LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
August 06 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.
- On the Inevitability of Aging
- More than $100K For SENS From the Glenn Foundation
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
ON THE INEVITABILITY OF AGING
Inevitability from the evolutionary perspective, that is. The scientific community appears to be leaning towards the position that aging is a consequence of the cellular model of life: once you have animals made of cells, evolution will lead to and sustain the aging and death of individuals:
"Inevitable until that cellular life becomes smart enough to develop medicine and learn how to repair itself sufficiently well, in any case. .... Evolution's days are all but over, and the invisible hand of the market will take over as technology enables individual humans to shape themselves rather than be shaped. When people can choose between degenerative aging or no degenerative aging, I imagine there won't be a great deal of degenerative aging in the world - much the same as for the smallpox/no smallpox choice that became available in recent times."
MORE THAN $100K FOR SENS FROM THE GLENN FOUNDATION
Continuing the theme - the impending triumph of cellular life over its own limitations - I should pass on some good news from this past week. The speed with which we are moving towards true longevity medicine continues to pick up, one modest step at a time:
"We here at the Methuselah Foundation are pleased to announce our receipt of a Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging: a further $50,000 towards the presently ongoing SENS research aimed at extending healthy human longevity, and funded by our generous donors.
"As for all SENS research contributions, this award is matched by $25,000 from the $3 million fund set up by Peter Thiel in late 2006. It will help to extend Foundation research into bioremediation of damaging age-related byproducts in tissue, the protection of fragile mitochondrial DNA and future programs for other aspects of SENS, each tackling one form of age-related biochemical and cellular damage.
"This latest award brings contributions from the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research to $120,000, more than $100,000 of that in the last year. Many thanks from all of us for this aid in our efforts to repair the damage that causes aging. We've set a fine pace of growth in the past twelve months, and we fully intend to keep it up!"
You can find out more about the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) research funded by the Glenn Foundation and Peter Thiel - as well as by hundreds of folk just like you and I - by following the links below:
If you're after a high-level introduction to SENS and the science behind this path to greatly extended healthy life spans, you'll find that at the Longevity Meme:
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/
The Pathophysiology of Aging (August 03 2007)
You'll find an interesting meeting report at the open access journal Immunity and Aging; the full PDF is available. It reflects something of the mainstream view of inevitability, acceptance, and slowing aging as the only path forward - a view that I'd like to see vanish in favor of the SENS approach of working directly towards rejuvenation and repair. "On April 18, 2007 an international meeting on Pathophysiology of Ageing, Longevity and Age-Related Diseases was held in Palermo, Italy. Several interesting topics on Cancer, Immunosenescence, Age-related inflammatory diseases and longevity were discussed. In this report we summarize the most important issues. However, ageing must be considered an unavoidable end point of the life history of each individual, nevertheless the increasing knowledge on ageing mechanisms, allows envisaging many different strategies to cope with, and delay it. So, a better understanding of pathophysiology of ageing and age-related disease is essential for giving everybody a reasonable chance for living a long and enjoyable final part of the life." Despite the defeatism, the science is worth reading.
Christine Peterson on Healthy Life Extension (August 03 2007)
Via Nanodot, a collection of audio recordings of Christine Peterson from the Foresight Nanotech Institute talking on healthy life extension: "One of the Foresight Nanotech Challenges is 'Improving health and longevity'. But to take advantage of these expected advances, we all need to stick around long enough for them to arrive. Here at Foresight we'd like all Nanodot readers to do that, so here are the URLs for audio recordings of my Penguicon talk on current techniques in life extension, sent by Matt Arnold who set up the programming for that meeting." As I've long noted, there is considerable overlap between the go-getters of the healthy life extension community and active folk involved in work and advocacy on advanced nanotechnology (or molecular manufacturing) and the development of general artificial intelligence. It takes the same sort of appreciation for the way in which the world works to see the plausible futures for each of these threads of advancing technology. They will enable very desirable outcomes - so it's not surprising to see people advocating all three paths.
