A Few Links of Interest: Podcasts, Resveratrol, Twin Studies

A minor roundup of odds and ends for you folk today:

Podcast: Futures in Biotech, Episode 2: Dr. Leonard P. Guarente on Aging

Why do living things age? What genes influence longevity? Is it possible to extend youthfulness by means of genetic manipulation? What does the aging of a yeast cell have in common with the aging of a human being or a mouse? Dr. Guarente analyzes these tantalizing questions and others in this episode.

Therapeutic potential of resveratrol: the in vivo evidence

Resveratrol, a constituent of red wine, has long been suspected to have cardioprotective effects. Interest in this compound has been renewed in recent years, first from its identification as a chemopreventive agent for skin cancer, and subsequently from reports that it activates sirtuin deacetylases and extends the lifespans of lower organisms. Despite scepticism concerning its bioavailability, a growing body of in vivo evidence indicates that resveratrol has protective effects in rodent models of stress and disease. Here, we provide a comprehensive and critical review of the in vivo data on resveratrol, and consider its potential as a therapeutic for humans.

As I've mentioned before, it's good to see the Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for the Biological Mechanisms of Aging appearing on research papers; the backers are a positive force for change, acceleration and better results in mainstream aging research. As to the paper itself, I'll admit to being a resveratrol skeptic. I'm skeptical in general on whether this sort of direction - metabolic research, supplements, pills, and so forth - is one in which we should be focusing all our attention and resources. If the end goal is the defeat of aging, as opposed to developing some modestly successful therapies for specific age-related diseases, then we need to do much better than this. The bottom line: if you have a much more efficient mechanism, generating unrepaired cellular damage at a lower rate, you will still age, suffer and die. If you are treated with a modestly successful therapy for your age-related disease, you will still age, suffer and die.

Some things to ask yourself about any new supplement backed up by good laboratory work:
  • Do the pills deliver the same potency and compound used in the laboratory?
  • Will your body break it down before it does anything?
  • Has the pill form been demonstrated to have the same (or any) beneficial effects in scientific studies?
  • Is spending time, effort and money on this as effective for your future healthy and longevity as putting the same resources towards serious anti-aging research?

In all fairness, that last question is a tough one - but it is something you should think about. I think that we would all benefit from less time spent on pills and more time spent on advanced medicine: telomeres, stem cells, cancer therapies, mitochondria and real anti-aging medicine.

Twin studies and the damage done by aging:

Identical twins who grow up together share just about everything, including their genes. But sometimes only one twin will have health problems when genetics predicts both of them should.


The advantage of studying twins is that they start out with the exact same genetic information. Therefore, differences in gene expression are attributable to different environmental factors rather than genetics. Such factors could cause a random genetic mutation or affects how DNA is packaged.

"There's a lot of variability in the severity of the disease, symptoms, and the response a patient will have to treatment. Differences in the expression of genes caused by environmental factors that modify DNA have a lot to do with this variability."

Reminders that age-related degeneration is a stochastic process of accumulating damage and resultant failure modes are all around us. We age and fail just like complex machines because we are complex machines.

The rate and type of cellular damage you accumulate over the years will be significantly different from your peers - even your genetically similar peers. All of us would benefit from the development of medical technologies capable of preventing or repairing this damage, however. Even incremental advances along this path will bring benefits to all, but this direction of research is quite different from that aimed at improving metabolic efficiency or reducing the rate at which damage occurs. Repairing cellular damage means the direct path to reversing aging, rather than the present focus on slowing it.

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Of course you are correct on the direction that anti aging research should take. However, stuff like CoQ10 and Resveratrol do have useful effects and serve as "stop-gaps" until we get the real McCoy of biological self-repair technology.

Posted by: Kurt at July 27th, 2006 4:49 PM

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