Longevity Meme Newsletter, August 27 2007

August 27 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.



- A First Look at "Ending Aging"
- Generous Donations, Funding for Longevity Research
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


Members of the Methuselah Foundation's Three Hundred will soon be receiving advance signed copies of "Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime" by Aubrey de Grey and Michael Rae:


Follow the link below for a picture of a stack of copies waiting for the mail, thanks to Foundation volunteer Anne C.:


"I got a good look at much of the scientific content during the editorial phase, and I believe that many people are likely to find it highly accessible. 'Ending Aging' definitely provides a good breakdown of the various ways in which age-related change contributes to ill health and death, and proposes the mechanisms by which this damage might be addressed.

"It is, of course, not a magic prescription - it does not tell the reader to go out and buy expensive supplements, nor does it make any promises. It is not that kind of book - it is much more science-oriented and descriptive, and refers mainly to proof-of-concept lab studies and various experimental processes still in (or awaiting) clinical trials. So, definitely not a 'do-it-yourself' supercentenarian kit. But certainly a beginning - hopefully a beginning to an era where people can start to see age-related death as less mythical and mysterious, and more of an engineering challenge. After all, as reads one of the lines on the back cover of 'Ending Aging', 'Old people are people too.'"

As always, if you'd like to lead more about the science behind this path to repair the damage of aging - and thus enable true rejuvenation - you can start with research funded by the Methuselah Foundation's generous donors, and move on to the SENS website:



Speaking of generous donors, another $100,000 came in to fund longevity research at the Methuselah Foundation this past week:


It wasn't so long ago that I noted five-figure donations to research were starting to roll in on a regular basis, and was justifiably pleased at the progress that represented. Six figures is the new standard now, as the Foundation continues to grow in reach and influence. Onwards and upwards!

"The Methuselah Foundation has a real shot at growing into a large, sustaining, influential and shaping body in aging research, steering not just its own research funds to best effect but lighting the way for millions and then billions of dollars more from other organizations. Convincing the mainstream of research funding that repair of aging is in fact very plausible and comparatively close at hand, given large-scale funding - now there's a goal. Every boulder is a pebble at the head of a larger avalanche, and revolutions start with a single idea spoken out loud and single dollar on the table to fund the first step.

"The stranglehold of conservatism on a field of science is broken by obtaining enough independent resources to move down the path ahead - at which point the rest of the field will follow, loudly declaiming that they knew you were right all along. Which I'm happy to suffer, provided they get started soonest; there is a great deal of work to be done if we are to live in good health for as long as we'd like to."


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!




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/

Cancer Stem Cells at the NYAS (August 24 2007)
A little history of the cancer stem cell theory, and evidence thereof, from the New York Academy of Sciences: "Virtually all cancers are believed to arise from a single faulty cell. But the notion that any cell can be mutated to give rise to new tumors has been replaced by the idea that only a subset of cells, those with self-renewing properties, has the paradoxical effect of conferring immortality to the tumor at the same time they threaten the life of their host organism. ... Before the cancer stem cell theory took hold it was thought that any tumor cell remaining in the body after surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy had the potential to resurrect cancer in its most aggressive form. This model led to treatments, not uniformly successful, that targeted the destruction of every cancer cell regardless of its function. Recently, [scientists] have learned that only a small subset of tumor cells can re-initiate full-blown disease. The implication of the cancer stem cell model is that targeting cancer stem cells, rather than every aberrant cell in the body, might bring about long-term remissions or even cures, and turn many currently deadly cancers into truly manageable diseases."

More on Longevity Gene Research (August 24 2007)
Here's a report on increasingly sophisticated analysis of genes that contribute to natural longevity: "People who live to 100 or more are known to have just as many - and sometimes even more - harmful gene variants compared with younger people. Now, scientists [have] discovered the secret behind this paradox: favorable 'longevity' genes that protect very old people from the bad genes' harmful effects. The novel method used by the researchers could lead to new drugs to protect against age-related diseases. ... researchers were able to construct a network of gene interactions that contributes to the understanding of longevity. In particular, they found that the favorable variant of the gene CETP acts to buffer the harmful effects of the disease-causing gene Lp(a). ... researchers are greatly expanding their longevity research: From the 66 genetic markers examined in this study, they are now using a high-throughput technology that allows them to assay one million genetic markers throughout the human genome. The goal is to find additional genetic networks that are involved in the process of aging."

