LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
April 24 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.
- Surveying the Healthy Life Extension Community
- Help Promote the Open Letter on Aging Research
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
SURVEYING THE HEALTHY LIFE EXTENSION COMMUNITY
Ben Best, a familiar name to many of you, I'm sure, has been running surveys of the healthy life extension community of late. I think this sort of thing is an excellent idea; there has been a great deal of growth in the past few years, and much of the old wisdom about the boundaries and viewpoints of our community is sadly dated. I may be just as wrong as the next person when if comes to talking about the community - but how to tell unless you get out there and ask all the new folk? You can find out more about Best's latest surveys (and results) in this Fight Aging! post:
You can take his latest survey, if you haven't done so already, here:
While on the subject of Ben Best, I should recommend you take a look at his long-standing, frequently updated articles on healthy life extension:
In particular, "Why Life Extension" is an excellent resource to pass along to those friends and family resistant to the idea of living a much longer healthy life:
HELP PROMOTE THE OPEN LETTER ON AGING RESEARCH
The Scientists' Open Letter on Aging Research is not, in my opinion at least, receiving the press attention it deserves. This is surprising, because a quick and easy popular article really writes itself from the letter as it stands:
Perhaps the problem is that the passing journalist doesn't understand just how much of a break with conservatism this is for mainstream gerontology and medical science. Some press folk clearly get it:
So how about the rest? I offer a simple suggestion at the link above: we all know of at least one journalist who writes on health or scientific research. Find their contact information and send a polite pointer to the Open Letter, together with an explanation as to why it's such a big deal. Easy, quick, and it certainly can't hurt.
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/
Biochemical Judo (April 23 2006)
Some of the best medical research today makes use of existing biochemical mechanisms and cellular systems within the body - let them do the heavy lifting for a therapy that is comparatively simple to put in place. Here is an example of the type from a study on rats published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery: "Our data demonstrate that intravenously infused embryonic stem cell-derived cells homed to the [damaged] heart, improved cardiac function, and enhanced regional blood flow at 6 weeks after myocardial infarction. ... such a homing mechanism could be associated with locally released cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor [alpha], that are upregulated in the setting of acute myocardial infarction and heart failure." Inject stem cells, get results - there are many hurdles (and years) between here and commercialized, reliable therapies of this sort, but I can think of worse goals to aim for.
Early Regenerative Medicine For Hair (April 23 2006)
From the Independent, a look at progress towards first generation stem cell based therapies for hair regrowth: "Hair is grown by the dermal papilla cells in skin. These can be removed and grown in a laboratory dish. Normally,these lab cells lose their ability to grow hairs, but add keratinocyte stem cells to the dermal papilla cells and the new cells are able to grow hairs when injected back into a bald head. Because no drugs are involved, and the human cells are unmodified, there are no side effects. New growth should become evident after three months. It should work on people too bald for a hair transplant and on women, whose hair thins out rather than being lost in a receding hairline. ... This month phase two trials - to discover the most effective dose - begin on 50 people ... Scientists at Intercytex are trying to create a cell bank to allow cells to be transferred from one individual to another."
To Engineer an Eardrum (April 22 2006)
Tissue engineers are, by necessity, starting with the less complex jobs - which in and of itself is still a list of impressive feats that will greatly improve medicine and health. Via POST Newspapers: scientists are "closer to growing artificial eardrums to replace those damaged by explosions, trauma and infection. Already they have been the first in the world to successfully harvest and grow eardrum cells - called keratinocytes - in a test tube. ... In the next five years we hope to be able to replace a hole in an eardrum with a functional, artificial eardrum ... This would be done by taking a small piece of a patient's own damaged eardrum tissue - to reduce chances of later rejection - and from it growing new cells on a mesh in the laboratory ... Within a few weeks, the new tissue could be given to a surgeon who could use it to patch the hole."
