Longevity Meme Newsletter, January 09 2006

January 09 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.



- Those Who Oppose Longer, Healthier Lives
- A Starting Point For Calorie Restriction
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


Sad to say, there are all too many people out there in the world today working hard to ensure that you and I will never have the chance - the choice - to live a longer, healthier life through the development and use of advanced medical technology. To be sure, living longer should be an individual choice, and I bear no ill will to those who want to opt out ... but campaigning to prevent others from trying to lengthen their healthy life spans is reprehensible.

A brace of representative anti-longevity opinion pieces and other publications arrived over the past week, and have been treated appropriately. You can read commentary from the healthy life extension community by following the links below:

From the Camp of Death and Suffering
Leon Kass, advocate for suffering, death and mysticism, a good example of the worst of modern bioethics, is still turning out material in opposition to healthy life extension, it seems. Fortunately, he's no longer heading up the President's Council on Bioethics - although what's left is just as bad, frankly. Here Kass is, however, plugging away at the idea that it's a wonderful thing to suffer, decay and die in pain.

A Pity Some Feel the Need to Counterpoint
"Would we really want to live to 150? Is such a goal ethical? What would this putative longevity do to our present social structures and arrangements? Would we get a better society or a worse one?"

Myths of Aging
"My main disagreement with the article has to do with its portrayal of life extension technology as an anti-spiritual goal, indeed as one that is perhaps morally wrong. However, before I address these more serious matters, I'd like to delve into the myths of extended lifespans that the article so beautifully encapsulates in one paragraph."


Judging by the twists and turns of my web server logs, recent media attention given to the science and practice of calorie restriction - obtaining impressive health benefits and potential lengthening of healthy life span through eating fewer calories while still obtaining optimal nutrition - is the cause of many new arrivals. Welcome!


For regular readers, there's never a bad time to be reminded about this lifestyle choice. It's easy enough to keep your eyes on regenerative medicine, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, advanced nanomedicine, cures for Alzheimer's, advocacy for longevity research funding and the like - the nascent, basic elements for the development of real anti-aging medicine over the next two decades - but if you don't take best care of your health today, you're cutting your chances of making it into that future. You can't count on science to rescue you from the consequences of negligence - and it would certainly be a shame to miss the boat at this late stage, given the medical technologies that look likely for the years ahead!

All that said, the following links are good starting points for further research into calorie restriction: what is it, how do you do it, and where to find like-minded travelers.

Hot Topic: Calorie Restriction

Where to Find Out More About Calorie Restriction

Calorie Restriction Society


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



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/

On Growth Hormone (January 08 2006)
From MSNBC, a mostly useful repetition of common sense and facts on the medical use of growth hormone, a staple of the less reputable end of the "anti-aging" marketplace: "if a doctor, clinic or website promises you that they have a non injectable product that will restore your growth hormone level to that which you had when you were young, beware. Products available without prescription are imposters and have no effect. Those that are prescribed and injected are expensive, and we don't have the long-term studies that give conclusive proof that they work." Caveat emptor! But I don't agree with centralized regulation - let people make their own informed choices when it comes to their lives and their bodies, provided they're also responsible for the cost of consequences.

Autoimmunity Versus Neurodegeneration (January 08 2006)
From recent Scientific American article: "In 2002 a clinical trial of an experimental Alzheimer's vaccine was halted when a few patients began experiencing brain inflammation, a result of the immune system mounting an attack against the body. Now some researchers claim that inducing a mild autoimmune reaction could actually protect the central nervous system from a spectrum of neurodegenerative conditions, from glaucoma and spinal cord injury to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. ... Too much autoimmunity causes brain disease, but too little may exacerbate the gamut of neurodegenerative conditions ... The evidence is mixed, however. We get what the conventional wisdom would expect: we get more problems ... The discrepancy probably results from subtle differences in the models employed, which implies that the effect is not robust enough to treat spinal cord injuries."

