LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
July 31 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.
- From the Latest Rejuvenation Research
- Forthcoming Conferences of Interest
- Moonlighting at the Methuselah Foundation Blog
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
FROM THE LATEST REJUVENATION RESEARCH
The latest issue of Rejuvenation Research - volume 9, number 3 - is available online; we should feel thankful that we have moved into an era in which respected, high impact factor scientific publications openly support and encourage the development of anti-aging science. This is a sea change from even a decade ago, and a promising sign that volunteer activism can still make a real difference to the path taken by scientific research.
I note a few items from the journal in this Fight Aging! post:
Of greatest interest to me is the work on aging mitochondria, those powerhouses of cells implicated in many age-related conditions and thought to be involved in one root cause of aging. Damaged mitochondria may hurt health by simply not doing their very vital job, or by generating excessive amounts of oxidative stress while working. Either way, your cells will suffer.
A group of Italian researchers have demonstrated - in cell cultures, at least - a comparatively simple way to make cells recycle excess or damaged mitochondria more aggressively, a process known as autophagy. The scientists propose that age-related failure of mitochondrial functions is a function of failing autophagy, and more power to them if they can prove that to be the case.
FORTHCOMING CONFERENCES OF INTEREST
A couple of conferences of interest to the wider healthy life extension community are coming up in the months ahead.
6th Alcor Conference
3rd International Conference on Healthy Aging & Longevity
You can find a little more on each by following the links above, or by reading this Fight Aging! post:
I should note that biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey will be speaking at both the Alcor and TransVision event. I strongly recommend you take the chance to hear him speak in person if you haven't done so already.
You can find a wealth of multimedia interviews and presentations by de Grey online; the SENS website, the MPrize website, and the collection put together by Immortality Institute volunteers are good places to start:
MOONLIGHTING AT THE METHUSELAH FOUNDATION BLOG
I have been helping the Methuselah Foundation volunteers set up a blog and place it in motion in recent weeks:
I am interesting in hearing from supporters and donors in the audience: what sort of posts would you find most helpful, valuable and interesting? Examples might include funded research updates (such as LysoSENS), volunteer profiles, donor profiles, or advance notice and input on publicity campaigns. I'm making no promises as to what will wind up there in the future, but I would like some input as to how folk feel the Foundation should be communicating with us all - so as to better show all the work and progress that goes on behind the scenes.
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/
TIME on Stem Cell Research, Politics (July 30 2006)
For those keeping tabs on stem cell politics - and they way it dominates and twists mainstream reporting of actual science and progress - TIME provides something of an overview: "Not all embryonic-stem-cell lines are created equal. Some are more readily driven down a certain lineage, such as heart cells, while others more easily become nerve. We don't understand how it happens, but it does mean we need diversity. ... researchers announced this summer that they would develop new cell lines through somatic cell nuclear transfer, or therapeutic cloning. ... these cells would match the patient's dna, so the body would be less likely to reject a transplant derived from them. Even more exciting for researchers, however, is that this technique can yield embryos that serve as the perfect disease in a dish, revealing how a disease unfolds from the very first hours." For politics and funding, the article is another biased viewpoint in a world full of biased viewpoints. The field is complex, comparatively well-funded and moving rapidly - but the technical goals are challenging enough without adding meddling politicians to the list.
More Targeted Cancer Therapies (July 30 2006)
A great deal of clever engineering is taking place in the development of new methods of targeting, delivering and activating pinpoint anti-cancer therapies. This technology will have utility in the future - the ability to target very small areas or very specific types of cell in the body opens up all sorts of possibilities throughout medicine. Here is an example via Israel21c: "The two big problems with photodynamic therapy are getting the light-sensitive drug to only target cancer cells, and delivering light to the drug to activate it once it is in the right place. We've uniquely combined two cutting-edge technologies to direct a drug to cancer cells and to generate a light source inside the cells. This stops the drug killing healthy cells ... we've shown in the research that if you take a cell culture and treat it with the light sensitive compound called luminol - it produces chemiluminescence in the cell which activates the light sensitive molecules and kills the cells. ... We're now in the pre-clinical stage using models of leukemia, but we're not limited to that cancer."