Autophagy and Calorie Restriction (August 02 2007)
Calorie restriction is known to increase autophagy in at least some cell populations. This process of repair and turnover of materials is of general benefit. "Autophagy often gets overlooked as 'just housekeeping.' [In fact], failures in keeping house likely contribute to diseases such as cancer and neurodegeneration. In addition, autophagy wanes with age for reasons that aren't yet clear [and] is 'mechanistically important' in aging itself." Here is an example of confirming research: "Autophagy is a highly regulated intracellular process for the degradation of cellular constituents and essential for the maintenance of a healthy cell. We evaluated the effects of age and life-long calorie restriction on autophagy in heart and liver of young (6 months) and old (26 months) [rats]. We observed that the occurrence of autophagic vacuoles was higher in heart than liver. The occurrence of autophagic vacuoles was not affected by age in either tissue, but was increased with calorie restriction in heart but not in liver. ... calorie restriction may mediate some of its beneficial effects by stimulating autophagy in the heart, indicating the potential for cardioprotective therapies."
Theorizing on Human Calorie Restriction (August 02 2007)
With the growing interest in calorie restriction research and related biomedicine, more scientists are stepping up to theorize on the effects of CR on human life span. "The question has arisen in the literature as to whether dietary restriction (DR) will have a significant effect on human longevity. ... human reproductive costs are high enough to permit a DR response. I then review four different models relating diet and life span, three of which have been previously used to estimate the effects of DR on humans. A review of the pertinent literature suggests that these three models, while plausible, are not capable of making robust predictions that are consistent with human data not used in their development. ... The fourth, or biocultural model, examined combines biologic and cultural factors. Human longevity is more complex than our model systems have led us to believe, and thus any solution will require the development of a new quantitative model. ... If the human cultural pro-longevity practices can be quantified in terms of their effect on energy allocation, then this model may serve in future as a realistic quantitative model capable of identifying pertinent pathways and making robust predictions." I predict that by the time a robust prediction of the degree of extended human life span to be obtained through the practice of CR has arrived, it will be rendered irrelevant by advances in rejuvenation medicine.
A View of Mainstream Aging Research (August 01 2007)
A brief tour of the mainstream of aging research can be found at Courant.com - longevity genes, metabolism, drug development. "Once a field crowded with charlatans and hustlers, longevity research has turned up some remarkable insights into why organisms age. And a few scientists have already staked their claims to genes they say are crucial to healthy aging. Almost all of the most promising work on longevity so far has come from a single observation made decades ago - that hungry animals live longer and have fewer health problems than animals that eat more. Scientists studying how the severe restriction of calories imparts such health benefits have zeroed in on a few crucial genes that seem to have very large impacts. ... All the major diseases of aging - cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, cancer, diabetes - they all might fall under the sway of calorie restriction. If we knew which are the critical genes involved in calorie restriction, then we could develop new drugs. That is what we are doing now." I don't see any of this as the path to a future of far greater healthy longevity. The knowledge gained from this research will help, but tweaking metabolism isn't going to rejuvenate those already old. Developing the tools to reverse aging will be no more expensive; we need repair technologies, not metabolic tinkering.
George Dvorksy at the Longevity Dividend Seminar (August 01 2007)
Via the IEET, a transcript of George Dvorsky's presentation at the Longevity Dividend Seminar prior to last week's Transvision 2007 conference: "Life is good, death is bad. That pretty much says it all for life extensionists. There is the general notion that death at 17 is tragic, while death at 87 is natural. That is based on our conditioned response and expectations regarding maximum lifespan. If we could live to 1000, we would consider the death of someone at 350 to be just as tragic. ... A great quote from J.R.R. Tolkien. 'There is no such thing as a natural death. Nothing that happens to Man is ever natural, since his presence calls the whole world into question. All men must die, but for every man his death is an accident. And even if he knows it and consents to it, an unjustifiable violation.' The quote is the obverse to Leon Kass's assertion that the finitude of human life is a blessing for every individual, whether he knows it or not. Another argument is that death is wasteful, destroying memories and experiences. Moreover, it is a terribly thing to have to deal with death. Eliezer Yudkowsky, who experienced the death of his sibling a few years ago, wrote that 'No sentient being deserves such a thing.' Life extensionists are cognizant of the fact that people are dying every day of age-related diseases."
