Longevity Meme Newsletter, June 18 2007

June 18 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.



- The Spread of the Longevity Dividend Viewpoint
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


Over the past few years, as those mainstream scientists who talk about extending the healthy human life span have neither been struck by lightning nor seen their funding dry up, the gentle and gradualist form of healthy life extension advocacy has spread further in the research community:


"Ageing is a highly differentiated and malleable process. Therefore, the commitment must be to develop interventions that can affect the ageing process or the experience of ageing in order to extend healthy life expectancy, independence and well-being in old age. ... Investments in ageing research should be significantly increased as they are likely to produce immense gains to both the economy and society, in particular to the quality of life, productivity and self-sufficiency of the rapidly growing older population group.

"By encouraging collaboration between the Institute itself and leading groups around the UK, both clinical and basic scientists, we hope to be able to move towards developing a broad spectrum of medicines to prevent the biological damage that ageing causes."

This is glacial, incremental change, to be sure, but welcome nonetheless. You would not have heard determined public statements like "it is only a matter of time before aging itself is declared a disease" from recognized names in aging research a decade ago:


I believe we can thank those folk successfully raising funds and conducting research for more openly ambitious aims - more ambitious than mere gradual slowing of aging - for this change in the environment. So long as there are factions in the scientific community legitimately and openly engaged in work to repair, reverse and defeat aging, the gradualists of the present mainstream will appear reasonable:


It is only human nature to glance superficially at two extremes and see "normal" as somewhere midway between, but I think it is somewhat sad that modest goals tend to win more favor, no matter how plausible far greater progress turns out to be. Our futures very much depend on rapid and ambitious progress in longevity science. Now if we can just convince more of the conservative researchers to join in...


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/

Calorie Restriction and Alpha-synuclein (June 15 2007)
Look hard enough and you'll find all sorts of interesting indications of the broad effects the practice of calorie restriction (CR) with optimal nutrition has on the progression of age-related damage: "Dietary restriction (DR) is one of the promising environmental interventions known to attenuate aging and decrease risk of age-related neurodegenerative disorders. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of DR on expression of alpha-synuclein, a presynaptic protein involved in pathogenesis of Parkinson's and some other neurodegenerative diseases, in the cortex and hippocampus of adult, middle-aged, late middle-aged, and aged rats. Using Real Time RT-PCR, the authors report that aging regulates the expression of alpha-synuclein in a tissue-specific manner and that long-term DR reverts the late age-related changes of alpha-synuclein expression." Which is interesting indeed, but not completely unexpected, given that CR slows the buildup of other forms of damaging protein aggregates in rodents.

Bioengineered Arteries Demonstrated (June 15 2007)
From ScienceDaily: "investigators have engineered artificial blood vessels from muscle-derived stem cells (MDSCs) and a biodegradable polymer that exhibit extensive remodeling and remain free of blockages when grafted into rats. The results of their study have potentially significant implications for the treatment of heart and kidney diseases, where there is a critical need for new sources of blood vessels for vascular grafts. ... these findings in a rat demonstrate the feasibility of developing MDSC-seeded tissue-engineered vascular grafts for eventual human application. ... The next step is to demonstrate the use of the tissue-engineered blood vessel in a larger animal model, such as a pig, which has a coagulation system more similar to that in humans. The advantage of our approach is that the graft could utilize the patient's own stem cells and be ready for implantation almost immediately or, at most, after a relatively short culture period. This suggests that we could make these available 'off-the-shelf,' which is an essential element for clinical translation."

