LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
October 29 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.
- New Calorie Restriction Research
- Solar Radiation and Life Expectancy
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
NEW CALORIE RESTRICTION RESEARCH
A range of interesting calorie restriction research caught my attention over the past few weeks; you may recall the discussion of autophagy and calorie restriction (CR) in the last newsletter:
You'll see a couple more articles in the news and headlines section of this newsletter: eating fewer calories while retaining essential nutrients helps to maintain the number of dopamine receptors, reduce visceral fat, reduce inflammatory cytokines, maintain muscle mass, and enhance DNA repair mechanisms.
As time goes on, researchers will provide more and more specific accounting of how it is that the practice of CR slows aging - slows the rate of change and damage in our fundamental biochemistry, in other words - and thus extends healthy life span. These are all small pieces of the larger puzzle, as is this item on stem cells and CR noted at Fight Aging!:
"[Blood stem cell] numbers are highly variable in [aged mice], however, the observed loss of marrow function is due to a major loss in repopulating ability per [stem cell]. [Calorie restriction] greatly ameliorates this loss of function with age."
Our stem cells are key to the repair of damaged tissue and maintenance of function in healthy tissue. They may also be a key to cancer, via damaged cells run amok, hence evolution has produced a system of stem cells and stem cell niches that winds down its activities with age and increasing biochemical damage. It shouldn't be a surprise by now to find yet another well-known decline in our biology that is slowed by CR.
If you want to learn more about calorie restriction, a good place to start is the link below. Note the litany of other health and biochemical improvements uncovered in research over the past few years:
SOLAR RADIATION AND LIFE EXPECTANCY
There is a small but significant correlation between the solar sunspot cycle at birth and life expectancy. This is unimportant in the grand scheme of things, insofar as the future of human longevity goes, but nonetheless very interesting:
"The authors use the vital statistics of 320,247 Maine citizens over a 29-year period to show that those born in 3-year peaks of 11-year solar cycles live an average of [1.5 years less] than those born in non-peak years. Males are more sensitive than females to this phenomenon, which is statistically demonstrable well into adult life, showing the effect of probable [ultraviolet radiation] on the early human embryo despite superimposed adult lifetime hazards.
"The assumed general mechanism in biology is good, whatever you might think of the rest of the theory; it's essentially covered by the reliability theory of aging - biochemical damage, caused by radiation or otherwise, lowers remaining life expectancy by reducing or destroying the functionality of component parts in the machine that is you."
I don't think they've demonstrated that radiation exposure is the mechanism, versus any number of other indirect possibilities, but the relationship appears to be there. The reliability theory of aging is well worth reading up on, by the way. You might start with some of the PowerPoint presentations referenced in the Wikipedia article:
Meanwhile, your own health practices can far outweigh this solar cycle effect on life expectancy, and the consequences of success or failure of longevity science over the next few decades will far outweigh your health practices:
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/
New Technology For Artificial Retinas (October 26 2007)
The ability to interface circuitry to cells seems to be keeping pace with the rest of the biotechnology revolution. Here, researchers are uncovering new data with the technology that will be used to build the next generation of artificial retinas: "This has been a fantastic journey through high-energy physics, neurobiology, technology, and human health ... We started out developing instruments to look for fundamental particles such as the top quark and the Higgs boson. Then we realized we could apply some of those technological concepts to studying neural systems. Now we are using the new technology for experiments that will help guide the design of future retinal prosthetic devices ... The device crammed 512 electrodes into an area of 1.7 square millimeters (about the size of a pinhead). Each of the team's experiments [recorded] the electrical activity of more than 250 cells simultaneously ... The high density and large number of the electrodes gave us the ability to pick out individual neurons and at the same time examine a whole collection of cells. If you had only a few electrodes, you might detect a single cell with unusual properties, but you wouldn't know what to do with it - it might just be a sick cell. ... We're working on many other cell types. This is just the tip of the iceberg."