Pro-State Transhumanism (January 07 2006)
In the Deseret News, a somewhat depressing look at early skirmishes in the war over who gets to control what you are permitted to do with your own life - including how long you are permitted to live. It's sad that it has come to this, that so many people pour resources in fighting for control of - and thereby supporting and sustaining - an increasingly dangerous and corrupt system. Consider this: in a truly free society of small government and rule of law, employees of the state would not have the power to block support and development of real anti-aging technologies, nor block your opportunity to amass wealth and purchase working anti-aging medicine. To live longer or not would be an individual choice; the only need for resources would be to develop the necessary medical technologies - not to defend your health and life from uncaring, over-empowered government employees.

Myths of Aging (January 07 2006)
Jay Fox refutes some of the myths employed by opponents of healthy life extension: "Here we see four of the same old fallacies exposed again: the Tithonus Error, Malthusian Doomsaying, the Lonely Old Man, and Logan's Run. ... As Harrell put it, 'the thought of outliving everyone they know is depressing.' I admit it is depressing, but it misses the rather obvious rebuttal: is this lonely old man the only person who will receive rejuvenation treatments? ... The thought of living to 300 may seem daunting. But ask yourself, are you ready to die in the next year? If you answered no, then you already have what it takes to live to 300. Next year, if you were in as good or better health than you are now, with as good or a better financial position, the answer to that question should not change: it should still be no. Ten years from now, if you could have even better health and more wealth, would you decide, 'You know what, I think this year is the year!'? Of course not."

Engineering New Mammary Tissue (January 06 2006)
A nice piece of work is reported by the Times: as a part of demonstrating their ability to isolate mammary stem cells, scientists have "transplanted one of these cells into the mammary fat pad of a living female mouse from which all breast tissue had been removed. The cell divided and eventually gave rise to all the normal types of cell found in the mouse breast, and the gland worked normally to produce milk. ... If the findings prove applicable to people, scientists hope to develop drugs that target abnormal breast stem cells to eliminate not only tumours but also the source tissue from which they arise. In the longer term, it may also be possible to use mammary stem cells to grow breast tissue for reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy." Researchers are clearly making progress in capabilities when it comes to stem cell science.

More Follicle Stem Cell Progress (January 06 2006)
We've been hearing much more about the multipotent stem cells found in hair follicles of late. Here, more from Medical News Today illustrates that the infrastructural and supporting work is proceeding apace: researchers "used sophisticated techniques to engraft human scalp tissue onto mice and then isolated and examined living human hair follicle stem cells. The authors identified a panel of marker proteins expressed on the surface of these elusive cells that can be used in future research to aid in their identification. They go on to note important differences between mouse and human stem cell markers. ... investigators can now readily extract and study very specific follicular cell types for the ability to regenerate hair and skin, with the hope of developing novel methods for treating skin and hair disease." Infrastructure is bland, but very important. Expect to hear more in the near future.

More TheraVitae Press Attention (January 05 2006)
(From Reuters AlertNet). One can hope that ever more attention given to successful commercialization of stem cell therapies outside the US will lead to some reduction in stifling regulation within the US. Certainly advocacy groups - such as FasterCures - should be making hay with the success of TheraVitae. "Theravitae is set to begin clinical trials with Thai doctors in January to treat peripheral vascular disease, a circulatory ailment which can lead to amputations. Next up: Parkinson's disease by mid-2006 and some forms of blindness in the first quarter of 2007. Eventually, Theravitae thinks, the technology could be used to treat emphysema, broken bones, renal failure and diabetes. ... Theravitae, which says it will become profitable in January 2006, expects 100 people a month will be coming to Thailand to seek the stem cell treatment by June next year."

An Interview With Leonard Guarente (January 05 2006)
The MIT Technology Review has an interview with researcher Leonard Guarente, who "has spent much of the last two decades patiently chipping away at the genetic and biochemical underpinnings of the aging process, an area of research often plagued by extreme hyperbole and extravagant claims. ... I hope in 10 years that we are way down the road of drug discovery in finding compounds that will deliver at least some of the benefits of calorie restriction. And I think SIR2 is going to be one of the important targets that we want to go after with drugs. ... We definitely think it is involved in the aging process. In particular, it seems to be involved in sensing caloric intake and asserting effects on cells to adjust life span. We think calorie restriction is a tremendous opportunity for us to intervene pharmacologically and have a positive impact on human health."