More Common Sense On Health (July 29 2006)
Via USA Today: "overweight and obese women spend an average of three more years in ill health than normal-weight women. Heavy men, on average, are sicker one more year than their thinner counterparts. Heavy people are more likely to suffer from pain, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses that may affect their ability to perform daily tasks ... An obese 30-year-old has as many chronic conditions as a normal-weight 50-year-old and reports quality of life that is worse than a 50-year-old." Correlation is not causation; a condition that prevents exercise can lead to weight gain if diet remains unchanged, for example. A look at what scientists understand about fat, inflammation and the roots of age-related disease should be a wake-up call, however. You have a great deal of control over the future trajectory of your health and its costs: make use of it.
Chronic Disease, Reliability Theory (July 29 2006)
The New York Times compares the present day with a past of shorter life spans and even more widespread suffering from age-related disease. "Diseases early in life left people predisposed to chronic illnesses when they grew older. ... Suppose you were a survivor of typhoid or tuberculosis. What would that do to aging? ... the number of chronic illnesses at age 50 was much higher in that group. ... Something is being undermined. Even the cancer rates were higher. Ye gods. We never would have suspected that. ... Men who had respiratory infections or measles tended to develop chronic lung disease decades later. Malaria often led to arthritis. Men who survived rheumatic fever later developed diseased heart valves." The reliability theory of aging and longevity goes a long way towards explaining why prevalence of chronic disease is linked to shorter life spans via an increased rate of cellular damage.
Common Sense, Not Rocket Science (July 28 2006)
Some common sense on taking care of your health in the here and now from Forbes: "People who get regular exercise, eat healthfully and avoid tobacco have a lower risk of chronic diseases that lead to premature death, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers. They also have reduced rates of disability, better mental health and cognitive function, and lower health costs. Conversely, individuals who are physically inactive are almost twice as likely to develop heart disease as active people, according to the report. Inactivity is also linked to the development of diabetes and colon cancer, and can result in loss of muscle strength and mass, which can lead to frailty and lethal falls. Yet, approximately one-third of persons age 65 or older have not engaged in any leisure-time physical activity within the past month." We are living through a revolution in medicine and biotechnology - why risk missing out on the healthy life extension medicine of the near future by damaging yourself to an early death?
Fundraising For a CR Study (July 28 2006)
The Calorie Restriction (CR) Society is raising funds for a new biomarker study: "how can you know whether your limited-calorie lifestyle really slows aging? And whether are not you are practicing calorie restriction, how will you know if supplements, exercise, amount of protein intake, hormone replacements or any other of the myriad choices that are persuasively argued for - actually accelerates aging or increases risk of cancer or other serious disease? An objective method of evaluation is vital to avoid life-shortening mistakes. That's why the Calorie Restriction Society has initiated a milestone study that will correlate human calorie restrictors' genetic expression and cell signaling indicators to clinical markers. Once these correlations are established, serious longevists will be equipped with easy-to-run clinical tests that indicate how well their regimens are working." The Society is looking for $230,000 in donations; matching grants will be posted soon.
More Electrical Tissue Engineering (July 27 2006)
If you found recent news on electrically engineered bone marrow interesting, then this piece from UPI is also good news: "damage to epithelial tissue such as skin results in strong, directional ion flow and generates an internal electrical field. Such fields are thought to guide moving cells by a process known as electrotaxis, in order to heal the wound. ... wounds may close faster or be driven open, depending on the direction of externally applied electrical signals similar in strength to those occurring naturally. The researchers also identified the genes that control electrotaxis as PI(3)Kgamma and PTEN, and propose electrical signals may be used in the future to direct cell growth during wound healing in cell and tissue engineering." Present day technology for manipulating electric fields on small scales is advanced, low-cost and reliable. This bodes well for the future of of this sort of research in tissue engineering - experimentation will be cheap, so progress will be rapid.
Tackling Age-Related Memory Loss (July 27 2006)
As scientists learn more of the biochemical mechanisms of memory, the first old-school drug pipeline products to treat the results of age-related cellular damage on these mechanisms are turning up at the door. Researchers "showed that ampakine drugs continue to reverse the effects of aging on a brain mechanism thought to underlie learning and memory even after they are no longer in the body. ... in the ampakine-treated rats, there was a significant increase in the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein known to play a key role in memory formation. They also found an increase in long-term potentiation (LTP), the process by which the connection between the brain cells is enhanced and memory is encoded. This enhancement is responsible for long-term cognitive function, higher learning and the ability to reason. With age, deficits in LTP emerge, and learning and memory loss occurs." This is very early stage research, needless to say.
