Longevity Meme Newsletter, December 18 2006

December 18 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.



- A Reminder: the Libertarian Disclaimer
- Costs and Consequences of Medical Socialism
- A Leon Kass Retrospective
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


Since we seem to have detoured into *that* territory this week, a gentle reminder for those who haven't seen the disclaimer before. The politically sensitive might want to read the following Fight Aging! post before continuing:



I'm always on the lookout for that pristine, mythical article on the damage done to medical progress by the centralization of power and its consequent abuse - an article that will speak to folk who are comfortable with the present rather sorry (and heavily regulated) state of affairs in medical research and commercialization. I suppose that if such a thing actually existed, medicine in Western-style representative democracies would not be heading down the road to poverty, stasis and socialism.

In absence of the mythical, I did recently stumble across one of the better essays on the topic I've seen in recent years:


While I loathe talking about politics and all the related troughs of swill, it is important for people to realize just how much damage is being done. The visible costs are bad enough, but the invisible costs are huge - and will include your chance at living into an era of working rejuvenation medicine if the rot continues.

"The level of freedom in research and medical commercialization matters greatly. It is a very large determinant of the speed with which future medicine arrives - and especially medical technologies capable of reversing the age-related cellular damage at the root of frailty, degeneration and death. At the moment, in this very instant, the system is broken. The very fact that we have "a system" is a breakage; that entrepreneurs are held back from investment by rules and political whims that are now held to be of greater importance than any number of lives; that decisions about your health and ability to obtain medicine are made in a centralized manner, by people with neither the incentives nor the ability to do well.

"As is always the case, the greatest cost of socialism in medicine lies in what we do not see. It lies in the many billions of dollars presently not invested in medical research and development, or invested wastefully, because regulations - and the people behind them, supporting and manipulating a political system for their own short term gain - make it unprofitable to invest well. Investment is the fuel of progress, and it is driven away by self-interested political cartels."


Since we're on the subject of abuses that become possible when government is large and unaccountable, here is a reminder of those people who want to use that power to stop you from living longer:


"Leon Kass may not presently possess the high profile of past years, and these views are not expressed in the mainstream media in quite such volume these days, but the President's Council on Bioethics that was his podium is just as bad now as then - stacked with folk who believe it best to force you to age and die on schedule. Bah. I've nothing against people who want to age, suffer and die, but there's a strong, ugly word for someone who forces death on others. ... the Kasses of this world are more quiet of late, but they haven't gone away. A part of the work needed to bring about great change in medicine and longevity is the defeat of those who would try to sabotage progress and ensure the deaths of billions. We should endeavor to remember that."


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/

Alzheimer's and the Eyes (December 17 2006)
InfoAging reports on one of the possible paths to early detection of Alzheimer's disease: "I noticed that my mice were developing dense bilateral cataracts in their eyes - at an age when mice simply don't get cataracts ... So I took a look at a few more of the Alzheimer's mice, and they all had the same cataract ... the cataracts were composed of the same protein, beta-amyloid, that forms sticky, tangled plaques in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. ... This was the first time the beta-amyloid protein had been seen outside of the brain, suggesting that the disease results from a problem affecting the body's entire system. ... [researchers have] also created new non-invasive laser technology that can detect beta-amyloid in the eye even before the cataracts become visible. ... Intriguingly, they have also found that amyloid buildup appears earlier in the lens than the brain." Some evidence suggests that Alzheimer's is similar to diabetes; more a consequence of lifestyle and metabolism than inevitable. If true, detecting the disease early means the ability to avoid or mitigate it through lifestyle changes.

Bruce Ames on Micronutrients (December 17 2006)
SFGate.com looks at the work of Bruce Ames on the biochemistry of mild micronutrient deficiencies, long term health and longevity: "For years, Ames kept his microscope focused narrowly on cancer and aging. Today, he's increasingly concerned with the cellular consequences of a diet short on vitamins and minerals. ... The relationship between diet and cancer has, historically, been thought of in terms of exposure to potential carcinogens, such as alcohol. Dietary deficiencies, however, might be a much more important factor in cancer risk. ... We know a lot about severe deficiency, we know some about moderate deficiency, we know little about mild deficiency. ... We still have to prove it in people and at what level, but so far for every vitamin and mineral deficiency we've looked at [cells] senesce early and we see a lot of DNA damage ... Inadequate micronutrient intake, Ames believes, affects the mitochondria in much the same way as aging."

