LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
December 25 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.
- Magical Thinking and the "Anti-Aging" Marketplace
- Engineering and Real Anti-Aging Medicine
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
MAGICAL THINKING AND THE "ANTI-AGING" MARKETPLACE
Trying to establish an understanding of the world - and in particular, our bodies and aging - without using the scientific method is a hopeless task. You'll wind up somewhere, but it certainly won't be anywhere useful or productive; we humans are just too good at seeing patterns where there are none, and rationalizing success in the midst of abject failure. Sadly, the "anti-aging" marketplace is chock full of buyers and sellers who are doing just this:
"To distinguish causal from fortuitous improvements that might follow any intervention, a set of objective procedures has evolved for testing putative remedies. Unless a technique, ritual, drug, or surgical procedure can meet these requirements, it is ethically questionable to offer it to the public, especially if money is to change hands. Since most 'alternative' therapies (i.e., ones not accepted by scientific biomedicine) fall into this category, one must ask why so many customers who would not purchase a toaster without consulting Consumer Reports shell out, with trusting naivete, large sums for unproven, possibly dangerous, health remedies.
"Some people will believe enough in any new such proposal to spend resources, and other, better-educated people rightly estimate that they'll make money from investing in the beliefs of the first group. Once it all gets going, you'll see a self-sustaining industry with the resources to expand the pool of consumers through (mis)education, and which comes to employ more and more true believers in key positions."
None of which will do any good for our health and life spans - it's all castles in the sky and dogged determination to avoid the work, understanding and sacrifice necessary to gain real results. There will always be buyers when "incorrect" is cheaper than "correct," and the consequences of a bad choice slow to materialize.
ENGINEERING AND REAL ANTI-AGING MEDICINE
If magical thinking is the abuse of certain aspects of human intelligence, then engineering is the gainful use of those very same aspects. The work of the medical engineer is to take the output of the scientific method - truth and understanding, carefully sifted - and fit the pieces together in new ways. In other words, to make the leap of invention that results in new therapies and better, healthier, longer lives. Good engineering does not have to wait for all the facts to be known, in medicine or any other field:
"Bridges and monuments were built well before the formalism of physics, materials science and architecture; the 'how' was common practice long before the 'why'. Humans excel at operating in an environment of less than perfect understanding, deciphering complex and poorly understood systems - and a good thing too.
"In this era of biotechnology, the eager engineering mindset is turned towards genes, cells and biochemistry. If there's one thing better than engineering, it's engineering during the exploration of an enormously intricate system. Each new fact carved out from the unknown by researchers is a puzzle piece to be set with all the others, turned about and around, compared for new and interesting fits. The medical engineers take those pieces and gleefully work to build wonderful, effective new medical technologies."
Real anti-aging medicine - biotechnologies of repair that can be envisaged today, but do not yet exist outside the laboratory - is the province of scientists and engineers. The shrill marketing of supplements and look and feel products will not help you live a much longer, healthier life, so why pay it any attention? Focus on the scientific method, on the engineers who work with the resulting fruits of science, for that is the path to the future. These scientists and engineers need your support to move forward at a faster pace; consider lending a hand to help out:
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/
Stem Cell Funding In India (December 24 2006)
(From RxPG News). Branches of the Indian government continue to move public funds into stem cell research: "A sum of [US$11 million] has been allocated for the proposed stem cell research centre. About 150 scientists from Pune's Cell Science Research Centre will be engaged in research and application. ... Admiral Singh, also chairman of Military Medicine Association, said funding would be made available to make it Asia's biggest state-of-the-art stem cell research centre as this was the future of medical treatment/therapy for various diseases and India could not lag behind. He said the longevity of humans could also be increased through stem cell treatment. ... It will be the futuristic treatment replacing drug therapy and surgery. Through stem cell treatment, heart diseases, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, eye and muscle disease and various other diseases can be cured."
LEF On Alzheimer's, Diabetes Link (December 24 2006)
The latest issue of the Life Extension Foundation Magazine has an overview of the link between Alzheimer's and diabetes: this "is yet another compelling reason for those who value their health to address issues of impaired insulin sensitivity before it is too late. Although diabetes is an emerging epidemic, it is also wholly preventable and reversible through strategies that incorporate dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, and nutritional supplementation. ... While declining levels of acetylcholine and formation of beta amyloid plaques in the brain are characteristic of Alzheimer's, oxidative damage and the accumulation of advanced glycation end products occur in both Alzheimer's disease and diabetes. These biochemical similarities may be a telling link between the two seemingly different diseases. ... Now that diabetes appears to be associated with Alzheimer's, it is imperative to take action to protect against this burgeoning epidemic. The first two steps are ones that almost everyone can implement: eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly."
