LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
September 10 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.
- Coverage of SENS3
- "Ending Aging" Published
- A Vanishment of the Tithonus Error?
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
COVERAGE OF SENS3
The third conference on Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS3) - practical paths to working rejuvenation and longevity science, in other words - will be entering its final day in Cambridge by the time this newsletter is delivered. Researcher Attila Chordash is there, pointing out some of the presentations he found most interesting:
The Times caught up with Aubrey de Grey for a respectful profile piece as the conference opened. It is very pleasing to see more representatives of the mainstream start to take the path to radical life extension seriously:
Finally, some photography from SENS3 and the preceding dinner for members of the Three Hundred can be found at the Methuselah Foundation blog, with thanks to David Chambers:
"ENDING AGING" PUBLISHED
"Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime" is out and available, as of just a few days ago. It debuted at a very respectable Amazon rank of around 250 while all the pre-orders were filling - and since I haven't yet had a spare moment to write a review at Amazon, those of you with copies still have a shot at being first.
I point out some commentary from around the web in the following Fight Aging! post:
"[Aubrey] de Grey does an excellent job of making the research, which can seem (and is) exceptionally complex, understandable and approachable. But here is his key insight: there is nothing about these problems that is resistant to understanding and remediation given enough scientific time, energy, and money. In other words, researchers are already working on the problems (although often without explicitly working on 'curing' aging) and none of the problems appear to be impossible to solve!"
You'll find a mostly positive review of Ending Aging at the Wall Street Journal. It's behind their subscription wall, but you should be able to get to the full article by clicking through from this Google search:
The direct link to the article is below:
I suspect the reviewer, Paul Boutin, would prefer a little less excitement and evangelism for the cause mixed in with his science - but I don't see that the potential to save billions of lives (versus the potential to miss that opportunity) is something best discussed abstractly, in calm tones over tea. What is the point of scientific research if not to achieve great and wondrous goals for the betterment of all? The best science is the most driven, forged by those with real passion and vision.
A VANISHMENT OF THE TITHONUS ERROR?
A fascinating cultural fragment fell into my path this past week, in the form of thoughts on the future of marketing health products from those with a great deal of skin in the game:
"When the health and wellness market first emerged, the focus was on foods with health benefits. Now it is on a better quality of life. In the future, consumers will want to live longer ... In the next ten years, I predict we won't use the term 'wellness' anymore, we'll use 'live longer' as a basis for how we market products.
What is most interesting to me here is not that you'll find people who care deeply about perceptions of health and life span in a large company that addresses health markets, but the belief that the Tithonus Error will vanish - and the willingness to invest large sums of money in communication strategies based on that belief.
It would be a sea change indeed for the person on the street in 2017 to hear 'live longer' in the same way as 'wellness' is heard today: a wholly beneficial term, with the accepted, implicit and internalized assumption that those extra years of life are vigorous and healthy. More on the Tithonus Error in the Fight Aging! post below:
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!
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/
Aging, Ghrelin and the Thymus (September 07 2007)
Calorie restriction practitioners might find this piece from EurekAlert! (and the accompanying full text PDF) interesting: "The deterioration in immune function that occurs as an individual ages is thought to occur because the thymus involutes with age, causing a dramatic decrease in T cell output. New data [suggest] that in mice, thymic involution is caused by a decrease upon aging in thymic expression of both a hormone that is better known as a stimulator of food intake (ghrelin) and its receptor. ... harnessing this pathway might provide a new approach to boost immune function in individuals who are elderly or immunocompromised. ... infusion of ghrelin into old, but not young, mice markedly increased thymic mass, improved thymic architecture, and increased thymocyte and thymic epithelial cell numbers. These changes were associated with increased T cell output and increased diversity of the TCR repertoire of the peripheral T cell population. Consistent with these observations, age-associated thymic involution was accelerated in mice lacking either ghrelin or its receptor." It's far too early to be suggesting connections between the increased release of ghrelin with hunger and positive effects over the years of being hungry more often, but it is an intriguing line of thought.