Towards Medical Nanoscopy (December 16 2006)
While we're on the subject of the nanotechnologies required for the development of real anti-aging medicine, here is an interesting piece from Nanowerk: "Based on the premises that diseases manifest themselves as defects of cellular proteins, these proteins have been recently shown to form specific complexes exerting their functions as if they were nanoscopic machines. Nanoscopic medicine refers to the direct visualization, analysis (diagnosis) and modification (therapy) of nanoscopic protein machines in life cells and tissues with the aim to improve human health. ... In two recent papers, the researchers introduce their concept. 'Checking and fixing the cellular nanomachinery: towards medical nanoscopy' [and] 'Nanoscopic Medicine: The Next Frontier' ... While nanoscopy refers to the visualization of structures on the nanometer scale, 'medical nanoscopy' goes beyond diagnostics by including therapeutic applications as well." The root of aging is change in proteins and other biomolecules - we need the technologies that will enable us to reliably repair our cells (and thus our bodies) at this level.

Nanomedicine, Most Desired (December 16 2006)
From Nanodot: "As a veteran nanowatcher, I can testify that what most people want most from nanotechnology is dramatic medical advances, such as the cancer treatments now showing so much promise. ... Instead of focusing on what is or is not part of nanobiotechnology, scientists wonder more what is going on in this broad area. First, this field brings researchers together from many areas: cellular and molecular biology, chemistry, engineering, physics, and more. In addition, nanobiotechnology aims at improving automated laboratory procedures, imaging, diagnostic assays, and more. In the near term [the] most exciting developments will probably be in cancer treatments. Some wonderful results are already coming from that area.'" Over the next two decades, the maturing of this technology base will enable development of much of the necessary toolkit for real anti-aging medicine - techniques based on the repair of damage at the molecular level, such as those proposed in the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence.

The Edmonton Aging Symposium (December 15 2006)
From the folk at the Methuselah Foundation: "we are always looking for ways to raise awareness of the near-term potential for the development of promsing intervention-oriented aging therapies and one of the opportunities we are helping to organize and support is the Edmonton Aging Symposium. The Symposium is a unique blend of economics, ethics and the social and biomedical sciences dealing with aging. It is the first serious attempt to bring together individuals from normally disparate communities under one roof to hear the same message of the potential of these new technologies to repair the damage of age-related dysfunction. ... The Symposium program includes such speakers as Aubrey de Grey, Judith Campisi, Michael West, Ellen Heber-Katz, Ronald Bailey and a host of others presenting on the state of knowledge of what you can do now to stay healthy while presenting evidence of the future technologies that will be able to take us beyond mere lifestyle choices."

NJ Stem Cell Research Funding Update (December 15 2006)
Via the Washington Post, a brief update on the process of state funding for stem cell research in New Jersey: "the state Legislature on Thursday agreed to borrow $270 million to build labs and pay for related programs. Gov. Jon S. Corzine said he looked forward to signing the bill ... The legislation provides $150 million for a stem cell research institute at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, $50 million for a biomedical research center at Rutgers-Camden, $50 million for an adult stem cell research facility at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, $10 million for the Garden State Cancer Center in Belleville, and $10 million for the Elie Katz Umbilical Cord Blood Program in Allendale."

Deciphering Regeneration (December 14 2006)
It's only a matter of time until scientists decipher the biochemistry of regeneration in lower animals - and then develop the technology to bring the same to humans. Another step forward in the process is noted by EurekAlert!: "apoptosis has [a] critical role in regeneration. ... Simply put, some cells have to die for regeneration to happen. ... We were surprised to see that some cells need to be removed for regeneration to proceed. It is exciting to think that someday this process could be managed to allow medically therapeutic regeneration. ... when apoptosis is inhibited during the first 24 hours, regeneration cannot proceed ... Later inhibition of apoptosis has no effect, suggesting that the programmed death of a specific cellular component is a very early step in the regeneration program. One possible model is that tissues normally contain a population of cells whose purpose is to prevent massive growth in the region surrounding them."

Methuselah Foundation Forums (December 14 2006)
The Methuselah Foundation is nearing $8 million in total backing for the Mprize for anti-aging science and SENS research - and well past that if you want to include expense donations and airmiles from the small army of donors. Thank you all! The Foundation technical volunteers have recently put up an online forum for both public and internal discussion. If you'd like to meet the volunteers, administrators and researchers, talk about the mission - to engineer the defeat of aging! - or just hang out, feel free to drop by. There can never be too much discussion about the modern scientific approach to extending the healthy human life span; the more we talk, the more we educate and raise awareness for the cause.