Telomerase, Immune Senescence (December 23 2006)
Beyond the reduction in number of naive T cells, the immune system also ages through an accumulation of senescent T cells that behave in suboptimal or damaging ways. Via Ouroboros, a look at the science of doing something about the latter problem: "Cultures of senescent CD8 T cells show altered cytokine patterns, resistance to apoptosis, and absence of expression of the CD28 costimulatory receptor. CD8 T cells with these and other features of replicative senescence accumulate progressively with age ... high proportions of CD8 T cells with the senescent phenotype correlate with several deleterious physiologic outcomes, including poor vaccine responses, bone loss, and increased proinflammatory cytokines. CD8+CD28- T cells have also been shown to exert suppressive activity on other immune cells. Based on the central role of telomere shortening in the replicative senescence program, we are developing several telomerase-based approaches as potential immunoenhancing treatments for aging."
Characterizing Inflammaging (December 23 2006)
From the open access journal Immunity & Aging: "The term "Inflammaging" has been coined by Claudio Franceschi to explain the now widely accepted phenomenon that ageing is accompanied by a low-grade chronic, systemic up-regulation of the inflammatory response and that the underlining inflammatory changes are also common to most age-associated diseases ... [researchers] postulate that both the ageing process and age-associated diseases are late consequences of evolutionary programming for a pro-inflammatory response mainly selected to resist infections and for a successful response to wound healing in early age, a view that has been discussed in the light of the antagonistic pleiotropy theory. Such a theory on the evolution of aging postulates that senescence is the late deleterious effect of genes that are beneficial in early life. Evolutionary programming of the innate immune system may act via selection on these genetic traits."
On Brain Repair Mechanisms (December 22 2006)
Via EurekAlert: "In mice, after a stroke was initiated in a part of the brain located far from the [subventricular zone], the researchers [tracked] newly formed neuroblasts (immature brain cells from which mature adult neurons form) as they traveled through healthy brain tissue to the stroke area. Once there, these immature neurons wrapped themselves around the immature vascular cells that were in the process of forming new blood vessels in the damaged area. ... two proteins, stromal-derived factor 1 (SDF1) and angiopoietin 1 (Ang1), that are given off by these newly-forming blood vessels, are what trigger the thousands of immature neurons to the site of damage. ... the molecular mechanisms for neuronal regeneration hold the promise of regenerating and reconnecting brain cells near the area where stroke occurs." When scientists understand the mechanisms and signals by which the brain repairs itself, the door is opened to greatly improving the effectiveness of these processes - very much a needed advance.
Following Through (December 22 2006)
You might recall I had mentioned an up and coming young poker player at Fight Aging!, and his pledge to donate a percentage of his winnings to the Methuselah Foundation in support of SENS research. He's following through with a vengence: "I am also happy to say that as I promised a few months ago, I will be giving 5% of my winnings to www.Sens.org. I said this would include the two 5k events and the 15k events, but it seems silly to include only 3 of my 4 final tables, so I will be giving them 5% from all of these events. This comes out to $13,250 which I hope can make a difference. Peter Theil pledged to match 50% of all donations towards SENS research, so this will actually be a $20,000 donation thanks to his help. ... The plan at this point is to play as many events as possible in 2007, and try to win Cardplayer's Player of the Year. It will take a little bit of luck, but I like my chances a lot. Expect me to make AT LEAST top ten in 2007 for sure." Best of luck to you, and thank you for joining those who step up to make a difference.
More On DNA Repair and Aging (December 21 2006)
Scientific American has an article on recent DNA repair research that is more clear on the point being made the scientists involved: "Do we get old due to the accumulation of damage over our lifetimes or due to the genetic blueprint we inherit? ... What we say is [that] both are valid and that, in particular, damage to DNA contributes to aging. Damage accumulates ... but it is modulated by your genetic makeup. If you have better repair and/or slower metabolism, you age slower. ... If we would be able to reduce the induction of DNA damage by triggering the survival response [to lower metabolism and allow less damage] or by boosting repair or, perhaps, by adding protecting compounds in food or medication the rate of DNA damage and consequently aging may be reduced."
Dental Regenerative Medicine Progresses (December 21 2006)
innovations report notes a recent technology demonstration in dental regenerative medicine: "Utilizing stem cells harvested from the extracted wisdom teeth of 18- to 20-year olds, [researchers] have created sufficient root and ligament structure to support a crown restoration in their mini-pig (animal) model. ... The technique relies on stem cells harvested from the root apical papilla, which is responsible for the development of a tooth's root and periodontal ligament. ... The apical papilla provides better stem cells for root structure regeneration. With this technique, the strength of the tooth restoration is not quite as strong as the original tooth, but we believe it is sufficient to withstand normal wear and tear. ... [Researchers hope] to move the technique to clinical trials within the next several years, a potential boon for dental patients who are not appropriate candidates for dental implant therapy or would prefer living tissue derived from their own teeth."
