Longevity Meme Newsletter, December 04 2006

December 04 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.



- Hopefully Delivered This Week
- Progress!
- 112 And One More To $4 Million
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


Last week's newsletter was largely eaten by the mailserver imps - or at least that's as much information as I've obtained from the hosting company. Consequently, I have moved the Longevity Meme to a different service provider; we can hope that this newsletter will be delivered more completely. For those who missed it, the last newsletter can be found online at the following location:



I think it is a good thing, every so often, to step back and see just how much has been accomplished by the healthy life extension community in the past year. Outside the world of errant supplement vendors and anti-aging preachers, what meaningful groundwork has been accomplished for the research of the future? Who has successfully moved forward with funding initiatives and work aimed at bringing the best of modern biotechnology to bear on age-related degeneration? Anne C. kicked off that theme early in the past week:


"It seems quite certain that things are indeed happening in the realm of longevity science and related research. For starters, the SENS challenge has been addressed, the MPrize has received generous support this year, and the Longevity Dividend represents, perhaps, one of the first vestiges of mainstream attention to the criticality of addressing the health needs of members of the present and future elderly population (who, of course, have as much a right to stay alive and well anyone else)."

Here are a few recent Fight Aging! posts on the topic of moving forward with longevity research:


"On the matter of healthy life extension science, the choir - which is to say gerontologists, bioscientists and those advocates closest to the research - has more or less finished up the infighting of the past decade. There are degrees to which healthy life extension is supported, but the choir now largely faces in the same direction - forward, to longer, healthier lives."


"So in short, it seems likely that sirtuins are not the end of the calorie restriction story insofar as genes and biochemistry goes. In addition, it is clear that scientists are making real progress in narrowing and clarifying the focus on the core biochemistry of CR-induced longevity and health benefits - what is essential, and what is not."


"As a general rule, hurdling a hurdle presents you with another, different hurdle. Such is progress - but the space between two hurdles is better than the one you just came from. Knowing that the space beyond is better yet, off you go again, at a run and aimed at the next challenge that has presented itself. In that spirit, here is a slice of the way in which science is just this - or, in the words of a cynic, 'something like knocking down an infinite series of unevenly spaced brick walls with your head.'"


Take a quick look at the website of the MPrize, a research prize aimed at producing tangible results in the field of longevity research:


The 112th philanthropist of modest means joined The Three Hundred recently, pledging a few dollars a day to the MPrize alongside the rest of us, to encourage and support the growth of real, cutting-edge anti-aging research - such as the LysoSENS and MitoSENS programs funded by the Methuselah Foundation:


If you look at the fund totals, you'll see that the very next person to join The Three Hundred will push the MPrize pledge total over $4,000,000 - and who will that person 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



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/

Stem Cell Therapies, Underway (December 03 2006)
From Newsweek, a short but illustrative look at the present breadth of stem cell work, a great deal of it focused on the repair of aging bodies and age-related conditions: "There are now more than 1,000 stem-cell therapies in early human trials around the world. The vast majority use cells from patients' own bone marrow, but doctors are also using cells from healthy adults, and last month saw the first patient treated with embryonic cells ... Burt alone has now treated patients with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and a host of other immune disorders. ... [researchers] also plans trials for two diseases in which 'nothing else really seems to work': Lou Gehrig's disease and a rare type of autism involving the immune system. ... Next year may also bring hope for patients with cancer and heart disease. The FDA has fast-tracked a stem-cell therapy for leukemia patients; it could reach the market in late 2007. And an approach that has helped many congestive heart failure patients abroad is also making inroads in America."

The Nature of Aging (December 03 2006)
One of the recent "Ask the Expert" pieces at InfoAging features Steven Austad: "The one thing that seems to hold across species is that animals that are long-lived are better at repairing their DNA. That seems to be something that's pretty general because we find it across a whole range of species. One generality - that animals with high metabolic rates live shorter lives - has actually turned out to be untrue. It was a reasonable assumption because the very processes that make energy in an organism's cells produce free radicals that can cause damage. If those internal processes occur at a faster rate, it seemed logical to assume that they caused more damage. It was really quite a surprise - and exciting - to find animals with high metabolic rates that are such dramatic exceptions."

An Interview With Mark Hamalainen (December 02 2006)
Mark Hamalainen is funded by the Methuselah Foundation under the MitoSENS banner, a project to replicate fragile mitochondrial DNA in the cellular nucleus and thus prevent its contribution to aging. Like many of the younger generation of bioscientists, he's open about the desired goal of healthy life extension: "it is good to be alive today, so why not tomorrow? I could write a book on all the things I'd like to do that one lifetime isn't enough for. I can understand how it is culturally advantageous (or at least inevitable) to come up with justifications for aging being ok when there is no prospect of intervention. But to maintain those beliefs when intervention is foreseeable is irrational. Any pro-death argument is vastly out of proportion with the horrible reality of aging: the gradual decay of your body that culminates in the ceasing of your existence."

