LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
March 12 2007
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.
- What Can One Person Do?
- Health Basics and Calorie Restriction
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
WHAT CAN ONE PERSON DO?
Never say "I can't help to change the world for the better":
"You futurists in the audience, those looking forward eagerly to a world of advanced technology and medicine capable of defeating aging, think on this: just who else is most likely to help make that future a reality if not you? Progress does not take place in a vacuum; it requires growing support, both vocal and material, of first tens, then hundreds, then thousands, then millions of people.
"It doesn't take much to tip the balance: a single action on the part of thousands can change the world. A few hundreds of people have brought the Methuselah Foundation from nothing to its present position, for example: more than $8.5 million in pledges in support of serious longevity research, and a growing influence on the culture, aims and future of aging research. You too can help accelerate this success higher and onwards."
Take a look at the same sentiment expressed at Betterhumans:
There's plenty you can do to help bring about the defeat of age-related frailty, degeneration and suffering - and it doesn't take much from each of us to tip the balance towards faster progress.
HEALTH BASICS AND CALORIE RESTRICTION
What can you do for your health and longevity today? The answer to that question can be found in the usual place at the Longevity Meme. Take care of the health basics, and help to pull in the time at which the first effective medical technologies for healthy life extension are developed and deployed:
Speaking of health basics, it is far past time for the practice of calorie restriction (with optimal nutrition) to be counted in this category. Just like exercise, there is some small portion of people for whom it's not a good idea, but calorie restriction is very beneficial for the vast majority - talk to your physician to find out which side of the line you fall. See the following post for a high level summary of what is known about calorie restriction in humans:
Barring bad luck in the genetic lottery or the unfolding of chance over a lifetime, you have a surprisingly large amount of control over the length and quality of your healthy life, even with the comparatively crude techniques and knowledge widely available today. You can run your body into the ground with neglect, or you can better maintain it for longer - and just imagine what you could do in an era of medical nanorobots, routine repair of damaged cell components, mature regenerative medicine, enhanced immune systems, and more.
If you want a better chance of living to greet that future of amazing medicine and greatly enhanced longevity in health and vigor, best take control of your health today!
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/
Groundwork For Stem Cells Versus Neurodegeneration (March 11 2007)
From EurekAlert!, a taste of the groundwork presently taking place: "To determine whether stem cell biology might play a role in benefiting [neurodegenerative] diseases, the investigators [used] mouse neural stem cells (NSCs), a type of "adult" stem cell, to establish the parameters of what might or might not be achievable in this disease. Then, having demonstrated success with mouse cells, they extended those insights to stem cells of human origin, both human neural stem cells and human embryonic stem cells ... The results [in fact] prove to be the first successful use of human embryonic stem cells in treating a degenerative disease, significantly preserving function and extending life. ... implanted neural stem cells, which migrated and integrated extensively throughout the brain, did much more than replace brain tissue destroyed by the disease. Some of the transplanted cells replaced damaged nerve cells and transmitted nerve impulses, offering the first evidence that stem cell-derived nerve cells may integrate electrically and functionally into a diseased brain. ... [the] treatment also dampened the inflammation that typically occurs in the brains of most degenerative diseases."
Rebooting the Immune System (March 11 2007)
A release via Medical News Today looks at a drug-based approach to clearing out problems in an aging or otherwise errant immune system: "Revimmune works by temporarily eliminating peripheral immune cells, including the immune cells causing the autoimmunity, while selectively sparing the stem cells in the bone marrow. Investigators at Hopkins discovered that stem cells uniquely have high levels of a particular protective enzyme that can be measured in advance of therapy, which makes them impervious to Revimmune, and allows the surviving stem cells to give rise to the new immune system over 2 to 3 weeks. The newly reconstituted peripheral immune system typically lacks the misdirected immunity to self-antigens, which is characteristic of autoimmune diseases. ... Based on follow-up of up to 2 years, most people have a substantial improvement and many have a complete elimination of disease activity." Would this help with aspects of immune system aging, such as the diminished pool of naive T cells? Or would it cause more harm than good by forcing further, excessive wear and tear on the stem cells responsible for regenerating the immune system? We will no doubt hear more of this class of therapy in the years ahead.