Paul F. Glenn Backs Aubrey de Grey (December 20 2006)
More good news from the Methuselah Foundation: "In response to the recent progress report from Methuselah Foundation chairman Aubrey de Grey, we are pleased to note that the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research has stepped forward in greater support of [Methuselah] Foundation-funded SENS research with the offer of an additional $50,000 donation ... Paul F. Glenn, founder of the Glenn Foundation, said, 'We have been following the progress of Aubrey de Grey's ideas with interest, and the Thiel matching pledge allows us to leverage our funds in a highly efficient way.'" This follows a (second) $55,000 donation from the Scott B. and Anne P. Appleby Charitable Trust just last week. Exciting times! We are entering an age of considered philanthropic support for real anti-aging science - just what is needed to loosen rusted gears and get moving.
The Role Of DNA Damage In Aging (December 20 2006)
(From PhysOrg.com). What does DNA damage and change in DNA repair mechanisms contribute to aging? There are several camps in this debate; understandably, progeria researchers feel that it is an important factor: "These progeroid mice, even though they do not live very long, have remarkably similar characteristics to normal old mice, from their physical symptoms, to their metabolic and hormonal changes and pathology, right down to the level of similar changes in gene expression. ... it shows how important it is to repair damage that is constantly inflicted upon our genes, even through the simple act of breathing." Other camps argue that progeria is a grand exaggeration of one facet of "normal" aging, which may or may not contribute significantly to degeneration in most people. Anti-aging engineers would argue that any change is damage - we should start working on a fix now, rather than wait to fully understand how harmful this DNA damage is.
Exercise For the Aging Brain (December 19 2006)
Use it or lose it; a fair body of evidence stands in support of the modest improvements to be gained by exercising brain and body. From the Washington Post: "Ten sessions of exercises to boost reasoning skills, memory and mental processing speed staved off mental decline in middle-aged and elderly people ... honing intellectual skills can bolster the mind in the same way that physical exercise protects and strengthens the body. ... the benefits of the brain exercises extended well beyond the specific skills the volunteers learned. Older adults who did the basic exercises followed by later sessions were three times as fast as those who got only the initial sessions when it came to activities of daily living, such as reacting to a road sign, looking up a number in a telephone book or checking the ingredients on a medicine bottle ... the brief training sessions seemed to confer enormous benefits as many as five years later." Every little bit extra gets you closer to an age of real rejuvenation technologies.
Delivering on the Promise (December 19 2006)
Here we have a look at the mess people have made of what should have been a good, solid decade of unrelenting progress in the foundation of regenerative medicine, via EMBO reports: "it is still unclear which human stem cells -whether embryonic [ESCs] or adult [ASCs] - will be developed and for which conditions. Given this, the focus of the NIH in the USA, and research organizations in other countries, should be on developing human research capacity in both ASCs and ESCs. Each type of research will take time to mature. The ethical debate will need to produce acceptable policy and regulatory compromises so that the regulatory burden can be reduced and investors' risk aversion can be overcome. If these things happen, the major remaining barrier to realizing the medical benefits of stem-cell research might be the lack of skilled scientists in the field."
Neural Stem Cell Transplants (December 18 2006)
Scientific American reports on a first generation stem cell therapy for the brain, now in early trials: "Just over a month ago, on November 14, orderlies at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, Ore., wheeled a six-year-old child with an incurable disorder of the nervous system into an operating theater. During the next eight hours surgeons used computers to guide a surgical procedure the likes of which the world has never seen: injections of neural stem cells directly into the brain of a human subject. In this phase I clinical trial, doctors affiliated with Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) are collaborating with scientists at Stem Cells, Inc. ... Their immediate goal is limited to healing children afflicted with Batten disease, a rare but fatal neurodegenerative disorder. In the coming decades, however, this work could lead to treatments for neurodegenerative disorders that affect millions, such as Huntington's, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases."
Stem Cells and the Aging Brain (December 18 2006)
(From DukeMedNews). Scientists appear to have reconciled the observed lower rate of neurogenesis in the aging brain with the fact that stem cells are still present: "as the brain ages, fewer new nerve cells, or neurons, are born in the hippocampus, the brain's learning and memory center. ... The common assumption had been that the brain drain was due to a decreasing supply of neural stem cells in the aging hippocampus ... in young rats, the hippocampus contained 50,000 stem cells - and, significantly, this number did not diminish with aging. This finding, the researchers said, suggested that the decreased production of new neurons in the aged brain was not due to a lack of starting material. ... The team now is searching for ways to stimulate the brain to replace its own cells in order to improve learning and memory function in the elderly." This sounds much like the debate over the declining ability of stem cells to repair aging muscle - stem cells are present, but they do less work.