Longevity Meme Newsletter, January 23 2006

January 23 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.



- A Cornucopia of Fascinating Reading Material
- Volunteer With the Methuselah Foundation!
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


Well, perhaps not an entire cornucopia, but this past week has seen a number of interesting and educational articles either announced or available to read online.

The following Fight Aging! post gives directions to a Wall Street Journal article on perpetual trusts for cryonics patients and a 1979 paper on the economics of healthy life extension - people are people, then as now, and the paper remains very relevant:


Here, a soon-to-be-published interview with Aubrey de Grey, a Max More article on radical life extension, and the full text of a New Scientist piece on cutting edge mitochondrial research and the search for a cure for aging:


Finally, pointers to a trio of short articles of relevance to age-related diabetes - comparisons between methodologies of avoidance, prevention and treatment, as well as plans for the next step forward in understanding the precise biochemistry underlying metabolic diseases.


For younger folks, diabetes may seem a long way off, and 1979 a long way in the past. But take a look in both cases - the past has a way of being very relevant and helpful, and the future sneaks up on you all too fast. Your present day actions and inactions will have ever-greater consequences, good and bad, as the years pass, and it is best to be aware and prepared.


If you've wanted to lend a hand to supporting the future of healthy life extension medicine, science and research, then now is a great time to volunteer with the Methuselah Foundation. Plots and plans are being laid for 2006 and further into the future, and a number of volunteer projects are outstanding - such as the call for folk with economics and mathematics skills to assist in demonstrating the costs and benefits of radical life extension when it is achieved in stages:


Many other skills and helping hands are also required; if you have the volunteer mindset and time to give, then help the Methuselah Foundation in the fight to cure aging!



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 Multiplying Stem Cells (January 22 2006)
For all that the goals and future of stem cell based regenerative medicine are fairly clear, scientists are presently spending more time on the development of necessary infrastructural technologies than on first generation therapies - and quite rightly so. One problem with adult stem cells is "the doggedness with which [cells] differentiate into mature tissue the moment they're isolated from the body. This makes it nearly impossible for researchers to multiply them in the laboratory. And because adult stem cells are so rare, that makes it difficult to use them for treating disease. Now, [researchers] have discovered a way to multiply an adult stem cell 30-fold, an expansion that offers tremendous promise for treatments such as bone marrow transplants and perhaps even gene therapy."

Complexities of Age-Related Blindness (January 22 2006)
Via Medical News Today, a look at the tough road facing researchers as they work towards prevention and repair for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa (RP): "It has been a painstaking scientific journey as AMD and RP each belong to a complex family of disorders, in which every disorder has many forms and each form is encoded with a distinct genetic recipe. Even AMD, a major cause of vision loss in people over 60, is actually a collection of more than 50 diseases. ... Working with fruit flies, the scientists have discovered that a mutation in a common gene called calnexin can derail the light-processing activity of cells and set in motion the gradual breakdown of vision. ... Understanding the basic mechanisms of how proteins are folded holds the key to finding treatments for not only retinal degenerative diseases but also other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson's."

More On Heart Tissue Engineering (January 21 2006)
Forbes looks at one strand of tissue engineering research and regenerative medicine for the heart: "Merging artificially engineered products with a patient's own heart to stop or reverse cardiac damage could be the wave of the future, researchers say. One such innovation, the 'cardiac patch,' is just that: A piece of living, beating cardiac tissue, grown in the lab in just a few days and applied to hearts wounded by prior heart attack or chronic disease. ... The real challenge is that you have to place the patch upon the heart in a way that it integrates into the heart. You don't want it to just sit there as a separate entity. It needs to connect electrically so that it syncs up with signals coming from the cells, so everything works together. ... animal trials tackling those issues are already under way ... perhaps a decade from now, human trials might begin."