The Dangers of Overthinking (March 10 2007)
Russell Blackford walks us through some of the - to my mind at least - sillier debates in mainstream utilitarian thought on healthy life extension. The punchline: "When we look at what we actually value, there is no need to adopt any paradoxical theory such as the total view. Think of it like this. The future society with life extension technology, as depicted in Singer's scenario, will not contain people whom we should feel sorry for. Nor need it be a society that lacks complexity or creativity, even it is smaller in its space-time population than the alternative society without life extension technology. The people who live in this society will be glad to do so, and glad of the enhanced lives that life extension technology will enable them to have. In short, no important value should lead us to try to avert such a society - all we need to do is abandon total-view utilitarianism, which gives a crude and unhelpful picture of what actually underlies our moral thinking." People, life and individual choice, in other words, not airy and overconstructed principles, and not regulation of the many by the few. Too many have died for a slavish devotion to that in the past few hundred years.
Health in Old Age: We Can Do Better Than This (March 10 2007)
As WebMD notes, the state of health in the old today is better than it used to be, but pretty horrible from the perspective of the healthy young. "Nearly 80% of Americans aged 65 or older have at least one chronic condition such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, or depression -- and half have at least two chronic conditions. ... One in five people aged 65 and older is obese. Nearly one in three (32%) is sedentary (no physical activity in the past month). Only 30% eat at least five fruits and vegetables daily. More than 20% don't have any of their own teeth. 34% are disabled. ... Our main message is really that Americans of all ages can reduce their risk of developing chronic illnesses, as well as preventing disabilities." We can do far better than this - both for ourselves, by taking better care of the health basics throughout life, and for others, by supporting medical research to extend healthy life. Biotechnology and medical science is advancing rapidly, but don't expect to be saved from the consequences of negligence if you let your body go to rust. That way lies greater suffering, illness and an early death.
EIW Audio Podcast on SENS (March 09 2007)
The latest podcast from Anne C. over at Existence is Wonderful is focused on Aubrey de Grey's Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS): "I like to think of SENS in terms of it being a useful framework to approach aging from an engineering standpoint, as explained in the podcast. It's not a recipe for making people live longer in and of itself, but rather, a good start in terms of viewing age-related health problems as potentially solvable. ... In this episode, I briefly outlined the Seven Deadly Things associated with aging. These Seven Deadly Things are: 1. Cell loss, cell atrophy. 2. Nuclear mutations and epimutations. 3. Mutant mitochondria. 4. Death-resistant cells. 5. Extracellular crosslinks. 6. Extracellular junk. 7. Intracellular junk." As is pointed out, a great many recordings of discussions between scientists on the components of SENS can be found at the SENS website; these are primarily recordings from the IABG10 and SENS2 conferences of recent years. If you want to learn about the technical side of real anti-aging science from researchers who think age-related degeneration can be effectively tackled, then this is a good place to start.
Regenerative Scaffolds In the Eye (March 09 2007)
From UCSF Today, a look at yet another group working to apply regenerative medicine to age-related damage in the eye: "experiments intended to restore vision to blind rodents failed when either retinal stem cells or their first-generation descendents, called progenitors, were injected into the eye. The cells were unable to network successfully within the eye and perform their necessary roles, and they eventually died. ... cues tell cells where to go and when to increase their numbers, and help determine the specialization of progeny cells. Scientists do not know what all the cues are, or which ones are lost after early development is complete. The biomimetic scaffolds developed by Tao substitute in part for the guidance provided naturally by these cues during early development. The scaffolds hold stem cells in place and more accurately guide them as they go through the long process of developing into working photoreceptors. ... Cells delivered using Tao's scaffolds have been able to integrate into the mouse's retina and to begin developing into different cell types. The next step is to use Tao's scaffolds to try to restore vision in blind mice. Ultimately, Tao's scaffolds may lead to new treatment strategies to reverse macular degeneration and related eye diseases in humans."