Update On CIRM Funding (December 02 2006)
MSNBC looks at the funding situation for the California Insitute for Regenerative Medicine: "Voters passed Proposition 71 in 2004 to create the institute and give it authority to borrow and spend $3 billion over 10 years. Lawsuits, however, have prevented it from going to the Wall Street bond market for its money. So the institute will fund the next rounds of grant-giving with a $150 million loan from the state and another $31 million in loans from philanthropic organizations ... A grant-review committee led by 15 scientists from outside of California last week sifted through 232 applications from state researchers vying for 30 grants worth a combined $24 million. Many of the grants will go to scientists getting into stem cell research for the first time and will be formally awarded in February. In March, another round of 25 grants worth about $80 million will go to established stem cell scientists."

Progress in the Longevity Community (December 01 2006)
Those folk engaged in making a difference to the future of longevity science continue to move forward; here, Anne C. looks back at some recent advances: "It can sometimes be difficult to detect change and progress as it is occurring -- when following and studying a given subject or scientific endeavor, it is not always immediately apparent which data points and events are significant amidst the noise and buzz of journalism, discussion, and argument. But it seems quite certain that things are indeed happening in the realm of longevity science and related research. For starters, the SENS challenge has been addressed, the MPrize has received generous support this year, and the Longevity Dividend represents, perhaps, one of the first vestiges of mainstream attention to the criticality of addressing the health needs of members of the present and future elderly population (who, of course, have as much a right to stay alive and well anyone else)."

Generating the Longevity Dividend (December 01 2006)
TechNewsWorld eyes the Longevity Dividend initiative, the most moderate degree to which one might still be called a supporter of healthy life extension: "A group of scientists including S. Jay Olshansky, who is known for skepticism about aging cures, published a paper calling for a goal of decelerating human aging by seven years. Aging is directly linked to cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and heart disease. The scientists argue that a seven-year aging delay 'would yield health and longevity benefits greater than what would be achieved with the elimination of cancer or heart disease.' Many benefits would accrue if anti-aging technologies slowed the deterioration of the unprecedented numbers of humans around the world who are now approaching old age. If people stayed younger longer -- and, therefore, healthier -- they would stay in the workforce longer, need less medical and other care, and spark economic booms in 'mature markets' such as travel and intergenerational transfers."

The Cautionary Note (November 30 2006)
Via ScienceDaily, a cautionary note on resveratrol, to add to my own similar commentary: "data showing the effects of resveratrol, a substance found in red wine, in mice bears further investigation, but the popularity of the ingredient as a dietary supplement is largely baseless ... The right place now with resveratrol is to say that this is really intriguing data, but mice aren't humans ... a chemical known as beta carotene became a popular cancer preventive after initial studies showed promise, but a 1996 discovery that it did not prevent lung cancer or heart disease and was even found to be potentially harmful to smokers. David Sinclair, a biologist at Harvard Medical School who lead one of the studies of the supplement's effects in mice, agreed it is too soon to recommend the substance to consumers. He said detailed information about toxicity and side effects is still unavailable."

On the Gerontology Research Group (November 30 2006)
The Texarkana Gazette takes a look at the Gerontology Research Group, an affiliation of scientists that has come to be something of a hub for connections in the modern biogerontology community. "The first way the group hopes to learn more about longevity is by getting permission to conduct autopsies on people who are more than 110 to find out how they survived the diseases that often mean death, such as heart disease and cancer. The second is by raising money through the Supercentenarian Research Foundation to fund research on the people who are still living at 110-plus. ... What has been a common finding in these people is the presence of amyloids - a starch-like protein that can cause blockages. ... amyloid fibers are sticky and can infiltrate all organs in the body. ... It can almost be described as an invisible barrier that is waiting in the wings to take out every person living this long. These people are escapers - they escaped from heart disease, they escaped from diabetes, escaped from stroke - they have escaped all disease but they die from amyloidosis."

Mitochondria, Aging, Gender (November 29 2006)
A noteworthy paper via PubMed: "Females live longer than males in many mammalian species, including humans. This natural phenomenon can be explained on the basis of the mitochondrial theory of aging. Mitochondria are a major source of free radicals in cells. Mitochondria from female rats generate half the amount of hydrogen peroxide than those of males ... the oxidative damage of mitochondrial DNA is fourfold higher in males than in females. Ovariectomy abolishes the gender differences between males and females and estrogen replacement rescues the effect of ovariectomy. The challenge for the future is to find molecules that have the beneficial effects of estradiol, but without its feminizing effects. Phytoestrogens or phytoestrogen-related molecules may be good candidates to meet this challenge." So estrogen modulates the damaging free radical output of mitochondria. Most interesting.

