Longevity Meme Newsletter, April 03 2006

April 03 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.



- Rejuvenation Research, Free and Open
- Economic Thinking Will Keep You Alive
- Prove Eric Boyd Right
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


The most recent issue of Rejuvenation Research - formerly the Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine, prior to Aubrey de Grey taking over as editor-in-chief - is now free for downloading and perusal. Some of the highlights are noted and linked in this Fight Aging! post:


The publisher, Mary Ann Liebert, was a touch slow in noticing all the press attention generated by Aubrey de Grey in recent months. They are now cheerfully taking advantage of it all, however - riding the wave is half the battle in the publishing world. Fortunately, everyone benefits when content is freely available; I encourage you to direct your friends to the editorial, for example (PDF format, of course):



Economic knowledge is really all about identifying incentives and understanding how people will respond to them. This is only boring when you're not benefiting from its application - which is to say that all the most interesting economics is, ultimately, personal. Macro or micro, how does it affect you, and how can your understanding of the way the world works lead you to smarter decisions?


You must save and invest, or die. This is harsh, but true. You will not be saving for nursing homes, however, or other equally unappetizing twilight scenarios of decay and suffering. Rather, you will be saving to afford the first and second generations of working anti-aging medicine, therapies and technologies capable of repairing age-related damage and extending your healthy life span. These will not be cheap at first, but even modest savings can net very large gains over a lifetime of diversified investment. You will need those funds. Folk have a way of believing that governments can create something from nothing, but governments are not magical entities capable of flouting basic economic truths. You shouldn't count on other people's taxes funding your healthy life extension - there is no free lunch, and certainly no free medicine. If you want to live healthily for longer, you will have to make sensible decisions - and work for it:



Eric Boyd sent this to me in response to my comments last week on the MPrize for anti-aging research and why we should all sign up for The Three Hundred:

"I have been trying to get up my dedication to join The 300, but it's a lot of money. I gave a little last year. In order to motivate/bind myself to join The 300 I have created a pledge:


"With promotion on your blog I am sure that we can achieve this pledge. Help me cure aging!"

I am always very encouraged when I see people of modest means taking steps to help the mission of the Methuselah Foundation - hundreds have done so already, leading to real progress in the past few years. Imagine what thousands of donations and helping hands could accomplish! This is exactly the sort of thing that a Web2.0 service like PledgeBank is intended to enable. So I said as much at Fight Aging!, and I encourage you all to think about making your own modest contributions to the future of meaningful anti-aging research:


After all, we are the ones who create the future - the odds of our living to see an era of healthy life extension technologies are the odds that we ourselves create through action and inaction. If you want to live a much longer, healthier life, lend a hand!



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/

Chris Phoenix on Future Medicine (April 02 2006)
Some thoughts on trends in medicine, conceptual and practical, from Chris Phoenix of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology: "Medicine today is essentially a fight to maintain a reasonably healthy status quo. Stasis is a good thing; any change from health is disease, which is to be combated. This is a very Guardian worldview. ... Is there a connection between the Guardian approach to disease, and the Guardian approach to the business side of medicine? I strongly suspect that there is. ... What would happen if science developed the ability to make people healthier than healthy? What if medicine could change from fighting disease to actually improving the lives of healthy people? ... Perhaps doctors will continue to focus on fighting disease. Unfortunately, they may also fight the advances that researchers outside the medical system will make with increasing frequency."

Gene Vaccination Versus Amyloid-Beta (April 02 2006)
Science Daily reports on progress towards turning our immune systems against amyloid beta, the protein that forms plaques in Alzheimer's disease: "By pressure-injecting the gene responsible for producing the specific protein -- called amyloid-beta 42 -- the researchers caused the mice to make antibodies and greatly reduce the protein's build-up in the brain. ... While the mice were young, the scientists coated microscopically small gold particles with human amyloid-beta 42 genes attached to other genes that program cells to make the protein. The particles were then injected with a gene gun into the skin cells of the mice's ears using a blast of helium. After receiving 11 injections over several months, the mice showed a high level of antibodies to amyloid-beta 42, and a 60 percent to 77.5 percent reduction of plaques in their brains."

