LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
March 06 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.
- The Third Arm, for Freedom
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
THE THIRD ARM, FOR FREEDOM
We need three arms to make faster progress towards working longevity medicine: one arm to build the technology, one arm to work on advocacy and funding, and one arm to tear down the culture of regulation without limit that is poisoning medical infrastructure in Western democracies.
"The first meeting of the World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research took place in Rome earlier this month. Heart in the right place, but shackling freedom to the modern (increasingly socialist, increasingly bloated, unelected, anything but free) structures of 'representative' democracy seems to be a losing proposition these days. When was the last time you voted on the destructive policies - or existence at all - of the FDA? You are most certainly not free when unelected, unaccountable government employees have veto rights over everything you do and own."
I see organizations like Mike Milken's FasterCures, aiming to defeat infrastructural and political problems that block the advance of medical technology, becoming ever more important in the years ahead:
We know what happens in centralized, highly regulated systems - and it's certainly nothing that looks like progress towards better technologies, new capabilities, greater efficiency and lower costs. Yet look around: medicine in the West is becoming a centralized, highly regulated system in which all the obvious harmful consequences are coming to pass. Unless we take action, this is our future: high costs, rationing, poor service, no competition, no incentives for new research, and no incentives for new commercial products. The engine of progress will come to a halt, and we will all age, suffer and die within an uncaring system that has no reason to improve.
Progress in all things grows from freedom, and living in a democracy should not make you complacent about having to fight to ensure that freedom. Read more about the present sad state of medicinal regulation, freedom of research and your economic freedom to fund and purchase medical technologies as you see fit in the following Fight Aging! posts:
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/
Anti-Research Legalistics (March 05 2006)
An LA Times op-ed looks at the present legal fight over public funding for embryonic stem cell research in California: "parties sometimes advance novel legal theories in a good-faith effort to change the law. Sometimes, however, they make frivolous arguments in an effort to obscure issues or just to create delay. ... The latter strategy is just abusive. The lawsuit challenging Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, is an example of the latter. ... What is most troubling is not that the plaintiffs' arguments lack legal heft but that they no doubt realize this, yet argue anyway. The three groups fighting Proposition 71 - two pro-life associations and an anti-tax organization - are not what you would describe as passionate about technical governance issues. But because they know the state cannot issue the bonds to fund research while litigation is pending, they are using weak legal justifications to delay the inevitable."
New Thinking on Telomerase (March 05 2006)
While the telomere theory of aging is largely discredited, resources presently dedicated to understanding telomeres and telomerase are starting to produce some new thinking: "Lack of telomerase activity in human somatic tissues and concomitant telomere erosion correlate with age-related pathologies. Mouse models either lacking or overexpressing telomerase support the notion that short telomeres cause premature aging. Recent evidence suggests that telomerase might have other functions besides maintaining telomere length. Here, we propose a possible role for telomerase in delaying the aging process, which is independent of telomere length." Who knows where our understand of telomere biochemistry will be five years from now, but it is a hopeful thought that all the groundwork to date could lead to anti-aging technologies after all - as well as, of course, effective cancer therapies.
Five Year Goal: Engineering a Finger (March 04 2006)
Skipping over the politics and posturing in this piece from PittsburghLive, we find this interesting timescale: "Among the consortium's partners are the McGowan Institute, the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative, Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Regenerative Medicine Foundation. The consortium's five-year goal is the creation of a fully functional finger." This is ambitious, but not out of the realm of possibility with the right level of funding. The capabilities of tissue engineers will accelerate greatly once a robust solution to the problem of blood vessels is widely accepted. Fingers are a place to start, but replacements for more vital organs are the path to extended healthy life spans through this field of medicine.
Damaging High Blood Pressure (March 04 2006)
From Forbes, a look at the mechanisms by which high blood pressure can cause ongoing damage to the complex machinery of your body - more damage means more age-related disease sooner in your future. "Blood pressure and vascular disease are associated with dementia. Other researchers have shown that kidney function is a predictor of mortality and of heart attack and stroke. Experts have since been playing with the idea that damage to the small vessels in the kidney and brain as a result of high blood pressure are responsible for these connections. ... Large amounts of white matter in the brain, along with enlarged open areas filled with spinal fluid, appear to be linked to cardiovascular disease and shorter life spans for the elderly. ... It suggests that very tight control of blood pressure throughout life is a major determinant of longevity."
Potassium Channels, Neurodegeneration (March 03 2006)
(From ScienceDaily). Age-related neurodegenerative diseases are failure modes of an exceedingly complex machine - so it shouldn't be surprising to find that many different mechanisms contribute to the sad end result: "[The gene] KCNC3 forms a potassium channel, part of a biochemical mechanism that regulates the electrical impulses of bursting neurons. Although potassium channel mutations have previously been linked to episodic disorders such as seizures, this is the first time they have been identified as causative factors - and potentially therapeutic targets - in neurodegenerative diseases. ... This is the first time neurodegeneration has been directly linked to potassium channel mutations."
A View of Alzheimer's Drug Development (March 03 2006)
Modern insight is informing the old school process of finding chemicals that help more than they harm - this BBC article gives a good idea as to the present state of business: "In tests on mice, the drug, AF267B, reversed the symptoms of memory loss and problems with learning associated with Alzheimer's. ... Further analysis showed it also reduced levels of protein clumps and tangles often found in Alzheimer's patients. ... The drug was developed to activate receptors for a brain chemical called acetylcholine. ... AF267B appears to mimic the action of acetylcholine, binding to its receptors and boosting levels of enzymes involved in breaking down the key protein that forms clumps and tangles in brain cells."