On Bioengineered Bladders (July 31 2007)
As scientists learn more, all organs will become open to engineered replacements. From EurekAlert!: "urothelial cells [are] the specialised lining cells of the bladder that enable it to retain urine. The cells have a very low turnover rate, but scientists have found that if the bladder is damaged, the urothelial cells are able to rapidly re-grow to repair the wound. The researchers hope to harness this property to engineer new bladders. ... researchers have developed a series of models that mean they can study human urothelial cells in the laboratory. Of these models, the most important is their development of a urothelial cell sheet that functions as it would in the bladder. When the researchers create a wound in this model, the cells regenerate to repair the damage - just as they would in the body. Pharmaceutical companies should soon be able to use the research models to test therapies for the bladder, but the longer term aim for this research is to help patients who have lost bladder function or have had all or part of their bladder removed because of cancer. ... Our most exciting work moving forward is to develop natural and synthetic biomaterials that could be combined with regenerating urothelial cells. This has the potential to produce viable bladder tissue for transplant."
Towards Retinal Regeneration (July 31 2007)
EurekAlert! reports on one line of work in regenerative medicine for the eye: "A special type of cell found in the eye has been found to be very important in regenerating the retina in zebrafish and restoring vision even after extensive damage. ... scientists believe they may be able to use these cells - known as Muller glial cells - to regenerate damaged retina in humans, according to a study published this month in the journal Stem Cells. ... researchers were able to develop the cells in vitro into all the types of neurons found in the retina. When tested in rat models with diseased retinas, the cells migrated into the retina and took on the characteristics of the surrounding neurons. The researchers are now looking at developing this approach for use in the human eye. In addition to growing the cells in the lab and transplanting them back into the eye, the researchers are looking at ways to stimulate growth and persuading the eye to repair itself using its own cells. ... Although Muller glial cells are present in the human eye, it is not clear whether they already automatically repair the retina in some people but not in others. It is possible that internal mechanisms exist in the normal adult retina that prevent these cells from dividing and replicating. ... Our next step is to identify which factor is responsible for blocking the regeneration."
More on Aging Cancers To Death (July 30 2007)
Via EurekAlert!, another look at the potential to use cellular senescence as a weapon against cancer: "Historically, most research involving genetic methods of battling cancer cells has focused on reactivating genes called tumor-suppressor genes, which are generally overcome by a proliferating cancer. No one had explored the idea that senescence might play a key role in diminishing tumors. ... senescence [acts] like a fail-safe mechanism to stop cancer. When a cell detects a deleterious mutation, it launches the senescence process, resulting in the permanent loss of the cell's ability to proliferate, thus halting any cancer. In order to become tumor cells, those cells have to overcome senescence ... the sudden diminishment they had observed in the tumors might be due to the reactivation of some latent remnant of the trigger for senescence. Through a series of experiments looking at enzymes associated with the senescence process, as well as some molecular markers, Wu confirmed her suspicion. And not only was senescence occurring in cells that had been thought to be incapable of it, the process was reactivated in all the different tumors they studied." The researchers have found a trigger mechanism to reenable cellular senescence in cancer in mice, but it remains to be seen how effective this strategy can be in humans.
The Will to Immortality (July 30 2007)
Over at the Immortality Insitute, you'll find discussion and a YouTube embed of a recent healthy life extension community film "The Immortalists": the filmmaker "recently completed a short film/meditation on the will to become immortal. It features interviews with Ray Kurzweil, Michael West, Michael Fossel, and Dan Baker." It seems to be well-received by the Institute folk; healthy life extension advocacy can use more punchy to-the-point media of this sort. Most people wander through the corridors of life with focus or dazed, not seeing the possibilities just around the corner. We are at the very start of a curve of medical technology that will make healthy life spans indefinite some decades from now. Science will provide extra years more rapidly than aging takes those years away. There is a chance to be grasped here - that we can work together to bring that turning point closer, inside our lifetimes. What bigger prize could there be than to rid the world of all the suffering and death caused by aging?