Insulin, Fat, Aging, Calorie Restriction (January 21 2006)
(Via the LEF News). Synthesis of threads of research into an understanding of a complex system is very rewarding; progress is being made towards this goal for metabolism and longevity: "Caloric restriction and leanness have been shown to increase longevity in organisms ranging from yeast to mammals. Adipose tissue seems to be a pivotal organ in the aging process and in determination of lifespan ... fat-specific disruption of the insulin receptor gene is sufficient to increase lifespan in [mice], suggesting that reduced adiposity, even in the presence of normal or increased food intake, can extend lifespan. The model also suggests a special role for the insulin-signaling pathway in adipose tissue in the longevity process. ... In the control of human aging and longevity, one of the striking physiological characteristics identified in centenarians is their greatly increased insulin sensitivity even compared with younger individuals."

Interesting Alzheimer's Research (January 20 2006)
EurekAlert reports on new Alzheimer's research: "Decline of cognitive functions linked to the part of the brain called the hippocampus is a clinical hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. The report demonstrates that targeting excessive glial activation can suppress brain inflammation and neuron dysfunction in the hippocampus and protect against cognitive decline in an animal model. Neuron dysfunction can lead to further glia activation and contribute to further exacerbation of the disease process. ... 188WH and related compounds slowed or reversed the progression of the neuroinflammatory cascade and reduced human amyloid beta-induced glia activation in a mouse specially designed to develop many of the signs of Alzheimer's disease."

TOR Signaling and Calorie Restriction (January 20 2006)
The researchers working on thousands of strains of gene-engineered yeast in order to understand metabolism and longevity are turning up some interesting science: "We developed a high-throughput assay to determine [life span] for approximately 4800 single-gene deletion strains of yeast, and identified long-lived strains carrying mutations in the conserved TOR pathway. TOR signaling regulates multiple cellular processes in response to nutrients, especially amino acids, raising the possibility that decreased TOR signaling mediates life span extension by calorie restriction." Scientists are turning up all sorts of places to be looking for the biochemical mechanisms of longevity through calorie restriction.

More Gene Therapy For Parkinson's (January 19 2006)
Via EurekAlert, more good news of progress in the gene therapy field: "Research has shown that mutant forms of the alpha-synuclein gene, as well as too much alpha-synuclein protein, are involved in the development [of] Parkinson's disease in some families. For this research, the Bohn lab combined a recently developed technology called 'RNA interference' with gene therapy to turn off alpha-synuclein in dopamine neurons. RNA interference is a sophisticated method to selectively turn off one gene in a cell, leaving others unaffected. By placing the RNA interference into a crippled, non-disease-causing virus, scientists in the Bohn lab have been able to deliver the RNA interference tool to the brain of rats and turn off the alpha-synuclein protein in neurons. ... This is the first step in developing a new therapy for Parkinson's disease based on molecular knowledge of the disease."

Stem Cell Politics Around the US (January 19 2006)
The Capitol Weekly takes a high-level look at stem cell politics and funding initiatives: "A key lesson so far has been that low profile efforts seem more effective. Because Proposition 71 dealt with such large sums of money, it became a national, if not international, issue and attracted significant opposition ... In some states, there is no money involved at all. ... efforts in Missouri and Kansas that would do nothing more that write explicit language into state constitutions allowing private companies to conduct stem cell research. In Missouri she said, there was actually suggested legislation that would have barred residents from receiving therapies developed with stem cells, even if they were pioneered elsewhere."

Turning Stem Cells Into Tissues (January 18 2006)
The MIT Technology Review has a good piece on the fundamentals of regenerative medicine: "Biologists dream of the day they can take a stem cell and create any of the body's cell types, producing pancreas or liver tissue that doctors could use to aid a failing organ. ... If we want to take stem cells and convert them into something useful - neurons to treat Parkinson's disease, or insulin-producing cells to treat diabetes - we need to learn a lot about what makes a cell a neuron or a pancreatic cell ... The cell is a machine. Though we know the genes and proteins in a cell, we don't know how the machine works. ... Scientists would ultimately like to create a complete wiring diagram of the stem cell's regulatory circuit."