Better Scaffolds, Better Regeneration (March 02 2006)
The Harvard Gazette reports on advances in scaffold technology for regenerative cell therapies: "We transplant the cells on a scaffold that keeps them alive, then directs them to leave in a controlled manner and migrate into the surrounding tissue. This is the first time that has been done. ... I think the basic concept is a very powerful one that will likely have application in humans in some form. We demonstrated the concept with muscle, and this could be useful to treat wounds and, perhaps some day, muscular dystrophy. In addition, it could be very useful in transplantation of cells to the heart to treat coronary artery diseases, to transplant cells that promote blood vessel formation, to transplant cells to the brain to treat various neurological conditions, and to transplant cells to promote bone generation."
Aging Biomarkers For Skin (March 02 2006)
From The Reporter, news of a potential biomarker of aging: "We initiated this project with the idea that perhaps there was a specific mitochondrial DNA deletion signature that would be associated with tumor development in the skin ... Sligh and colleagues were surprised to find a panel of mitochondrial DNA deletions in the tumor-free skin that was adjacent to the tumors, but not in the tumors themselves. ... The mitochondrial DNA mutations in the tumor-free skin correlated with the aging process ... It will be interesting to see if the mitochondrial DNA mutations we've found are markers of aging in other tissues or if they are specific to tissues exposed to ultraviolet light ... the newly identified biomarkers will provide another tool for studying mitochondrial damage that contributes to aging and cancer, and for screening compounds that prevent or reverse the process."
Towards Engineered Blood Vessels (March 01 2006)
(From ScienceDaily). It is encouraging to see continued progress towards tissue engineered blood vessels - vital to continuing development in this field. "Yale biomedical engineers have created an implantable system that can form and stabilize a functional network of fine blood vessels critical for supporting tissues in the body ... For body tissue to survive it must receive oxygen delivered through the finest of blood vessels ... this study shows that the fine network of blood vessels can be formed. Further, detailed microscopic studies showed that the vascular networks were stable as implants for up to six weeks and were able to connect with larger blood vessel structures."
Glenn Reynolds, Healthy Life Extension (March 01 2006)
Glenn Reynolds has penned another TCS Daily article on healthy life extension and longevity research: "Therapies targeted at the fundamental mechanisms of aging will be instrumental in counteracting [age-related pathologies] ... Such research may yield dividends far greater than equal efforts to combat the age-related diseases themselves. As the mechanisms of aging are increasingly understood, increasingly effective interventions can be developed that will help prolong the healthy and productive life-spans of a great many people. ... It seems to me that there's a lot of political support out there waiting to be tapped, for a program that would address the root cause of old age's ills -- the aging process, what the scientists call 'the fundamental mechanisms of aging,' rather than just treating the symptoms." I can't say I'd like to see government involved, but we all know I'm in a minority there.
Decline of the Aging Immune System (February 28 2006)
An interesting review article can be found at Immunity and Aging: "Longitudinal studies are defining progressive alterations to the immune system associated with increased mortality in the very elderly. Many of these changes are exacerbated by or even caused by chronic T cell stimulation by persistent antigen ... Lifelong exposure to chronic antigenic load is the major driving force of immunosenescence, impacting on human lifespan by reducing the number of naive antigen-non-experienced T cells, and, simultaneously, filling the immunological space [with] antigen-experienced T cells. Gradually, the T-cell population shifts to a lower ratio of [non-experienced] cells ... the repertoire of cells available to respond to antigenic challenge from previously unencountered pathogens is shrinking. ... cells from old individuals might recognize a limited set of antigens despite being plentiful in number."
Medical Tourism for Gene Therapy (February 28 2006)
Like so many other fields of modern biotechnology, gene therapy is more commercialized and progressing more rapidly outside increasingly regulated Western regions. From BusinessWeek: "In the West, this experimental branch of biomedicine suffered major setbacks following the death of one patient in a clinical trial in 1999. Other patients later came down with cancer as a result of their added genes, and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration halted a number of trials. That created an opportunity for Chinese researchers. Without the same regulatory obstacles, they were able to take ideas that originated in the U.S. but stagnated there. ... If I were making a long-term investment in biotech, and particularly in gene therapy, I would be making it in China, not here. They have figured out how to get [gene therapy] approved."
60 Minutes on Stem Cell Research (February 27 2006)
60 Minutes recently looked at a small range of embryonic stem cell research: "These are the cells that go to make up the heart muscle cells ... They all started out as cells from embryos. With the potential to develop into any type cell. Robbins hopes to one day inject the cells, which actually beat like a heart, into someone whose heart has suffered some kind of damage. In theory, those cells would then replace the damaged part of the heart. Robbins and his team injected cells like those directly into the hearts of mice with severe cardiac disease. The researchers then tracked the cells and determined that they had stayed in the heart and that the cells were all beating in unison. After six weeks, the new heart cells had replaced the damaged ones, and heart function was restored to near normal. ... I would say that it's at least five to 10 years away before I think that we will have enough definitive data in animal studies that it will be safe to go forward with embryonic stem cells."
More Tissue Engineering Progress (February 27 2006)
(From EurekAlert). The production of blood vessels is one major obstacle to the creation of larger engineered replacement tissue, such as organs or portions of organs. Progress is being made, however: "With heart disorders affecting individuals globally and contributing to increasing mortality rates, there has been a need to develop new treatment options. One of the specific challenges in the field of tissue engineering is to produce blood vessels within heart muscle tissue. In this study, the researchers were successful in this task. Their live models showed significant improvement in heart function, particularly in the amount of vascularization throughout the implanted sections. Further, the tissue engineered construct remained viable even after the three-week implantation period, maintaining cardiac specific function."