The Lifeboat Viewpoint (August 23 2007)
The viewpoint driving groups like the Lifeboat Foundation and the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology is illustrated well in this post from Accelerating Future: "There are two sides to living as long as possible: developing the technologies to cure aging, such as SENS, and preventing human extinction risk, which threatens everybody. Unfortunately, in the life extensionist community, and the world at large, the balance of attention and support is lopsided in favor of the first side of the coin, while largely ignoring the second. I see people meticulously obsessed with caloric restriction and SENS, but apparently unaware of human extinction risks. There's the global warming movement, sure, but no efforts to address the bio, nano, and AI risks. ... if we develop SENS only to destroy ourselves a few years later, it's worse than useless. It's better to overinvest in existential risk, encourage cryonics for those whose bodies can't last until aging is defeated, and address aging once we have a handle on existential risk, which we quite obviously don't." I disagree with this viewpoint; I think that history shows people do pay attention and organize to deal with threats of this nature as they become apparent; the Lifeboat Foundation is a part of that process. If anything, the problem is overreaction to perceived threats - and manipulation and exploitation of those who understand such threats poorly - while research and progress towards transformative goals like radical life extension is underfunded, poorly understood and much slower than it might be.

Calorie Restriction Cleans Cells (August 23 2007)
An interesting pitch for the latest research on autophagy and calorie restriction from EurekAlert!: "Cutting calories helps rodents live longer by boosting cells' ability to recycle damaged parts so they can maintain efficient energy production. ... Caloric restriction is a way to extend life in animals. If you give them less food, the stress of this healthy habit actually makes them live longer ... How does it work? During the aging process, free radicals - highly reactive byproducts of our cells' respiration - wreak havoc on our cellular machinery. ... younger cells are adept at reducing, recycling and rebuilding. In this process, damaged mitochondria are quickly swallowed up and degraded. The broken down pieces are then recycled and used to build new mitochondria. However, older cells are less adept at this process, so damaged mitochondria tend to accumulate and contribute to aging. ... The stress of a low-calorie diet was enough to boost cellular cleaning in the hearts of older rats by 120 percent over levels seen in rats that were allowed to eat what they wanted."

Video From the 6th Alcor Conference (August 22 2007)
The 7th Alcor Conference is just around the corner, and I noticed via the Alcor blog that DVDs from last year's event are up for purchase. You'll find a 15-minute sample at the Alcor website: "Is it possible to stop aging? Will nanomedicine and medical nanorobots dramatically extend the human lifespan? Can cryopreserved human beings be revived in the future and what impact would result? Distinguished speakers convened at the 6th Alcor Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, to present their provocative insights into anti-aging, life extension research, nanotechnology, cryonics, and more. ... Brian Wowk discusses the relationship between cryonics and advanced tissue regeneration technology. Aubrey de Grey shares his opinion about offering a cryonics prize for scientists. Ralph Merkle explains how the cryonics experiment is similar to clinical trials to determine whether cryonics will work. Get a sneak peak of Robert A. Freitas' theoretical nanorobots. Tanya Jones and Steve Van Sickle explain advancements and research projects underway at Alcor."

Stepping Towards Neuroregeneration (August 22 2007)
The prize awaiting us when the scientific community attains even a modest control over the mechanisms and actions of cells is great indeed: regeneration and replacement of injured and age-damaged tissue on demand. From ScienceDaily, a look at one small step on the way: researcher have "achieved an additional step for the potential replacement of damaged brain cells after injury or disease: functional nerve cells can be generated from astroglia, a type of supportive cells in the brain by means of special regulator proteins. ... these glia cells function as stem cells during development. This means that they are able to differentiate into functional nerve cells. However, this ability gets lost in later phases of development ... In order to be able to reverse this development, the team studied what molecular switches are essential for the creation of nerve cells from glial cells during development. These regulator proteins are introduced into glial cells from the postnatal brain, which indeed respond by switching on the expression of neuronal proteins. ... single regulator proteins are quite sufficient to generate new functional nerve cells from glia cells."