Towards 1,000 Year Life Expectancies (September 07 2007)
The Times Online looks at the work of Aubrey de Grey: "Dr de Grey is trying to end human ageing. End it, or, as he describes his mission, 'to engineer huge gains in human life span'. Huge gains as in a 1,000-year life span, and a healthy 1,000 years at that. Huge gains as in the reversal of ageing in those already considered old. Huge gains as in the end of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and Alzheimer's. ... People really go into a sort of pro-ageing trance when you start talking about radically extending life. It's as if they'd rather defend something they think they know – that life span is finite – than deal with ageing itself as a disease and as something to be defeated. Isn't that amazing? Can you believe it? ... He has just published a book, Ending Aging, which has earned good marks from some of his peers. He is constantly on the road, speaking far and wide to large audiences. This week he is holding his third conference on what he calls SENS, or 'strategically engineered negligible senescence', in Cambridge; it will be attended by some of the leading lights of modern gerontology, pathology and cell biology. ... Last year Peter Thiel, the American founder of PayPal, the money transfer service, committed himself to a $3 million matching donation. The Methuselah Prize, that de Grey started a few years ago to reward anyone who could double the life span of a laboratory mouse, now stands at $4.4 million."
Pictures From the Three Hundred Dinner (September 06 2007)
Members of the Methuselah Foundation's Three Hundred, generous donors and forward-looking philanthropists all, gathered for their second dinner on the evening before the SENS 3 conference. You'll find pictures at the Methuselah Foundation blog: "I'm told a good time was had by all. David Chambers, Foundation COO, smuggled out some pictures of the event: here they are, capturing our generous donors, Foundation volunteers, a good dinner and numerous signed copies of Ending Aging." The book on the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) we've all been waiting for is out, the SENS 3 conference on rejuvenation science and the repair of aging is underway, and the Methuselah Foundation moves from strength to strength thanks to the many volunteers and donors who continue to step forward. Good times - we're making real progress along this first leg of the road to building a scientific community with the will and resources to seriously tackle degenerative aging. It's hard work, but it's happening.
Cartilage From Embryonic Stem Cells (September 06 2007)
EurekAlert! reports on continued progress in generating new cartilage to replace damaged or age-worn tissue: "Because native cartilage is unable to heal itself, researchers have long looked for ways to grow replacement cartilage in the lab that could be used to surgically repair injuries. This research offers a novel approach for producing cartilage-like cells from embryonic stem cells ... Using a series of stimuli, the researchers developed a method of converting the stem cells into cartilage cells. Building upon this work, the researchers then developed a process for using the cartilage cells to make cartilage tissue. The results show that cartilages can be generated that mimic the different types of cartilage found in the human body, such as hyaline articular cartilage -- the type of cartilage found in all joints -- and fibrocartilage -- a type found in the knee meniscus and the jaw joint. Athanasiou said the results are exciting, as they suggest that similar methods may be used to convert the stem cell-derived cartilage cells into robust cartilage sections that can be of clinical usefulness."
The Consensus on Aging and Cancer (September 05 2007)
A high level review of the consensus position on the dynamic, evolutionary relationship between aging and cancer: "Ageing is due to the accumulation of damage, which arises because of evolved limitations in mechanisms for maintenance and repair. Accumulated damage may cause genomic instability, which in organisms with renewable tissues may result in cancer. To keep cancer at bay, two different tumour suppression mechanisms evolved: caretakers and gatekeepers. Caretakers protect the genome against mutations, while gatekeepers induce cell death or cell cycle arrest of potentially tumourigenic cells. It has been hypothesised that decreased activity of a caretaker may reduce life span, by increasing cancer risk, while the effects of increased activity of a gatekeeper on cancer risk and life span may be antagonistically pleiotropic. Apoptosis and senescence will promote early-life survival by curtailing the development of cancer, but may eventually limit longevity. This article reviews the evidence for this hypothesis. We conclude that several different findings indeed hint at an important role for gatekeeper mediated processes in ageing and its related pathologies. The relative contribution of apoptosis and senescence in specific age-related pathologies remains to be established."
More Opinions On Calorie Restriction Longevity (September 05 2007)
Everyone's willing to hazard an estimate on the longevity induced by the practice of calorie restriction these days, it seems. The Advertiser interviews one of the scientists behind a paper I noted recently: "Calorie restriction prolongs life. There's no question about this effect. That is true in the rat and it's also true in the mouse. In a human it's another matter. Human beings can live to 100 years so you have to run a longer study ... a range of shorter studies on humans [show] calorie reduction leads to a reduction in risk factors for major killer diseases .. One study showed that if there are no risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes when a man is 50, then 55 per cent of those men will live to 85. Another showed that if no risk factors are present at 50, 65 per cent of women and 50 per cent of men will live to 85. Based on these and other studies, Dr Everitt estimates lifelong calorie reduction would extend life by between five and 10 years." The studies strongly suggest that extended life would be much healthier, on average.