Pigment and Macular Degeneration (April 01 2006)
You might recall recent investigations into the genetics of age-related macular degeneration, as well as the recent discovery of a common genetic root to the condition. Meanwhile, scientists are looking at other common processes in this condition: "Researchers are measuring [a] macular pigment that sits on the retina at the fovea ... This pigment is thought to protect the retina from damage by light and excess oxidation ... It may be that once you go beyond 60, which is the age when macular degeneration typically starts developing, the pigment is depleted for several reasons, including increased oxidative stress and a poor diet, both associated with an increase in age ... It makes biological sense that if you are really deficient in macular pigment that you will get macular degeneration."

Engineered Cell Sheets (April 01 2006)
Tissue engineers are on their way over the obstacles posed by the need for blood vessels in larger engineered tissue masses: "Cardiac cells grown in the laboratory as cell sheets can be layered to form myocardial tissue grafts which, when transplanted into animals, will beat like normal cardiac muscle and can survive and function for at least a year ... assessing the growth, morphological development, and functional capacity of the bioengineered tissue the researchers demonstrated its ability to beat in response to electrical stimulation and to form vascular networks, ensuring an adequate blood supply. They confirmed the survival of the pulsatile myocardial tissue at the site of implantation up to one year later." A broad range of regenerative cell therapies and engineered replacement parts for the heart are presently under development; a very good thing, I think.

More and Better Multipotency? (March 31 2006)
No doubt needled by recent press attention given to multipotent adult stem cells in mice, PrimeGen Biotech claims that their mouse model "is similar to that referenced in an article published by German researchers ... But PrimeGen is further along - company researchers have already begun creating therapeutically viable cell lines from human tissue. ... PrimeGen describes the first evidence of isolation and therapeutic reprogramming of adult human germ line stem cells into heart, brain, cartilage and bone cells. ... We are very pleased to see that the laboratory in Germany has independently confirmed our results - which we first described and presented in Singapore in 2005 - on the therapeutic reprogramming of post-natal germ cells." Posturing aside, basic research for stem cell based regenerative medicine is certainly picking up speed.

Telomolecular (March 31 2006)
Phoenix Biomolecular isn't the only company digging into aging and the manipulation of telomere length, it seems. "Telomolecular develops nanotechnologies capable of delivering large-molecule proteins across human cell membranes. The corporation's primary focus is on the delivery of therapeutic agents that lengthen and repair chromosomal telomeres in living animals. Successful therapies based on this tactic may offset, and potentially reverse, many devastating age-related diseases and perhaps address the symptoms and signs recognized as human aging. ... the coporation intends to develop pharmaceutical products that deliver in vivo variant of telomerase reverse transcriptase (vTERT), and other agents known to lengthen chromosomal telomeres." The telomere theory of aging is largely discredited, but the ability to manipulate telomeres is likely to be very important in tackling cancer and some other age-related conditions.

Distinction Without a Difference? (March 30 2006)
Thoughts from the Speculist: "Dr. Kirkwood is a gerontologist with a very impressive resume. So it's discouraging to to see him discounting the possibility of life extension. ... I support efforts to devise 'better ways to age' the same way I support efforts to devise better ways to hit yourself in the head with a hammer. Both projects would be good, but wouldn't it be better to avoid the underlying activity? ... 'better ways to age' and 'life extension' is a distinction without a difference. ... But any treatment that directly addresses the aging problem - something that slows degeneration - will extend life. Unless Kirkwood's hopes are limited to palliatives like Viagra and Rogaine, 'better ways to age' is just 'life extension' by another name." Some unfortunately influential aging apologists discount gains in longevity when discussing "successful aging" or the like, but I don't think Kirkwood is one of them.

Longer Lives a Reality (March 30 2006)
The Sydney Morning Herald on aging, life span and healthy life extension: "We have people living now who are older than we've ever had. The question is whether we've done anything about the ageing process or we're treating diseases more effectively. People in their 70s are healthier than they were 50 years ago but, on the other hand, I don't see, unless we do something about ageing, that, 20 years from now, a 70- or an 80-year-old person will be any healthier than they are now. ... quality of life will not improve dramatically until scientists look further at the mechanisms behind, rather than the symptoms of, ageing. ... Until the past five years, there was not a lot of interest in putting money into ageing research - one reason was the belief that you couldn't do anything about it." It is clearly the case that we can do something about it - we should move ahead as rapidly as possible to alleviate the outrage that is age-related suffering and death.