Evolution and Calorie Restriction (January 18 2006)
Via PubMed, an interesting, if highly speculative paper on the evolutionary origins of the health and longevity benefits of calorie restriction: "An appreciable alteration in climate occurred between 2.0 and 1.5 million years ago, a juncture at which one hominid lineage (Paranthropus) went extinct. ... the Homo lineage responded to its marginal dietary repertoire through internal means, centering on metabolic suppression. It is herein hypothesized that this adaptive metabolic alteration, enacted in response to ecologically imposed caloric restriction, produced the defining morphologic attributes of Homo and enabled the evolutionary success of the human species. Among the implications of this line of thinking is that modern humans may be particularly sensitive to the deleterious effects of excess energy intake and, concomitantly, particularly amenable to the ameliorative effects of caloric restriction."

Gene Therapy for Macular Degeneration (January 17 2006)
Genetic Engineering News reports on a small trial of a new gene therapy: "An adenoviral-based vector containing the gene for human pigment epithelium-derived factor (PEDF) showed evidence of being able to stop disease progression when injected directly into the eyes of patients with neovascular age-related macular degeneration, according to the results of a phase I clinical trial." The positive effects were modest - at this stage in the development of gene therapies, scientists are delighted to obtain modest benefits with no accompanying issues or problem. "The results from the Campochiaro et al. study are extremely encouraging as there were no serious adverse events or dose-limiting toxicities through the highest dose."

Stem Cells, Peripheral Vascular Disease (January 17 2006)
The Saturday Evening Post takes a look at ongoing work in stem cell medicine: "To administer, we basically inject the cells, or the mononuclear cell fraction containing a subpopulation of progenitor stem cells, right into the calf muscle of the affected leg that has insufficient blood flow. In the future, we plan to grow the cells in culture and increase the number of endothelial progenitor cells before injecting. Right now, we have strict limitations on what we can do from the FDA, because this is the first such study in the United States. There is evidence the injected progenitor ceils directly incorporate into new capillary beds and produce the necessary protein messengers - so-called cytokines - that induce existing blood vessels to grow."

More On Exercise and Neurodegeneration (January 16 2006)
From the New Scientist, and just to drive the point home, another article on exercise and rates of neurodegenerative disease: "Regular exercise may reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease in the elderly by as much as 40%, according to a new study. And the effect is even more pronounced for those who are more frail ... the biological mechanism behind the results is unknown, but that it may result from exercise causing a reduction in vascular disease. ... It could be that these people are still developing plaques [deposits in the brain which cause Alzheimer's] but exercise is stopping them from having strokes - so they are not showing clinical symptoms of dementia."

Therapeutic Cloning Confirmation (January 16 2006)
Good groundwork is reported in a Newswise release: "Scientists generally agree that all cloned animals are biologically flawed. But they don't agree about what that means for stem cells derived from cloned embryos, the basis for therapeutic cloning. ... Also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, therapeutic cloning is a promising approach to create individually customized cellular therapies for treating certain disorders. Demonstrated in mice but not in humans, it begins with stem cells derived from a cloned embryo. But if cloned embryos can't produce normal organisms, how can they produce normal stem cells? Analyzing the complete gene-expression profiles of both cloned and fertilization-derived stem cells in mice, [scientists] now have concluded that the two are, in fact, indistinguishable. ... This paper demonstrates clearly that it doesn't matter if a stem cell has been derived from a cloned embryo or from a fertilized embryo."

Mathematics of Physical Immortality (January 16 2006)
Jay Fox is blogging more regularly once more. The first part - the introduction - to an essay on the mathematics of physical immortality is up at Longevity First: "Living longer, even just a few years, could mean the difference between having access to a breakthrough medical treatment that will add 10-20 years to your life, or not having access to it. And that 10-20 years could be the difference between having access to the next big breakthrough, adding even more decades to your life ... In other words, losing 20 pounds and exercising three times a week could be all it takes [aside from advances in medicine] to add 30 or 50 years to your lifespan. In fact, if medical progress is fast enough, losing those 20 pounds could be the difference between living to 65 or living to 165, or even 1,065." Staying ahead of the curve of medical advances is also known as actuarial escape velocity.



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