Taking Cancer Seriously Enough to Really Cure It (September 04 2007)
I'd missed the second Google presentation given by Aubrey de Grey this year, entitled "WILT: taking cancer seriously enough to really cure it." Here, Russell Whitaker points us in the right direction: "Eight weeks ago, I hosted Dr. Aubrey de Grey for his second talk at Google in Mountain View, California, a follow-up to his earlier Google talk in the SENS series ... The intrinsic genetic instability of cancer cells makes age-related cancers harder to postpone or treat than any other aspect of aging. Any therapy that a cancer can resist by activating or inactivating specific genes is unlikely to succeed long-term, because pre-existing cancer cells with the necessary gene expression pattern will withstand the therapy and proliferate. WILT (Whole-body Interdiction of Lengthening of Telomeres) seeks to pre-empt this problem by deleting from as many of our cells as possible the genes needed for telomere elongation. Cancers lacking these genes can never reach a life-threatening stage by altering gene expression, only by acquiring new genes, which is far more unlikely. Continuously-renewing tissues can be maintained by periodic reseeding with telomere elongation-incompetent stem cells that have had their telomeres lengthened in vitro with exogenous telomerase. I will describe why WILT may become a uniquely comprehensive anti-cancer modality, and the practicalities of performing it and avoiding side-effects."
"Ending Aging" Published Today (September 04 2007)
As noted at KurzweilAI.net: "Aubrey de Grey's much-anticipated book, Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime, co-authored by Michael Rae, was published today by St. Martin's Press. Dr. de Grey believes that the key biomedical technology required to eliminate aging-derived debilitation and death entirely - technology that would not only slow but periodically reverse age-related physiological decay, leaving us biologically young into an indefinite future - is now within reach. The authors explain that the aging of the human body, just like the aging of man-made machines, results from an accumulation of various types of damage. As with man-made machines, this damage can periodically be repaired, leading to indefinite extension of the machine's fully functional lifetime, just as is routinely done with classic cars. We already know what types of damage accumulate in the human body, and we are moving rapidly toward the comprehensive development of technologies to remove that damage. By demystifying aging and its postponement for the nonspecialist reader, de Grey and Rae systematically dismantle the fatalist presumption that aging will forever defeat the efforts of medical science."
SENS As Precursor to Cryonic Revival (September 03 2007)
Here's a transcript of a talk given last year by Aubrey de Grey on SENS, cryonics and selling the ideas, put together at the People Database project blog: "It seems to me that the technical feasibility of cryonics is hard to sell, because real people out there don't like arguments along the lines of 'It doesn't matter how hard it is, because we've got arbitrarily long.' ... Not for any good reason, you understand. Arguments involving small numbers like '2+2=4' are altogether more effective it seems. ... Ultimately we are talking about four different concepts here: rejuvenating the body, rejuvenating the brain, reviving the body from cryostasis, and reviving the brain from cryostasis. If rejuvenating the body isn't much harder than rejuvenating the brain, then that probably means that we can get from reviving the body from cryostasis to reviving the brain from cryostasis. The difference in difficulty there will be similar. If we can get from rejuvenation, the sort of thing that I work on, keeping people's organs going by maintenance when they're still functioning to reviving those organs from cryostasis, if that's not a terribly big leap, then perhaps it can be done for the brain. ... Similarly, if cryobiology is a legitimate, even admirable field, including cryopreservation and resuscitation of organs, then we shouldn't really have too much difficulty in believing that cryonics is technically feasible in the foreseeable future. I find that this argument works rather well."
Calorie Restriction at SFGate (September 03 2007)
SFGate interviews calorie restriction (CR) practitioners and looks at the science behind CR: "Some of the first willing research subjects were volunteers from the Calorie Restriction Society, who in 2002 offered themselves as subjects for an ongoing study at Washington University School of Medicine. Researchers there have measured markers of health and aging, and their findings, published by the National Academies of Sciences in 2002, say CR led to 'profound and sustained beneficial effects.' These included lowered cholesterol and blood pressure, less body fat and reduced levels of a protein known to cause inflammation, which is believed to be a factor in diseases. ... We used to be considered a bunch of extremist wackos who were starving ourselves to live longer. But now most any major university that does research is doing some on CR ... My friends that I have coffee with in the morning, one has three or four stents in him and has diabetes. Another one has two or three stents and has gout. They are in their late 50s and early 60s and they shouldn't be having these troubles. They watch me every day and they can see the price they are paying."