Towards Immortality (November 29 2006)
The Economist discusses transhumanism and healthy life extension: "transhumanists - a loose coalition of scientists, technologists and thinkers who seek opportunities to enhance the human condition - see change as desirable. ... There is no greater goal for transhumanism than the conquest of death. ... Ray Kurzweil, an American inventor and author, and Aubrey de Grey, a gerontologist and chairman of the Methuselah Foundation, argue optimistically that immortality may become achievable for people who are alive today. ... Back in 1928, an American demographer, Louis Dublin, calculated that the upper limit on average life expectancy would be 64.8 years, a daring figure at the time, with American life expectancy then just 57 years. But now his figure looks timid, given that life expectancy for women in Okinawa, Japan, has passed 85.3 years, 20 years more than Dublin claimed possible. Also looking timid are the scientists who later predicted that life expectancy would nowhere pass 78 years (in 1952), 79 years (1980) and 82.5 years (1984)."

Healthy Life At 140: A Good First Goal (November 28 2006)
From CNN, more from the sort of folk who are thinking more sharply about trends in medical science: "Imagine a world with no cancer, Alzheimer's disease or diabetes, where people routinely live to be 140 years old. Although outside conventional medical opinion, that world may be just a couple of decades away ... advances in information technology, biotechnology, neuroscience, and nanotechnology will allow for radical advances in medicine and the treatment of diseases. ... Once medicine becomes boldly proactive, then you're talking about eliminating 70, 80 percent of diseases. We're just on the edge of this. It's going to happen very shortly ... the baby boomer generation is the driving force behind advances in medicine. Eyeing the boomer's wealth, companies from across the medical spectrum are pouring money into drugs and technologies of all kinds that will help people live longer lives ... Whether they will succeed in increasing the human life span appears to be an open question." But one that will certainly be answered in the negative if we don't step up and make the future we wish to live in.

Alcor Conference Review (November 28 2006)
A review of last month's Alcor conference on cryonics can be found at Alcor News: "The presentations Sunday morning were more concerned with practical research considerations for cryonicists. Brian Wowk and Gregory Fahy presented a lot of technical explanation on what causes freezing damage, how vitrification techniques manage to avoid most of it, and what progress their laboratory is making on preventing freezing damage in rabbit kidneys (steady progress every year; but with many technical details still to be worked out). Brian Wowk noted that recent micrographs of tissue suggest it is possible that more brain structure is preserved by straight freezing than originally thought, although whether the preservation is at a level that could result in resuscitation is completely unknown. One of the high points (for me) of Greg Fahy's talk was his detailed summary of the original research on freezing damage and preservation done by Audrey Smith decades ago and the incredible persistence it took for her to achieve results."

We Can Do Better Than This (November 27 2006)
A gloomy prognosis for the next 25 years from the World Healthy Organization (WHO) can be found at PLoS Medicine. Apparently, dawning expectations of significant healthy life extension in the decades ahead have not yet migrated from the actuaries to the health bureaucrats. "Life expectancy for women in the high-income countries may reach 85.0 y by 2030, compared with 79.7 y for men. The highest projected life expectancy in 2030 is for Japanese women at 88.5 y (with a range of 87.7 to 89.2 across the pessimistic and optimistic scenarios)." Recall that mainstream systems biologists and gerontologists believe we can boost healthy life spans by 10-20 years in the developed world over the next two decades through the advance of medicine and biotechnology, and the WHO projections start to look somewhat out of touch. This is to say nothing of more aggressive approaches, such as the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS). I think we can do far better than this WHO projection - and we owe it to ourselves to make that happen.

Sirtuins Versus Cancer (November 27 2006)
I predict that this report from the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital News will spread much happiness amongst investors in Sirtris Pharma: "We've shown that by making a prostate cancer with cells overexpressing a mutation for the androgen receptor, which is resistant to current forms of therapy, we can almost completely block the growth of these cells with SIRT1 ... We systematically tested each androgen receptor mutation. These mutant receptors are resistant to current therapies and are all blocked by expression of SIRT1 ... This study shows that there is potentially new opportunity for these cancer patients with drugs that regulate SIRT1." Here we have one potential mechanism by which calorie restriction - and thus calorie restriction mimetic drugs - holds back one type of cancer. I'm sure there are others relating to the process and downstream effects of metabolism; I am surprised by the direct nature of this connection.



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