Digging For Stem Cells (June 14 2007)
As ScienceDaily reports, scientists are making real progress in identifying useful stem cells in adult tissue. The regenerative medicine of 2017 will be a far cry from the early work taking place today: "Adipose tissue [requires] rapid adjustment in its blood supply and supporting connective tissue, or stroma. Based on previous reports that the 'stromal vascular' fraction of adipose tissue contains stem cells that give rise to pericytes - cells surrounding small blood vessels - [researchers] isolated the stromal vascular fraction from human adipose tissue ... Using a cell-sorting method known as flow cytometry, the researchers detected a broad spectrum of blood-forming, or hematopoietic, cells among the cultured cells at varying stages of differentiation ... Moreover, they detected CD34+ cells at approximately the same frequency as is present in freshly isolated bone marrow. In bone marrow, CD34+ expression indicates the presence of progenitor cells which give rise to all of the different types of blood cells. ... Since it has been shown in some cases that tumor cells contaminating bone marrow grafts are the source of recurrent malignancies after autologous transplantation, this might be a way of giving patients who need bone marrow reconstitution their own hematopoietic cells derived from a source other than their defective bone marrow."

Calorie Restriction and the Endocrine System (June 14 2007)
From innovations report: "Underfeeding an organism such as the ordinary roundworm alters its endocrine function, which regulates hormones instrumental in metabolism. But no connection between the longevity induced by calorie restriction and the endocrine system has been found - until now. ... a particular pair of neurons in the heads of underfed worms may play an essential role in their lengthy lives. When these two individual neurons were killed by a laser beam, the worms could not enjoy the longevity normally associated with calorie restriction. ... skn-1 genes expressed only in these two cells support dietary-restriction longevity; without the genes, the longevity increase on dietary restriction disappeared ... We suspect that the two neurons sense dietary restriction and secrete a hormone that increases metabolism - and life span - in the animal. ... calorie restriction activates the silenced information regulator (SIR2) gene, which has the apparent ability to slow aging. This gene makes a protein called Sir2, which Guarente has shown is integrally tied to extending life span in yeast and in the roundworm. Humans carry a similar gene. How Sir2 relates to the two neurons identified in the findings is not yet clear ... Guarente suggests that the first commercial products based on manipulating Sir2 to slow aging will appear in the next 10 to 20 years. It is only a matter of time, he said, before aging itself is declared a disease."

Yet More on Aging, Stem Cells and Cancer (June 13 2007)
Chris Patil has been rolling out the good posts of late, here continuing the general theme of the week: stem cells, aging and cancer. "The rate of aging may be evolutionarily determined as a balancing act between maintenance of regenerative capacity and prevention of cancer ... The idea is that the same mechanisms that stop our cells from proliferating out of control might also prevent them from dividing in order to repair damage. Like all theories of aging, this one has its advocates (of which I am one) and its detractors (whom I'm certainly willing to hear out). ... On the 'pro' side is an article by Christian Beausejour, who's worked in the field of cellular senescence for quite some time. He reviews evidence that senescence, which evolved as a tumor suppressor function, may contribute to age-related decline in the hematopoetic stem cell (HSC) compartment. ... In the other corner we have a review from Aranda-Anzaldo and Dent, who propose that the evolutionary history of p53 makes it unlikely that it's even an important tumor suppressor gene in short-lived species like the mouse, much less an antagonistically pleiotropic gerontogene."

The Moral Imperative to Combat Aging (June 13 2007)
Is there such a thing as the moral imperative to fight aging through biomedical research? From In Search of Enlightenment, a look at what the philosophers are thinking in these days of socialism and redistribution: "Aging has an enormous impact on the health of a population. It not only affects the wellbeing of individuals (making us more frail and susceptible to disease, causing loss of mental acuity, etc.), but aging also puts pressure on healthcare resources, has costs to our productive capabilities, etc. The stakes are thus very high. So the status quo is certainly not one that says 'aging, how trite and trivial!'. ... Should we not invest in biomedical research that could help us better promote the aims of extending healthy living? I believe we should. Such an aspiration is ingenious and noble, not trite or trivial. ... When it comes to health we do not say that benefits to people above some threshold (like 'normal functioning') have no moral weight whatsoever. So while the sufficiency view may have some intuitive appeal when the good in question is wealth, it is not a defensible principle to invoke in the context of debates about health extension." It seems the threat of illness and death might be more motivating than the threat of poverty when it comes to shifting away from the abyss of control for the sake of control. When you read these passages think to yourself "who do these people think they are, telling me what I can do with research and longevity medicine?"