Kurzweil On Radical Life Extension (January 04 2006)
The recent 60 Minutes segment on radical life extension was to include an interview with entrepreneur and inventor Ray Kurzweil, but this was not shown in the television version of the broadcast. Fortunately, the KurzweilAI team have found and linked to video of this interview from the CBS website. "When we get to 2030, say, we will have the means to indefinitely extend human life." This builds upon Kurzweil's projected timescales for technological development - in advanced nanomedicine particularly - as put forward in his recent books, Fantastic Voyage and The Singularity is Near. This technology will certainly change the world, and the defeat of aging - by repairing or preventing age-related cellular damage - is just one of the many accomplishments that will become possible.

Towards Molecular Surgery (January 04 2006)
(From EurekAlert). Scientists are working on ways to break down harmful age-related intracellular aggregates - in this case the amyloid associated with Alzheimer's - using nanoparticles and low-intensity radiation: "Using test tube studies, the scientists attached gold nanoparticles to a group of beta amyloid fibrils, incubated the resulting mixture for several days and then exposed it to weak microwave fields for several hours. ... The fibrils subsequently dissolved and remained dissolved for at least one week after being irradiated, indicating that the treatment was not only effective at breaking up the fibrils but also resulted in a lower tendency of the proteins to re-aggregate, according to the researchers. The same approach also holds promise for treating other neurodegenerative diseases that involve protein aggregation, including Parkinson's and Huntington's."

Myelin Breakdown And Alzheimer's (January 03 2006)
More on brain aging research from 7news: "The breakdown of myelin, a sheet of fat that insulates nerves and helps speed messages through the brain, appears to be a key contributor to the onset of Alzheimer's disease ... They found the severity and rate of myelin breakdown was correlated with the type of APOE, or apolipoprotein-E, gene a person had. Previous research has shown APOE status to be the second-biggest risk factor for the disease after ageing, with a version called APOE-4 putting persons at highest risk. ... breakdown of myelin, a natural part of the ageing process, proceeded most rapidly for those with APOE-4, less so for those with APOE-3 and most slowly for those with APOE-2. APOE-2 is thought to offer some protection from Alzheimer's, while APOE-3 is seen as neutral. ... These new findings offer, for the first time, compelling genetic evidence that myelin breakdown underlies both the advanced age and the principal genetic risks for Alzheimer disease."

Healthy Life Extension, Taken Seriously (January 03 2006)
Over at TCS Daily, Glenn Reynolds discusses recent attention given to biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) and Methuselah Foundation: "But what's news isn't so much that de Grey and what he calls "Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence" are getting attention. It's that these sorts of ideas are getting serious attention, rather than being dismissed as absurd. The 60 Minutes story does feature scientists who point out that de Grey is invoking technology that hasn't been developed yet, but that's not much of a critique, since de Grey's chief point is that we can develop such technology if we work at it, not that such technologies already exist ... At any rate, the subject, which I've been flogging in these pages for a while, seems to be breaking out. Last year there was a sort of harmonic convergence of academic work on the subject, with three major books published almost simultaneously."

Brain Aging, Common Sense (January 02 2006)
Randall Parker uses recent research into the genetics of the aging brain as the starting point for some common sense talk on health, aging and the future of anti-aging medicine: "Probably in 20 or 30 years time we will be able to grow replacements for all the internal organs. ... But the brain is our identity and needs to be repaired, not replaced. ... This makes brain rejuvenation much harder than rejuvenation of the rest of the body. We need to slow brain aging because effective rejuvenation therapies for the brain are going to take longer to develop than rejuvenation therapies for the rest of the body. ... Even if you are very confident that a cure for aging will be found before you die that is not a reason to be complacent about your diet and lifestyle. ... Best to delay the onset of assorted maladies as long as you can."

Should We Cure Aging? (January 02 2006)
(In EGO Magazine). I somehow managed to overlook this rather good Joao Pedro de Magalhaes piece from a few months ago: "The knowledge that every ambition is doomed to frustration at the hands of a skeleton has never prevented the majority of human beings from behaving as though death were no more than an unfounded rumor. ... Aging fosters sickness and disability, increases human suffering, and makes us more likely to die. Yet there are a number of possible objections to the endeavor of curing aging. Most of these are unfounded myths, easy to disprove. This essay draws on my own lectures on the subject and attempts to answer the most commonly raised questions and concerns about a possible cure for aging."



Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.