The Metabolic Basis of Longevity (August 21 2007)
Why is it that some mammals live far longer than other, quite similar species? The mainstream of aging research is attempting to pin down the answer to that question, on the way to optimizing human metabolism for longevity and resistance to age-related disease: "the specific composition of tissue macromolecules (proteins, lipids and mitochondrial DNA) in long-lived animal species gives them an intrinsically high resistance to modification that likely contributes to the superior longevity of these species. This is obtained in the case of lipids by decreasing fatty acid unsaturation, and in the proteins by lowering their methionine content. Long-lived animals also show low rates of reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and oxidative damage at their mitochondria. On the other hand, dietary restriction decreases mitochondrial ROS production and oxidative damage to mitochondrial DNA and proteins. These changes are due to the decreased intake of dietary proteins (not of lipids or carbohydrates) of the dietary restricted animals. In turn, these effects of protein restriction seem to be specifically due to the lowered methionine intake of the protein and dietary restricted animals. It is emphasized that both a low rate of generation of endogenous damage and an intrinsically high resistance to modification of tissue macromolecules are key traits of animal longevity." Less damage, longer life - demonstrated very handily by the naked mole-rat, in fact.

Immunotherapy Versus Tau Tangles (August 21 2007)
Much of Alzheimer's research is focused, rightly or wrongly, on getting rid of amyloid-beta or tau tangles. Immunotherapy has proven promising against amyloid, and EurekAlert! shows these techniques aimed at tau: "The therapeutic approach is based on using fragments of abnormal tau protein as a vaccine. These fragments are studded with phosphate groups, which are thought to promote the aggregation of tau. The antibodies generated by the vaccine are therefore likely to bind to abnormal tau and promote its breakdown. Normal tau, which would be far less affected, has such important biological functions as facilitating transport of chemicals within neurons and maintaining their structure. ... Compared to extracellular amyloid plaques, tau aggregates are confined inside of brain cells, making them more difficult to reach. ... It's likely that there's a synergism in the pathology. Amyloid pathology may cause tau pathology and tau pathology might cause more amyloid ... The vaccine successfully slowed the deterioration of motor abilities produced by excessive amounts of tau in the central nervous system of mice."

AzBusiness on Alcor (August 20 2007)
You'll find a respectful article on the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in the latest AzBusiness: "Clearly the freezer is more attractive than the grave, even if one has doubts about the future capabilities of science. With bad luck, the frozen people will simply remain dead, as they would have in the grave. But with good luck, the manifest destiny of science will be realized, and the resuscitees will drink the wine of centuries unborn. The likely prize is so enormous that even slender odds would be worth embracing ... Alcor's challenge is two-fold, with both a reversal of the vitrification process and cures for the diseases suffered by its patients necessary for reanimation to occur. ... there's damage below minus 130 with the vitrification. That damage will still need to be reversed. [There will be] gross fractures that will have to be repaired, and it's probable that molecular nanotechnology and medical nanotechnology will be required to fix people. We also need the cures ... Eventually I believe cryonics is going to be perceived as a common medical practice, maybe not by 2028 but possibly not too far after that. It will be used in cases where if a sudden virus comes up that is killing people, then you're put into a preserved state until a cure is found. This will be an alternative, but that will only occur once this is reversible. There really isn't a realistic timetable yet because we are relying on nanotechnology to develop - we're probably looking at 50 years."

Entrepreneur Gives $100,000 to SENS Research (August 20 2007)
Spam Arrest founder Brian Cartmell has stepped up to donate $100,000 to the Methuselah Foundation: "It's my privilege to be able to financially contribute to the continued and successful operation of The Methuselah Foundation. Too often, people dismiss researchers such as Dr. Aubrey de Grey for engaging in what they consider pie-in-the-sky science, but it's my opinion that Dr. de Grey encourages a creative and intelligent approach towards alleviating the suffering that unnecessarily accompanies the aging process. By focusing research on the damage that occurs at the cellular and molecular levels, the scientists involved with The Methuselah Foundation can potentially offer radical new solutions to our current litany of age-related physical and mental dysfunctions - and I like radical! ... Mr. Cartmell's donation will be invested in SENS-related research. SENS is an engineering approach that aims to obviate the causes of human aging. ... this donation will attract $50,000 in matching contributions from the $3 Million fund established in 2006 by Facebook angel investor Peter Thiel. This new donation will help to extend Methuselah Foundation research into the bioremediation of damaging age-related byproducts in tissue, the protection of fragile mitochondrial DNA and future programs addressing other aspects of SENS, each tackling a specific aspect of age-related biochemical and cellular damage."



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