LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
June 26 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.
- Illustration and Design Volunteers Wanted
- Comment on Superlongevity and Boredom
- Resources, Persuasion and Changing the World
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
ILLUSTRATION AND DESIGN VOLUNTEERS WANTED
Are you a skilled professional in the area of graphics, illustrations, prints or design work? Are you in a position to volunteer time over the next few months - enough time to get a good job done - to one or more projects aimed at advancing advocacy for healthy life extension research? If so, the Methuselah Foundation would like to hear from you.
A number of high-impact Foundation projects presently underway - and yet to be revealed on the Foundation website or to the wider public - would benefit greatly from the attention of professional, skilled artists, illustrators and graphic designers. If you would like to add your stamp to the developing future of longer, healthier lives and widespread public support for healthy life extension research, now is the time to speak up.
Exiting times are ahead!
COMMENT ON SUPERLONGEVITY AND BOREDOM
Mark Walker is requesting comments on an early draft of a paper on superlongevity and boredom:
"'Superlongevity' may be thought of as doubling (or more) the human lifespan through the use of technology. Critics have argued that superlongevity will inevitably lead to boredom, while proponents have denied this claim. Rather than attempting to resolve the debate through theoretical speculation, I argue that allowing persons to become superlongevitists can be construed as an experiment to decide this issue. Further, the moral benefits of conducting the experiment greatly outweigh the moral costs of not running the experiment."
Yes, run the experiment! Frankly, I find it disturbing that it is considered unremarkable to write that people be "allowed" to live - the presumption of control by unaccountable government employees has gone many times too far in this society. Long-time readers will no doubt recall my further thoughts on both this matter and boredom; follow the links below to read them again:
RESOURCES, PERSUASION AND CHANGING THE WORLD
Vast, privately owned resources that could change the world for the better - by defeating age-related degeneration - exist already, but are devoted to other purposes. We have a voice with which to persuade. From this start, folk like you and I can gather, speak, and change the world:
We can achieve this goal - and if we want everyone we know to live much longer, healthier lives, we must step up and take action. The future is what you can persuade it to be.
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/
Presenting the Electric Hematon (June 25 2006)
(From PhysOrg.com). A growing breadth of approaches are emerging within the field of tissue engineering. Scientists "have developed a new technique which uses electricity to engineer human tissue. They now believe it may have the potential to engineer bespoke bone marrow. ... The technique, which uses electric fields to build up layers of cells to form a tissue, is being used to create Hematons - aggregates of blood producing cells essential in the function of healthy bone marrow. ... If we can perfect this technique then it may one day be possible to create artificial bone marrow outside the body and produce any given blood type ... By varying the voltage and using different electrode shapes, cells can be positioned and stacked on top of each other in any pattern. Different electric fields can also be used to attract different types of cells. Most importantly, cells can be kept alive and active."
Answering an Amyloid Beta Question (June 25 2006)
Better science leads to better tools that allow for better science. EurekAlert provides a snapshot of this feedback loop in action in Alzheimer's research. Most of us have heard of the buildup of amyloid beta (Abeta) and its connection with this neurodegenerative disease, but it is still an open question as to whether the buildup is due to greater production or failure to break down amyloid. "Because Alzheimer's symptoms take many years to develop, some researchers had assumed that the creation and clearance rates for Abeta were very slow. But the initial test of the new technique [suggest] Abeta has the second-fastest production rate of any protein whose production rate has been measured so far. In a time span of about six or seven hours, you make half the amyloid beta found in your central nervous system." Many other basic questions remain unanswered - but the tools of modern biotechnology are becoming far more capable with each passing year.
Reading Up On Sarcopenia (June 24 2006)
From the Journal of Endocrinology, a good preprint review paper (with full PDF available) on what scientists know about the biochemistry of sarcopenia: "This review describes the major hormonal factors that determine the balance between human skeletal muscle anabolism and catabolism in health and disease, with specific reference to age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia). The molecular mechanisms associated with muscle hypertrophy are described, and the central role of the satellite [stem] cell highlighted. ... The increasingly recognised role of myostatin, a negative regulator of muscle function, is described, as well as its potential as a therapeutic target. Strategies to counter age-related sarcopenia thus represent an exciting field of future investigation."
