needed services. In a centralized, regulated system, needs are problems; the price signals and profit motives are not there, so shortages, rationing and poor quality service result. Only socialized medicine can turn the wonderful lengthening of human life span into a massive problem and squash the prospects for future longevity research at the same time. As one libertarian writer pointed out, "If telomerase inhibitors were a new kind of computer chip, they would have been on every Wal-Mart pharmacy shelf and selling for ten dollars a bottle by now."
Calorie Restriction On CBS (December 31 2005)
CBS News recently aired a segment on the practice of calorie restriction (CR) for healthy life extension: "Definitely his life expectancy is higher than an average American. ... Doctors like Fontana are conducting long-term studies of C.R. They're convinced it protects against major diseases. Dr. John Holloszy, principal investigator, agrees. 'There's no chance of them getting type 2 diabetes, they have very low blood pressure, and the risk of them developing cancer is markedly decreased.'" That said, I don't think their comments on exercise are helpful - exercise affects a range of metabolic processes over the long term in ways I cannot see diet choices replicating. It's perfectly possible to both practice CR and exercise moderately - you certainly should if you'd like to see as much as possible of the real anti-aging medicine of future decades!
Linking Obesity And Alzheimer's (December 30 2005)
It is known that obesity raises the risk of suffering Alzheimer's (as well as numerous other fatal age-related conditions); the open question is the biochemical mechanisms linking the two. One research team proposes the following: "They found a strong correlation between body mass index and high levels of beta-amyloid, the sticky protein substance that builds up in the Alzheimer's brain and is thought to play a major role in destroying nerve cells and in cognitive and behavioral problems associated with the disease. We looked at the levels of beta-amyloid and found a relationship between obesity and circulating amyloid. That's almost certainly why the risk for Alzheimer's is increased." Given that scientists are still arguing over the role of beta-amyloid in Alzheimer's, this is little too much certainty, but the mechanism is going to be something like this.
60 Minutes On Radical Life Extension (December 30 2005)
Biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey - advocate for the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, a path towards and justification for real anti-aging medicine - Jay Olshansky and other scientists will be appearing on 60 Minutes on Sunday, January 1st in a segment on radical life extension: "60 Minutes is planning three stories about beginning anew this New Year's Day. ... We'll also take a look at new medical research that may lead to people living much longer lives than we ever thought possible, maybe even 400 or 500 years. Some doctors believe with medical breakthroughs on the horizon, humans can live much longer lives." Advocates and interested parties are discussing matters over at the Immortality Institute; you'll find links to the teaser video there too. A great opening for public awareness of healthy life extension science and the efforts of the Methuselah Foundation in 2006!
Stem Cells At The Root Of Regeneration (December 29 2005)
Given that regeneration is driven by stem cells, it would make sense to look for changes in stem cell activity underlying known methods for improving natural healing processes. Here, via Medical News Today, news that this is the case for hyperbaric oxygen treatments: "a typical course of hyperbaric oxygen treatments increases by eight-fold the number of stem cells circulating in a patient's body. ... We reproduced the observations from humans in animals in order to identify the mechanism for the hyperbaric oxygen effect. We found that hyperbaric oxygen mobilizes stem/progenitor cells because it increases synthesis of a molecule called nitric oxide in the bone marrow. This synthesis is thought to trigger enzymes that mediate stem/progenitor cell release." This would seem to open the door on a number of possible ways to greatly amplify existing healing processes.
Calorie Restriction, Sirt1, Insulin (December 29 2005)
PLoS Biology brings us more interesting calorie restriction (CR) science - relationships between Sirt1 (the mammalian version of Sir2) and insulin in this case: "Sir2 and insulin/IGF-1 are the major pathways that impinge upon aging in lower organisms. In [roundworms] a possible genetic link between Sir2 and the insulin/IGF-1 pathway has been reported. Here we investigate such a link in mammals. We show that Sirt1 positively regulates insulin secretion in pancreatic [beta] cells. ... In mammals a characteristic set of physiological changes takes place during long-term CR, which overlaps the rapid physiological adaptations to short-term food limitation. One such change is the use of dietary fat or fat mobilized from [white adipose tissue] for energy . Another is a large reduction in blood insulin levels accompanied by an increase in insulin sensitivity, i.e., the ability of insulin to promote glucose utilization."