Support For Antagonistic Pleiotropy (April 22 2006)
PhysOrg.com reports on work lending support to the contributions of antagonistic pleiotropy to the the evolution of aging: "A theory which says that reproductive success in early life will lead to faster ageing later has been supported by the study of mute swans (Cygnus olor) which shows that those swans which reproduce early in life also stopped breeding early, and vice versa. Which pattern a swan adopts appears to be genetically inherited. ... The important thing about this study is it shows that this link between the age at which you start reproducing and the age at which you stop is actually genetic. If you carry genes which will make you start reproducing early, you also carry genes which will make you stop early. It's what we call an 'evolutionary trade-off.'" There is some fundamental aspect of the way in which we are put together that produces this trade-off. A biological system optimized to succeed more rapidly is (usually) one that breaks down more rapidly.
Proposition 71 Legal Update (April 21 2006)
For those who are following Proposition 71 in California, news from SFGate.com: "A Hayward judge rejected legal challenges to California's $3 billion stem cell research program Friday in a ruling that, if upheld on appeal, would clear a major obstacle that has kept the funds on hold for more than a year. The [decision] does not immediately release the flood of research money state voters approved in 2004 ... The funding stream -- as much as $300 million a year for about 10 years -- will come from the sale of state bonds. But the state treasurer's office has delayed the bond sale, because most investors will insist on a final resolution of all appeals in the case before purchasing the securities. And the plaintiffs have vowed in the past to pursue appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court."
More CR Human Interest (April 21 2006)
A calorie restriction (CR) human interest piece from the Baltimore Sun: "Scientific studies in the 1930s showed that mice on an extremely low-calorie but healthful diet lived 30 percent longer and also seemed to age more slowly. Ever since, researchers have been trying to figure out whether a [calorie restricted] diet that was also rich in nutrients would extend human life. Further animal studies and research on small groups of humans have been encouraging, and this month scientists at Louisiana State University reported an extremely low-calorie diet can reduce the DNA damage of aging. ... News stories about the science of calorie restriction often focus on practitioners who eat almost nothing and whose weight is dramatically lower than what's considered normal. But many people who believe it will extend life practice calorie restriction to a lesser degree."
The Problems of Ignorance (April 20 2006)
If economic ignorance is the death of cultures, scientific ignorance is probably not too far behind. How do you engineer support for scientific paths to far longer, healthier lives when the average listener is not equipped to judge the merits of your proposal? The very existence of the noisesome "anti-aging" marketplace is an illustration of the consequences - desire and demand without discrimination. More thoughts on this topic and related battlegrounds via PLoS Biology: "Even though the scientific community can feel besieged by this anti-science sentiment most people really haven't made up their mind about this issue and, in fact, really haven't even thought about it ... When Americans are diagnosed with cancer or some other life-threatening disease, 'the vast number of these people go online and learn more science in the next 12 months than a typical undergraduate will ever learn. It is impressive how much people can learn with the proper motivation.'"
Economist on Calorie Restriction (April 20 2006)
The Economist takes a look at the science of calorie restriction: "The CALERIE study is a landmark in the history of the field, because its subjects were either of normal weight or only slightly overweight. Previous projects have used individuals who were clinically obese, thus confusing the unquestionable benefits to health of reducing obesity with the possible advantages of calorie restriction to the otherwise healthy. At a molecular level, CALERIE suggests these advantages are real. For example, those on restricted diets had lower insulin resistance (high resistance is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes) and lower levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (high levels are a risk factor for heart disease). They showed drops in body temperature and blood-insulin levels - both phenomena that have been seen in long-lived, calorie-restricted animals. They also suffered less oxidative damage to their DNA."
More Promising Data (April 19 2006)
You might recall the promising demographic data published earlier this year, showing a trend upwards in health and life expectancy. Via ABC News, here is the flip side of that same data: "In what appears to be an amazing success for American medicine, preliminary government figures released Wednesday showed that the annual number of deaths in the U.S. dropped by nearly 50,000 in 2004 the biggest decline in nearly 70 years. The 2 percent decrease, reported by the National Center for Health Statistics, came as a shock to many, because the U.S. is aging, growing in population and getting fatter. ... the statistics, based on a review of about 90 percent of death records reported in all 50 states in 2004, were consistent across the country and were deemed solid enough to report. The center said drops in the death rates for heart disease, cancer and stroke accounted for most of the decline. ... We were surprised by the sharpness of the decrease. It's kind of historical."