Stem Cells and the Immune System (June 24 2006)
Biochemistry is always more complex than you think. Via Medical News Today, we learn that our stem cells are very involved in the immune response: "marrow stem cells -- undifferentiated cells that eventually give rise to the blood cells that fight infection -- possess receptors that recognize bacteria and viruses. When activated, these receptors kick the stem cells and immature blood cells into action, enlisting them to help fight whatever pathogen is attacking the body." This opens the door to possible methods of controlling, enhancing or repairing the aging immune system. "It may be possible to boost immunity when necessary and also shut down inappropriate responses. That could provide a powerful tool to fight cancer, lupus and many other diseases."
Spreading Vitrification Research (June 23 2006)
No-one really wants to die and be vitrified to await a possible - plausible - future in which medical technology can repair damage and restore life. On the other hand, a sensible person will choose this over a future as worm food, forever dead and beyond the reach of any future science. Cryonics is an insurance policy against dying before the arrival of real anti-aging technologies, and as such we should pay attention to cryopreservation science: "the fact that in aqueous solution, the water component can be slowly supercooled to the glassy state and warmed back without the crystallization implies that, in principle, if the suitable cyroprotectant is created, cells in plants and living matter could withstand a large supercooling and survive." Vitrification science is already progressing well, but is not well known - as illustrated by the lack of awareness in this press release. Still, press releases and media attention are a part of spreading scientific knowledge nowadays; if it means more attention is given to the cryonics industry, all to the better.
Inducing Nerve Regrowth (June 23 2006)
Scientists are making progress in using existing biochemical signalling mechanisms to induce regeneration where none would normally have happened. Via Chron.com, more on progress in nerve regrowth: "Scientists have used stem cells and a soup of nerve-friendly chemicals to not just bridge a damaged spinal cord but actually regrow the circuitry needed to move a muscle, helping partially paralyzed rats walk. ... This is an important first step, but it really is a first step, a proof of principle that you can rewire part of the nervous system ... the new research details a complex recipe of growth factors and other chemicals that entice the delicate cells to form correctly and make the right connections. Miss a single ingredient, and the cells wander aimlessly, unable to reach the muscle and make it move." These are the first steps on a very long and complex road - but progress has been very encouraging in recent years.
Research Bans in Australia (June 22 2006)
Via The Scientist, a reminder that those despicable vermin known as "politicians" are never happier than when using force to take away your freedoms. In this case, the freedom of research, a subset of the vital freedom to own and do as you wish with property - and the only way forward to better our health and longevity. "Australian stem cell researchers got some bad news today when newspapers reported that senior ministers in the national government are going to ignore the advice of an independent review that had recommended somatic cell nuclear transfer be permitted for research." This is a very important baseline technology for the future of regenerative medicine and embryonic stem cell research to develop cures for age-related diseases. If your property rights only exist at the convenience of flawed, venal people in positions of power, then you are, in truth, a slave.
Progress For Parkinson's Research (June 22 2006)
Via HHMI News, a fairly detailed look at progress towards better therapies for Parkinson's disease: "researchers have pinpointed defects in a critical cellular pathway that can lead to the death of dopamine-producing nerve cells and ultimately symptoms of Parkinson's disease. They have also used several animal models of the disease to identify a new way to rescue dying neurons. ... the findings give important clues to why dopamine-producing neurons in the brain are the most vulnerable neurons ... We have found compounds that reverse [this cause of damage], and we plan to publish those results soon ... [researchers] have not by any means proven that this mechanism of pathology or the compounds that affect it are relevant to humans. However, given the fact that we've found the same results in yeast, flies, worms and rat neurons, I would be very surprised if we didn't find that they were relevant in humans."
Blood Vessels From Stem Cells (June 21 2006)
As a counterpart to recent work on dedifferentiating blood cells into stem cells, scientists are taking steps in the other direction: culturing blood vessels from stem cells. EurekAlert notes that researchers "have successfully differentiated the stem cells into myocytes, one of the building blocks of blood vessels ... scientists hope to be able to eventually grow whole blood vessels that can be transplanted back into mice. ... Tissue-engineered blood vessels have also seen some success when transplanted into animal models, but still face a variety of limitations, [key] among them rejection by the immune system. By creating a tissue-engineered blood vessel grown from a patient's own stem cells, this rejection could potentially be eliminated ... Our goal is to derive all the different cell types from the same, original cell. This would be new for an engineered tissue. We hope our work with mouse stem cells could eventually be translated to human autologous adult stem cells."