Ceramide and Type 2 Diabetes (March 08 2007)
ScienceDaily look at another step towards controlling age-related diabetes through medical science: researchers have "identified a common link between multiple assaults on the body, including saturated fats, obesity, and certain types of drugs, all of which can lead to insulin resistance. The researchers found that these metabolic stresses lead to an upswing in production of a particular kind of fat molecule, known as ceramide. ... We've found that ceramide has a big effect on insulin resistance. In some animal models, ceramide inhibition led to an almost complete restoration of insulin sensitivity. ... Insulin hormone stimulates the uptake and storage of blood sugar and other nutrients in skeletal muscle and fat tissue while simultaneously blocking the release of blood sugar stored in the liver ... Insulin resistance occurs when a normal dose of the hormone becomes incapable of eliciting those responses. The condition is a characteristic of or risk factor for many metabolic diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, and cancer." Exercise and losing the excess fat have demonstrated merits to the same level or better than new therapies - something to remember as you move through life. The health basics pay dividends.
What To Make Of This Mitochondrial Research? (March 08 2007)
From The Scientist, a challenge to the details of the mitochondrial free radical theory of aging: "Point mutations in mitochondrial DNA do not cause signs of aging in mice ... The data, which contradict a prominent theory that mitochondrial mutations drive the aging process, show that mice with mitochondrial mutations 500 times higher than normal levels do not show signs of premature aging. ... mutation frequency in mouse mitochondria is more than 10 times lower than that reported in previous studies, suggesting earlier work overestimated the rate of these mutations. 'The technique we are using is much more sensitive' than previous assays, which had very high background levels ... Since their assay examined point mutations only, it remains possible that large deletions in mitochondrial DNA could still underlie aging." The article contains further caveats on what this all means - we shall see where it all goes as researchers continue to hold up a light to mitochondrial biochemistry and its role in the aging process.
The Right Side (March 07 2007)
Some thoughts at Ouroboros, following up on a recent article on engineering our biology for longevity: "The reader commentary is worth checking out as well, not because it's particularly informative but because it distills some of the opposition that confront a life-extension-motivated biogerontologists - even those who aren’t committed to making germ-line modifications to the human organism, as most of the arguments here are directed against extending the lifespan, rather than the means by which this extension might be achieved. Among the commenters are the folks who don't see the point in living longer (then don't); those who either profoundly misunderstand evolutionary theory or idolize the concept of species-level evolution as a moral good; the infamous 'think of the children' argument; and - of course - invocations of God, who apparently wants us all to die so that we can join Him and Jebus up in Heaven. If one happens to be a pro-life-extension biogerontologist, their rants provide a refreshing bit of evidence that you're on the right side."
More On Bone Scaffolds and Stem Cells (March 07 2007)
The sophistication of scaffolds in research for regenerative medicine continues to advance. From the Technology Review: researchers "created a new tissue-engineering material that could help cells survive the harsh transplant environment - a key step in cell-transplant therapies. Scientists are now testing the material in animals to see how well it can help heal fractures. ... Creating instructional biomaterials like this is an entirely new way of thinking about what could be put in the human body. It could become an important component of regenerative medicine ... [scientists] have developed materials called comb scaffolds that have been employed for a variety of tissue-engineering uses, such as growing new blood vessels. The comb consists of a Plexiglas backbone studded with molecular tethers that can hold different protein growth factors at their tips. In their latest round of experiments, the researchers modified the scaffold to hold epidermal growth factor (EGF) molecules, a protein that plays a role in growth and differentiation of many cells, including stem cells. ... adult stem cells grown on the EGF scaffolds were better able to survive. And preliminary evidence suggests that the scaffold also boosts cell proliferation, potentially increasing the number of cells available to make new bone after transplantation."