Genetics of Metastasis (March 29 2006)
(From EurekAlert). Researchers "have discovered an additional member of the S100 family of protein genes - S100P - that causes the spread of cancerous cells from an original tumour to other parts of the body. ... To date, three other metastasis-inducing genes have been discovered - S100A4, osteopontin, and more recently, AGR2. ... Metastagenes are fundamental to this process and can be found in most common cancers, including breast, lung and colon. If these genes are over-expressed in the cancerous tumour, early death of the patient is much more likely. The next major step is to develop drugs that will switch off the action of these genes." While neurodegenerative diseases are likely to be the long-term obstacle to radical life extension, cancer is the toughest near-term threat. The closer scientists come to uncovering and understanding common mechanisms, the more likely we are to see effective prevention and cure within the next decade.

Multipotent Periosteal Cells (March 29 2006)
Via EurekAlert, news of another multipotent stem cell population, grist for the mill of research into regenerative cell therapies: "Samples of periosteal cells were obtained from the tibia of 12 human donors, ranging in age from 24 to 83 years. Following enzymatic release and culture expansion, cell populations were tested for telltale markers of [Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)], as well as for their growth and differentiation potential. ... Regardless of donor age, periosteal cells expanded extensively, steadily maintaining growth curves over at least 30 population doublings. They also displayed the hallmarks of MSCs, including long telomeres, the sections of DNA at the end of a chromosome. What's more, the results of the animal experiments proved that expanded periosteal MSCs can contribute to muscle regeneration and form cartilage when implanted into a joint surface defect."

DNage (March 28 2006)
DNage is engaged in some interesting work: "In order to study the effect of individual DNA repair enzymes/proteins [reseachers] developed a large series of mouse models in which the genes for several DNA repair proteins were mutated. ... Although, these these models already existed for some time and showed signs of ageing (as did the patients) nobody had made an explicit connection between DNA damage/repair and the fundamental process of ageing. In 2000, Hoeijmakers first realised that the mouse models, which they had generated show all signs of accelerated ageing and that this could be linked to deficiencies in DNA repair mechanisms. ... systematic studies revealed a litany of other characteristics pointing to accelerated ageing, including early development of kyphosis, osteoporosis, neurologic abnormalities, etc." Just as for mitochondrial research, advancing our knowledge of DNA repair as it relates to aging can only be a good thing.

BBC On SENS (March 28 2006)
The BBC looks at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) through the lens of the scientific opposition at the Tomorrow's People event: "Aubrey is trying to generate enthusiasm for a commitment and programme that, in a sense, sidesteps the practical challenges that the science faces. There are really big challenges and we are all aligned in hoping that we can harness the science to improve and extend quality of life, but it doesn't serve any useful purpose to try to extrapolate so far beyond the immediate challenges." Needless to say, there is a contingent in the scientific community who feel this is wrong-headed, and that the science is indeed far ahead of scientific politics within the gerontological community. You don't make progress by shooting down those who forge ahead.

Aubrey de Grey in the Guardian (March 27 2006)
The Guardian interviews biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey: "The therapies he talks about will not be targeting the things that go wrong at the end of life - the degenerative diseases and loss of motor function - but their precursors, the changes that occur throughout life but which are manifested most devastatingly in old age. ... We've spent the last few millennia aware that senescence is horrible but knowing nevertheless that it's inevitable. We've had to find some mechanism to put it out of our minds so we can get on with our miserably short lives. There's nothing wrong with making the best of one's declining years, but what does annoy me is the fatalism. Now that we're seriously in range of finding therapies that actually work against ageing, this apathy, of course, becomes an enormous part of the problem."

RNAi Versus Cancer (March 27 2006)
From a News.com piece on this year's International Business Plan Competition: "SanoGene draws on a discovery by University of Illinois researcher Jasti Rao regarding a new technology called ribonucleic acid interference (RNAi), which blocks gene expression [by] preventing the formation of proteins. RNAi is so new only three companies are experimenting with drugs based on it, but none are targeting cancer. Unlike other drugs on the market, SanoGene's experimental drug targets multiple cell origins of brain tumors, blocking the invasion of cells into other tissue. So far, it has shown extremely positive results for the drug in animal models, according to its founders." It's an insight into what is presently seen as viable biotechnology for commercialization - RNAi today is just about where gene therapy was 10 or 15 years ago.



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