Dedifferentiation Progress (June 21 2006)
(From EurekAlert). A privately funded venture claims significant progress towards dedifferentiating blood cells into stem cells and then using them to build tissue. We've heard this before to no great result, but it'll be the real deal sooner rather than later: "The idea is to revert a patient's blood cells to the stem cell stage and then chemically nudge them to re-specialise into particular tissue types that can be implanted to heal damaged tissue. A huge advantage over using donated tissue is that the transplant would be 'autologous' - made of the patient's own cells, thus avoiding immune rejection ... [Pharmafrontiers] now claims to have refined a way to produce stem cells from white blood cells called monocytes and develop them into many different tissue types including, crucially, insulin-producing cells."
Sirtuins and Acetate Metabolism (June 20 2006)
Those following the ongoing investigations of calorie restriction biochemistry, metabolism and potential gains in healthy longevity may find this interesting: "sirtuins directly controlled the two-member class of enzymes called AceCSs (for acetyl-CoA synthetases) ... This reversible process transformed the AceCSs into a form that allows the body to utilize the small fatty acid called acetate. ... Acetate can be very important in animals as an energy source ... In humans, acetate can be obtained from the diet and as a by product of other metabolic processes. However, it is believed that we don't generally rely on it heavily as an energy source. ... it's not clear what role acetate metabolism may play in the little-understood sirtuin molecular system that seems to confer so many advantages, but a connection to diabetes and aging does exist. Studies from the 1960s and early 1990s showed that diabetics and aged individuals exhibit a decreased ability to utilize acetate."
Turning Off Cellular Senescence (June 20 2006)
Chemical & Engineering News offers more insight into recent Korean research relating to the manipulation of cellular senescence: "Korean researchers have found a complex thiourea derivative that can extend the lifetime of mammalian cells and reverse cellular aging. ... CGK733 was discovered by screening a library of 20,000 synthetic molecules for their effects on aging cells ... CGK733 is an example of what many scientists hope will be a trend: the identification of small molecules to mimic more cumbersome genetic interventions to regulate cellular behavior." Cellular senescence has little to do with the common meaning of the term "senescence" in relation to degenerative aging. A longer examination of this research and its significance can be found at Fight Aging!
More Biopacemaker Research (June 19 2006)
A number of teams are presently working on ways to replace artificial pacemakers with biological solutions: researchers "have now taken preliminary steps toward using a patient's own cells instead of a pacemaker, marking the first time tissue-engineering methods have been used to create electrically conductive tissue for the heart. ... [scientists] obtained skeletal muscle from rats and isolated muscle precursor cells called myoblasts. They 'seeded' the myoblasts onto a flexible scaffolding material made of collagen, creating a 3-dimensional bit of living tissue that could be surgically implanted in the heart. ... When the engineered tissue was implanted into rats, between the right atrium and right ventricle, the implanted cells integrated with the surrounding heart tissue and electrically coupled to neighboring heart cells. ... The implants remained functional through the animals' lifespan (about 3 years)."
Kurzweil: Reprogramming Biology (June 19 2006)
At Scientific American, Ray Kurzweil opines on the prospects for reprogramming our biology for far greater healthy longevity: "We are now beginning to understand biology as a set of information processes, and we're developing realistic models and simulations of how the processes involved in disease and aging progress. Moreover, we are developing the tools to reprogram them. ... Human life expectancy was only 37 years in 1800. Such technologies as sanitation, antibiotics, and other medical advances have more than doubled it in 200 years. Our ability to reprogram the information processes of biology will dramatically increase it again, but this progression will be much faster because of the inherent acceleration of information technology. I expect that within 15 years, we'll be adding more than a year each year to remaining life expectancy. So my advice is: take care of yourself the old-fashioned way for a while longer and you may get to experience the remarkable century ahead."