Stem Cell Transplant Trial (April 19 2006)
From CBS 2 Chicago, a reminder that the development of more sophisticated stem cell transplant therapies is proceeding in parallel with first generation stem cell medicine that uses the patient's own cells: "Phil has volunteered for a procedure he hopes will reverse the damage to his heart and prevent or delay congestive heart failure down the road. ... It's called the Osiris trial. Healthy stem cells from an adult donor's bone marrow are given through an ordinary IV line. Because they're in an early stage of development, Phil's body won't reject them. They'll be able to find their way to his heart. ... The hope is they can differentiate, or change into functional heart muscle, and repair and regenerate the heart tissue that's been damaged by the heart attack."
Common Sense on Exercise (April 18 2006)
If you want a shot at living into the era of working anti-aging technologies and greatly extended healthy life spans, you have to take care of the basics today. Expecting the advance of medicine to save you from negligence will only result in disappointment - and suffering and death. Here, AZCentral covers the benefits of exercise; do you know how much damage you're doing to yourself by not keeping up? "There are many systems in the body affected in a good way by physical activity ... Markers of aging that activity can correct include everything from badly controlled blood glucose to increased risk for chronic disease ... Exercise also reduces clotting of the blood, further improving blood flow and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. And it can stimulate the growth of new capillaries in the brain, heart and skeletal muscles."
Stem Cell Research at CNN (April 18 2006)
From a CNN article on stem cell research: "Ultimately it should be possible to use stem cells to replace any other cells in the body that have been damaged or harmed by accident and disease. Many scientists believe the treatment of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease could ultimately benefit from stem cell research, along with strokes, heart disease, cancer and birth defects. ... We believe that stem cells have uses in diabetes patients where they have lost the ability to make insulin. ... There are things called mesenchymal stem cells which can be found in the bone marrow can replace cartilage. ... stem cells may have a role in heart patients as well. 'Bone marrow stem cells are now being used to repair hearts of people who have had myocardial infarctions.' [Repairing bone] will be conquered in the next few years. ... These are big unmet clinical needs, and we believe these are needs which can be met by stem cells in the next few years."
On Younger Mothers and Longevity (April 17 2006)
One can draw a nice line between the Reliability Theory of aging developed by Leonid Gavrilov and Natalia Gavrilova and their present research reported in Forbes: "The odds of living to 100 and beyond double when a person is born to a woman under 25 years of age, compared to those people born to older mothers, according to one of the most rigorous studies on the subject yet conducted. The finding may also help clear up a statistical mystery -- three years ago, the same husband-and-wife team of researchers found that being the first-born child in a family also boosted longevity, although no one knew why." This would suggest that the accumulated cellular damage of aging leads to a greater initial load of damage in offspring born to older mothers - and hence differences in longevity. Exactly what form that damage takes remains to be discovered, but we can all hope that future biotechnology will render accidents of birth - and aging itself - moot.
Looking to the Future (April 17 2006)
This CNN piece places advancing medicine and longevity clearly at the center of the story of technology to come in the 21st century: "Now imagine what life might be like in the future. Go ahead. Close your eyes. You'll be healthier than ever and you'll potentially live much longer, thanks to individualized medicine made possible by genetic testing and a growing understanding of human biology. Diabetics will undergo stem cell therapy to replace the islet cells in their pancreas. Or perhaps they'll just get a whole new pancreas, grown from their own stem cells. People will recover from traumatic accidents, through either biological or technical means. Artificial limbs will provide tactile sensory feedback directly to the nervous system, and will be made, partially or completely, from organic materials. Nanotechnology will provide tiny machines that will revolutionize industry and manufacturing, and will also be deep inside our bodies, repairing damage we may never realize exists."