Longevity Medicine Is (and Will Be) Basic Healthcare (October 26 2007)
From Anne C.: "Treatment of hypertension, for example, is treatment to slow down the aging of your cardiovascular system, so you can live longer and stay physiologically younger. You don't hear anyone saying that treating hypertension is wrong, because we should just let people develop cardiac failure or have a stroke naturally. ... I like this comment because it tidily makes what ought to be a fairly obvious point: which is that we already have longevity medicine to some extent. If a person has hypertension and manages to get it properly treated, it is quite likely that he or she will remain in better health longer than otherwise, because his or her body will not be experiencing as much in the way of accumulated damage. If testing for (and treating) treating hypertension is basic health care for people in middle-age and beyond, there should be nothing too difficult about imagining eventually testing for (and treating) issues pertaining to cancer vulnerability, critical cell loss and atrophy, mitochondrial mutation, etc."
We Can Help Advance Research To Repair Aging (October 25 2007)
As Michael Graham Richard reminds us, we can can all help to advance LysoSENS research. LysoSENS is bioremediation, the search for bacterial enzymes capable of safely breaking down damaging byproducts of metabolism that are one of the causes of aging and age-related disease. This search needs samples: "The key to the success of this project is microbial diversity. Not all soil microbes are amenable to our screening methods, not all enzymes we discover will work in the human physiological environment, some will have deleterious side-effects, and so on. That's why we need as many different genetic sequences as possible to begin with. ... You can help by sending us environmental samples from biodiverse habitats in your area, or from places that you think are likely to contain microbes capable of degrading age-related aggregates (e.g. because the target substance gets degraded there naturally). The more microbial diversity we can put into these experiments, the better will be our chances of sustained success." So get out there and get digging!
Calorie Restriction Boosts Dopamine Receptors (October 25 2007)
Continuing the long litany of specific improvements in molecular biochemistry produced by calorie restriction, ScienceDaily notes this research: "scientists found that genetically obese rats had lower levels of dopamine D2 receptors than lean rats. They also demonstrated that restricting food intake can increase the number of D2 receptors, partially attenuating a normal decline associated with aging." It seems that the definition of "normal" is up for grabs if you can do better by better managing your diet. The article is very focused on obesity, but there is a little more on calorie restriction: "The finding that food restriction can attenuate the effects of aging on the brain's ability to respond to dopamine may also help explain why food restriction slows down other changes associated with aging, such as declines in locomotor activity and sensitivity to reward. ... Another main finding was that D2 receptor availability - that is, the number of receptors available for binding dopamine - was greater at adulthood in the obese rats compared to the lean rats. This suggests that perhaps the release of dopamine had significantly decreased with age in the obese unrestricted animals more than in the restricted ones or the lean rats. The possibility of lower release of dopamine in obese subjects is presently being examined."
And This Is If We Largely Fail (October 24 2007)
Watch the actuaries - or indeed anyone with a great deal of money on the line - if you'd like a higher class of prognostication on the future of life expectancy. From IFAonline: "As many as 50% of 30 year-olds could live to age 100, according to Paternoster, the insurance company that takes on responsibility for defined benefit (DB) scheme risks. Paternoster based its findings on DB scheme members' data and its study follows research from The Office of National Statistics, which shows a 90-fold increase in the number of people living to age 100." Given that this is based upon present trends, this extrapolation is also based on the assumption that we fail. By which I mean that the biotechnology revolution withers on the vine, producing no great leaps forward, that the prospects for regenerative medicine turn out to be false, that we never get SENS underway, that the cancer research community falters. In short, that trillions invested in research and development infrastructure, presently moving at a very fast rate in a hundred different directions, fails to deliver in any meaningful way. I find that outcome to be highly implausible.
More Research on Calorie Restriction Benefits (October 24 2007)
From the University at Buffalo: "Severely restricting calories leads to a longer life, scientists have proved. ... such a diet also can maintain physical fitness into advanced age, slowing the seemingly inevitable progression to physical disability and loss of independence. The study, using a rat model of life-time caloric restriction, showed that the diet reduces the amount of visceral fat, which expresses inflammatory factors that in humans cause chronic disease and a decline in physical performance and vitality across the lifespan. ... This is the first study to report that caloric restriction reduced production in visceral fat of the inflammatory cytokine IL-6 and enhanced performance on overall physical function assessments ... In addition, rats that ate a normal diet lost a significant amount of lean muscle mass and acquired more fat, while calorie-restricted rats maintained lean muscle mass as they aged." You'll find more about fat, inflammation and the damage that causes aging in the Fight Aging! archives. Remember that the human practice of CR should properly be called "calorie restriction with optimal nutrition" - it's not just cutting calories, but rather eating optimally. You can find out all about the nuts and bolts of practicing CR at the Calorie Restriction Society.