Improving On Resveratrol In Yeast (December 13 2006)
Through an understanding of the way in which known calorie restriction mimetics work - those acting via sirtuins, in any case - scientists are working on producing compounds that should do a better job. "This past decade has seen the identification of numerous conserved genes that extend lifespan in diverse species, yet the number of compounds that extend lifespan is relatively small. A class of compounds called STACs, which were identified as activators of Sir2/SIRT1 NAD+-dependent deacetylases, extend the lifespans of multiple species in a Sir2-dependent manner and can delay the onset of age-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes and neurodegeneration in model organisms. Plant-derived STACs such as fisetin and resveratrol have several liabilities ... Here, we describe synthetic STACs with lower toxicity toward human cells, and higher potency with respect to SIRT1 activation and lifespan extension in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. These studies show that it is possible to improve upon naturally occurring STACs based on a number of criteria including lifespan extension."

Longevity Research As An Industry (December 13 2006)
Longevity research, and future commercialization of the first real, working anti-aging medicine, is an industry as any other. It should be no surprise that those who think in terms of building industries look at healthy life extension in that way. From the Edmonton Journal: "A 78-year-old man grows back a finger he lost in an accident. A man near death is able to walk away from the operating table after his failing heart is injected with bone-marrow stem cells. A monkey controls its robotic arm using only its thoughts. It's not science fiction. It's happening right now in medical research ... An aging population has created a chance to generate jobs, make money and improve our quality of life ... Top gerontologists in the U.S. have asked for $3 billion for research to slow the aging process. We have a huge opportunity in Alberta to accelerate this research ... the Edmonton Aging Symposium on March 30 and 31 will raise awareness of the rapid development of age-related therapies. The line-up includes renowned researchers on aging from Canada, U.S. and Europe."

More On ReNeuron Phase I Trial (December 12 2006)
As a follow up to a recent Fight Aging! post on the regenerative medicine industry, here is another piece on the work of ReNeuron from DrugResearcher.com: "It is unknown as to whether stem cell therapies can repair the whole region of stroke damage in the brain or, as is more likely, just the periphery. ... We will be looking at people who have had a stroke within the last 3 to 12 months and who have a stable level of disability that isn't going to improve spontaneously. We're hoping to regenerate the area of damage through the injection of stem cells. Ultimately, it is our goal to develop a therapy that can assist in repairing the whole area of damage." It may be infrastructure technologies that come out of this and similar first generation efforts that provide the greatest value in the long term: "We can take any tissue derived stem cell and expand it up to a clonal line. There are a million possible doses [of ReN001] already made up."

Education Is Still Needed (December 12 2006)
An article from the Prospect looks at aging and longevity as a program - which is, most likely, the wrong perspective for human biochemistry. "Ageing in humans, as in other mammals, appears to be a co-ordinated process orchestrated by a relatively small number of genes. If this is the case, then it makes sense to tackle many age-related diseases through this genetic core rather than treating each one as a separate case - with the possible exception of some brain conditions." So near and yet so far; aging appears to be an uncoordinated stochastic process stemming from a relatively small range of different types of molecular damage. There are a range of other errors and old, abandoned views in the article; I leave their discovery as an exercise for the reader. It is articles of this sort that show we must continue to work hard to make the case supported by the most recent science - that human longevity is plastic, and can be greatly extended via future biotechnology.

The Right Mindset (December 11 2006)
Comments from researcher David Sinclair in this Boston Globe article: "Aging is the worst thing that has ever been put upon humanity. When I was 3 years old, I was horrified by the idea that my grandparents would die, and then my parents would die. And then one day I would die. ... I've been working without break for 11 years on this because I realize that it has the potential to revolutionize medicine. ... Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, cataracts, Alzheimer's. We aim to treat diseases of aging with a single pill. I want to see 90-year-olds play squash with their grandchildren. ... We've come farther than I ever thought we would in my lifetime." More scientists like this, please; I can't say I think the path of metabolic manipulation stands as the best foot forward towards greatly extended healthy life spans - but there can never be too many people thinking the way Sinclair does about aging and the need for action.

Mprize Fund Passes $4 Million (December 11 2006)
The Mprize fund of cash and pledges, purse for a research prize to invigorate and transform longevity research, has passed $4 million thanks to the latest member of The Three Hundred: "With her generous ongoing commitment, Shannon Vyff joins 'The 300', the Methuselah Foundation's select group of supporters, who have pledged to fund the Methuselah Mouse Prize - the Mprize. ... I want my kids to know that I'm also trying to help them and their children and grandchildren live longer and healthier lives. This is about families - we're pulling together as a family to support the Mprize because the suffering and death from aging affects all of us - children, grandchildren. There's a myth that somehow it's OK for old people to get sick and die because they're 'tired of living'. ... I hope more people will donate to the Mprize, because we need to end aging now for real people and real families - not just in science fiction stories."



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