A Better Alzheimer's Drug (July 26 2006)
Better biotechnology improves the quality of the old-school drug pipeline, as illustrated by this BBC article on a Alzheimer's drug: "Tests in mice have shown the drug, PBT2, prevents build up of the amyloid protein linked to the disease. Protein levels dropped by 60% within 24 hours of a single dose, and memory performance improved within five days. ... Human tests are due to start next month, followed by a major international trial next year. ... This data is compelling and very exciting because it shows that PBT2 not only may facilitate the clearance of [amyloid-beta] from the brain or prevent its production, but more importantly may improve cognition. ... Scientists still have a lot of work to do before a drug could be available for patients. Much more research is needed even to see whether preventing the amyloid build-up is really a true benefit for patients."
More On Cancer Immunity (July 26 2006)
Discover gives a brief introduction to cancer immunity in mice: "Cui bred the mouse and found that 40 percent of its offspring share a remarkable resistance to many forms of cancer. When the animals' immune systems identify a cancer cell, a genetic tweak allows their bodies to launch a massive attack of white blood cells that kills the budding tumor. ... When they inject white blood cells from any of these anticancer mice into their nonresistant brethren, the injected animals become resistant as well, fighting off induced cancer in a matter of weeks or avoiding it entirely. ... Cui has sampled a group of human volunteers and found that 10 to 15 percent have similar super cancer-fighting white blood cells. That could explain why some people never get cancer and why others' tumors spontaneously regress. Cui proposes injecting these people's white blood cells into cancer patients to see if he can transfer their immunity."
6th Alcor Conference, October 2006 (July 25 2006)
I received a professionally produced conference brochure from Alcor just today; their 6th conference later this year looks to be a very worthwhile event, headlined by an impressive cast of luminaries. This year's topic is "An Inside Look at the Science and Medicine of Tomorrow." From the Alcor website: "Is it possible to live to 1000 years of age or beyond? Will nanomedicine and medical nanorobots dramatically extend the human lifespan? Can cryopreserved organs and human beings be revived in the future? Join us and members of our community to hear distinguished speakers present their provocative insights into where we are today and what's possible tomorrow in antiaging, life extension research, nanotechnology, organ preservation, cryonics and more." Arizona is looking more and more like the place to be these days.
Interviewing Thomas Perls (July 25 2006)
The MIT Technology Review is running an interview with researcher Thomas Perls on his centenarian study and the forthcoming Long Life Family Study: "Not only do these people live long, but many of them seem to escape the disability associated with diseases of aging or to compress that disability period into a short time span very late in life. ... I think genes that modulate risk for heart disease will be very important. That's still the number-one killer, even among the very old. In addition, more and more scientific studies show that fat metabolism will play a big role. ... We previously found that centenarians were more likely to have a certain variant of the gene for microsomal transfer protein, which plays a role in packaging cholesterol. However, subsequent studies have had different results. ... That shows how important it is to confirm results in different populations and suggests that the importance of various genetic longevity factors varies from one population to another."
From Fat to Smooth Muscle (July 24 2006)
Researchers are methodically chipping away at the mysteries of cellular differentiation; the more they understand, the more they can do to realize the dream of true regenerative medicine. Via EurekAlert!: scientists "have transformed adult stem cells taken from human adipose - or fat tissue - into smooth muscle cells, which help the normal function of a multitude of organs like the intestine, bladder and arteries. ... Fat tissue may prove a reliable source of smooth muscle cells that we can use to regenerate and repair damaged organs ... Smooth muscle cells have also been produced from stem cells found in the brain and bone marrow, but acquiring stem cells from adipose tissue is much easier and most patients have adipose tissue readily available ... The next step [involves] identifying and developing the growth factors that will induce transformation of cells more quickly. [Researchers are] also starting to use smooth muscle cells for tissue engineering in the urinary tract, including the urethra."
LysoSENS Is Recruiting (July 24 2006)
As researcher John Schloendorn notes over at the Immortality Institute, the portion of the LysoSENS research program based in Tempe is actively recruiting: "We offer: the opportunity to truly make a difference and bring SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) research forward. Flexible conditions: Your responsibilities will reflect your qualifications; apply to come for weeks, months or permanently. Cutting edge working environment and a reputable entry on your CV. Research credits for a degree at Arizona State, if you are pursuing one. If elsewhere, you can probably get this work accredited, too. Enabling financial support, but no competitive salary. We want: The motivation to make personal sacrifices in order to help with curing aging and experience in molecular biology." It is good to see growth in the first SENS research project funded by Methuselah Foundation donors.