More on Aging and Stem Cells (June 12 2007)
Scientists are constantly breaking new ground in their consideration of the biochemical changes that lead to diminishing function of stem cells with age - which in turn diminishes the ability to resist further age-related degeneration: "factors influencing bone marrow-derived cell proliferation and functions are likely to have a broad impact. Aging has been identified as one of these factors. One hypothesis is that aging directly affects stem cells as a consequence of exhaustive proliferation. Alternatively, it is also possible that aging indirectly affects stem cells by acting on their microenvironment. Cellular senescence is believed to have evolved as a tumor suppressor mechanism capable of arresting growth to reduce risk of malignancy. In opposition to apoptosis, senescent cells accumulate in tissues. Recent evidence suggests their accumulation contributes to the phenotype of aging. Senescence can be activated by both telomere-dependent and telomere-independent pathways. Genetic alteration, genome-wide DNA damage, and oxidative stress are inducers of senescence and have recently been identified as occurring in bone marrow-derived cells."

The Aging Brain (June 12 2007)
When you can start asking "why does this no longer work?" in detail, then progress towards progress and repair can begin earnest: "The brain represents the primary centre for the regulation and control of all our body activities ... Most importantly, it is also the seat of consciousness, thought, emotion and especially memory, being in fact able to encode, store and recall any information. Memory is really what makes possible so many of our complex cognitive functions, including communication and learning, and surely without memory, life would lose all of its glamour and purpose. Age-associated mental impairment can range in severity from forgetfulness at the border with pathology to dementia, such as in Alzheimer's disease. In recent years, one of the most relevant observations of research on brain aging relates to data indicating that age-related cognitive decline is not only due to neuronal loss, as previously thought; instead, scientists now believe that age-associated functional changes have more to do with the dysfunctions occurring over time. Within this context a prominent role is certainly played by signal transduction cascades which guarantee neuronal cell to elaborate coordinated responses to the multiple signals coming from the outside and to adapt itself to the environmental changes and requests."

Sacremento Bee on CR (June 11 2007)
You'll find a balanced, if not entirely accurate piece on calorie restriction (CR) in the Sacremento Bee: "Most studies of calorie restriction have been done in lab animals, including rodents and worms. So far, reduced chronic disease (including cancer and Alzheimer's) and increased life spans have been observed in just about every living organism tested. Studies in humans are much fewer in number, however. In humans, calorie restriction generally leads to weight loss and reduced blood pressure, blood glucose and lipids. These are great benefits in and of themselves, leading to reduced diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc. However, there seems to be something more going on than just the benefits of weight loss. There are numerous theories why [calorie restriction with optimal nutrition] not only reduces chronic disease and extends life span but also delays aging and extends the 'health span.'" The tone is about right, but I'll leave sifting out the factual inaccuracies as an exercise for the reader. It's a good reminder that journalists suffer little for their inaccuracies, but are penalized for taking time to research rather than rolling out the copy to fill the news hole. The results of those incentives are fairly predictable.

Early Registration Deadline For SENS3 (June 11 2007)
Via the Methuselah Foundation: "this coming Friday, June 15th, is the deadline both for abstract submission and for registration at the early rate for the third "Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence" conference (SENS3), which will be held on September 6-10 2007 at Queens' College, Cambridge, UK. Please see the website for the fabulous program of speakers, as well as forms to submit an abstract or to register. Please note that there are numerous slots for short oral presentations, which will be selected from the submitted abstracts. Please also note that the registration fee includes accommodation and all meals, so it's really very good value. Finally, I can confirm that authors of short talks and posters will, like the invited speakers, be invited to submit a paper summarising their presentation for the proceedings volume, which will be published in the high-impact journal Rejuvenation Research early in 2008. ... I look forward to welcoming you to Cambridge in September!" A lot of very interesting stuff in the program already - this should prove to be just as engaging and productive as SENS2 in 2005.



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