Plausible, Robust Old Age (December 28 2005)
The plausibility of good lifestyle choices leading you into a robust old age - judged by the medical technology and possibilities of today - makes a big difference when looking at the future. The length of your healthy life in the long term is far more dependent on future anti-aging medicine than anything else - how effective it is, how fast it is developed, how much you supported research - but reaching the era of working anti-aging medicine while still being healthy enough to benefit is a matter of working with what you have now, using the health tools of today. Here, the Deseret News notes a study that suggests reaching your mid-80s in good health, using the technology of the past 50 years, is perfect plausible for most people. You can do the math based on your age and the predictions of futurists to see where this might get you.
The Roots Of Type 2 Diabetes (December 28 2005)
(From EurekAlert). Researchers are digging into the biochemical roots of type 2 (age-related) diabetes: "knocking out a single gene encoding the enzyme GnT-4a glycosyltransferase (GnT-4a ) disrupts insulin production. ... a high-fat diet suppresses the activity of GnT-4a and leads to type 2 diabetes due to failure of the pancreatic beta cells ... In its earliest phases, the disease causes failure of insulin-secreting beta cells in the pancreas, which leads to elevated blood glucose levels. As the disease progresses, the insulin-secreting beta cells overcompensate for the elevated blood glucose, and eventually pump out too much insulin. This leads to insulin resistance and full-blown type 2 diabetes. The new studies suggest that people with an inherited predisposition to type 2 diabetes might have variations in the gene for GnT-4a." The simple solution is, of course, appropriate diet and lifestyle choices.
A Positive Look At Cancer Research (December 27 2005)
The New York Times is printing an optimistic article on the state of cancer research: "For the first time, we have the tools needed to attack the problem... We're close to being able to put our arms around the whole cancer problem. We've completed the list of all cancer cells needed to create a malignancy, and I wouldn't have said that five years ago. ... It's starting to come into focus how one might target the problem. Individual cancers are going to fall one by one by targeting the molecular abnormalities that underlie them. ... Seeing cancer become more like what has happened with AIDS would not be shocking. Does that mean cure? Not necessarily. We may see patients treated until they die of something else." Cancer, like neurodegeneration, results from age-related cellular damage that must be repaired or prevented if we are to greatly extend the healthy human life span.
Support For Reliability Theory (December 27 2005)
A study reported at EurekAlert gives the expected support for the reliability theory of aging: "Records from four European countries show that, on average, survivors of generations with rampant childhood infection - measured by cohort mortality rates at young ages - were shorter and died sooner than counterparts from generations with less childhood disease. Crimmins and Finch propose that even when they grew into apparently healthy adults, survivors of high-infection generations carried a heavier lifetime burden of inflammation. This in turn accelerated the progress of cardiovascular disease. ... Our model implies that the reduction in lifelong levels of infections and inflammation reduced and delayed the progression of cardiovascular disease and mortality due to heart disease."
Program For 35th AGE Annual Meeting (December 26 2005)
The program for the 35th annual meeting of the American Aging Association (AGE) - to be held in early June 2006 in Boston - is already long and interesting, even at this early date. As for the 2005 annual meeting, research into calorie restriction, metabolism and longevity is much in evidence. AGE is representative of the mainstream of pro-healthy life extension but conservative gerontology, as demonstrated in the mission statement: "To promote biomedical aging studies directed towards increasing the functional life span of humans with one goal being to slow the aging process. To keep the public informed of the progress of aging research and of practical means of achieving a long and healthy life."
The Cruelty of "Ethics" (December 26 2005)
How low modern medical ethics and bioethics has sunk; once upon a time it was a necessary, noble part of the medical profession - now it chiefly exists to cause suffering, block freedom of research and slow progress ... all the while paying fat salaries to those tasked with finding ever more "problems" where none exist. A good example of this cruelty can be found in a recent Scotsman article on new stem cell research for neurodegenerative diseases: how is it in any way ethical, right or moral to prevent the terminally ill from making their own informed choice to participate in research and trials of new therapies, to prevent them from seeking a possible cure? Medical "ethics" has truly become a despicable profession.