Calorie Restriction Enhances DNA Repair (October 23 2007)
The full text is freely available for this recent review paper: "Caloric restriction (CR) reduces the incidence and progression of spontaneous and induced tumors in laboratory rodents while increasing mean and maximum life spans. It has been suggested that CR extends longevity and reduces age-related pathologies by reducing the levels of DNA damage and mutations that accumulate with age. This hypothesis is attractive because the integrity of the genome is essential to a cell/organism and because it is supported by observations that both cancer and immunological defects, which increase significantly with age and are delayed by CR, are associated with changes in DNA damage and/or DNA repair. Over the last three decades, numerous laboratories have examined the effects of CR on the integrity of the genome and the ability of cells to repair DNA. The majority of studies performed indicate that the age-related increase in oxidative damage to DNA is significantly reduced by CR. Early studies suggest that CR reduces DNA damage by enhancing DNA repair. With the advent of genomic technology and our increased understanding of specific repair pathways, CR has been shown to have a significant effect on major DNA repair pathways, such as NER, BER and double-strand break repair."
Cryonics and the Unexpected (October 23 2007)
Via Accelerating Future: "Anyone not signed up for cryonics has now lost the right to make fun of Paris Hilton, because no matter what else she does wrong, and what else you do right, all of it together can't outweigh the life consequences of that one little decision. Congratulations, Paris. I look forward to meeting you someday. ... I totally agree. You can make fun of Ms. Hilton all you want, but if in 100 years you're rotting in the ground, and she has her frozen cells repaired and remetabolized by nanomedicine, guess who's laughing now? ... Whether she's serious or not, I don't know, but signing up for cryonics isn't the sort of PR stunt to do for popular support - so it was obviously her personal decision. I myself associate signing up with cryonics with long-term thinking about the future of humanity, but maybe some see it as selfishness. Your mileage may vary." All publicity for cryonics is good; an industry that aims to give people with no other options a shot at additional years of life in the future should garner more attention and support than it does at present. I suspect that this latest news is one of those unexpected events that illustrates more about the rest of us - in our varied responses - than it does about Hilton.
A Thoughtful Ending Aging Review (October 22 2007)
Infidel753 reviews "Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime": "Can the human aging process be stopped and even reversed, allowing the human lifespan to be extended indefinitely -- to centuries or even millennia? In this book, just published in September, Aubrey de Grey makes the case not only that is this possible, but that the necessary technology is much closer to being within our grasp than most would imagine. ... In every case, de Grey's proposed treatment is based on well-established current knowledge; in most cases, the treatment he describes or something quite similar is actually already being developed or even at the animal or human testing stage, even if the intent of the work is to address some more specific problem than combating aging in general. Of course, even when the full SENS program is available for use on humans, it will not work perfectly, but it won't have to; extending the vigorous lifespan by even a few decades would allow people to benefit from further refinements and new technology which would be developed during those decades, thus extending their lives still further, and so on."
Another Type of Long-Lived Dwarf Mice (October 22 2007)
The Guardian reports on another breed of gene-engineered mice with increased longevity: "Experiments in male mice showed that those without a gene called IRS-1 lived 20% longer and had much healthier lives. Female mice without the gene had even better longevity, living 30% longer on average. In addition to longer lives, the mice without IRS-1 were much healthier than normal mice as they aged - they had brighter eyes, better immune function and healthier skin and bones. ... IRS-1 is involved in regulating the function of insulin, a hormone that controls the amount of sugar in the blood. [The results] add to a growing body of scientific work which points to a link between the genes that regulate insulin and how an animal ages. Similar genes in fruit flies and worms have already been linked to extended lifespan." Insulin regulation is becoming one of the more studied areas of metabolic manipulation - but building true repair technologies still beats out any tweak that lengthens life by reducing the wear on the system.