Gene Therapy To Tackle Neurodegeneration (March 06 2007)
Medical News Today notes continued efforts to employ gene therapy against neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson's disease (PD): researchers will "test the feasibility of delivering condensed DNA nanoparticles that encode for a neurotrophic factor to the brain as a means to halt or prevent the neurodegenerative process in an animal model of PD. Neurotrophic factors are capable of protecting neurons from dying, thereby rescuing essential neurons in the brain. In animal studies, neurotrophic factors have revived dormant brain cells, caused them to produce dopamine, and prompted dramatic improvement of symptoms. ... said this relatively new gene therapy strategy holds potential to help repair faulty genes. It entails transduction, a technique for expressing a particular gene in a cell by delivering DNA into the cell and making the cell synthesize the protein that corresponds to that DNA. ... We plan to use this technology to transduce brain cells so that they express proteins beneficial to the cell's survival."
Building a Better Antioxidant (March 06 2007)
Nanowerk looks at efforts in materials science to produce a better antioxidant and thereby increase longevity: "Can a major component of a catalytic converter or a fullerene derivative lead to an eventual treatment for Parkinson's disease or arthritis? ... Oxidative stress is believed to play a role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Some of the symptoms of aging such as arteriosclerosis are also attributed to free-radical induced oxidation of many of the chemicals making up the body. Despite the broad role that oxidative stress plays in human disease, medicine has been limited in its development of treatments that counteract free radical damage and the ensuing burden of oxidative stress. In contrast, in the field of engineering, considerable effort has been developed to counter the effects of oxidative stress at the materials science level. ... Our initial results suggest that cerium oxide nanoparticles extend cell and organism longevity through their actions as regenerative free radical scavengers. Additional studies suggest that these nanoparticles are also potent anti-inflammatory agents. Although much work remains to be done in this realm, ceria nanoparticles hold high promise for future development of nanopharmacological agents to treat age related neurodegenerative disorders and inflammatory disorders."
Examining Unfortunate Attitudes (March 05 2007)
Via Spiked, a look at attitudes towards aging and medical progress: "the future is one of transformation and adaptation, not extrapolation. This is the statistical distinction between 'projections' and 'forecasts', which invariably get mixed up in everyday discussion. This confusion is a boon to those who make fearful speculations about the future. ... more research can accelerate building upon the existing indications of scientific and medical progress in this area. But this gets a little lost in the hyperbole. ... The general trend is that in most countries a symptom of living longer healthier lives is that the age of onset of particular illnesses is postponed. The average 65-year-old today is much healthier than one in 1950 due to a combination of improvements in living standards and medical progress; healthy life expectancy is growing with increases in overall life expectancy. The only uncertainties are the pace of improvements in healthy life expectancy and total life expectancy - and the relation between them. ... All this pessimism about the human success story of people living longer older tells us more about society's collective sense of uncertainty and anxieties about where we are heading, than it does about a rational understanding of any of these age-related issues."
Calorie Restriction, Longevity and Mitochondria (March 05 2007)
Another round of calorie restriction research from PLoS Medicine: "Caloric restriction without malnutrition extends life span in a range of organisms including insects and mammals [and] delays the onset of age-related chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke. There are also hints that people who eat a calorie-restricted diet might live longer than those who overeat. ... But how might caloric restriction slow aging? A major factor in the age-related decline of bodily functions is the accumulation of 'oxidative damage' in the body's proteins, fats, and DNA. Oxidants - in particular, chemicals called 'free radicals' - are produced when food is converted to energy by cellular structures called mitochondria. One theory for how caloric restriction slows aging is that it lowers free-radical production by inducing the formation of efficient mitochondria. ... The observed increase in muscle mitochondrial DNA in association with a decrease in whole body oxygen consumption and DNA damage suggests that caloric restriction improves mitochondrial function in young non-obese adults."